Legal and regulatory update for the life and health insurance sector

12 Apr 2021 – RBNZ advised that it is ceasing to publish certain weekly banking customer lending metrics, as it also resumes publishing certain insurance financial statistics. https://www.rbnz.govt.nz/statistics/statistics-news-and-updates

12-13 Apr 2021 - Financial Sector (Climate-related Disclosures and Other Matters) Amendment bill introduced into Parliament, intended to amend the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013, the Financial Reporting Act 2013, and the Public Audit Act 2001 by implementing a single broad policy to broaden non-financial reporting by requiring and supporting the making of climate-related disclosures by certain FMC reporting entities and supporting related matters. Relevant web links are https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_109905/financial-sector-climate-related-disclosures-and-other and https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/nz-becomes-first-world-climate-reporting

13 Apr 2021 – FMA provided a breakdown of financial advice providers in the new regime. https://www.fma.govt.nz/news-and-resources/media-releases/breakdown-fa-providers/

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13 Apr 2021 – RBNZ announced the establishment of a new standalone Enforcement Department to promote confidence in compliance across regulated sectors. The Enforcement Department is operationally separate from the Bank’s Supervision team, but the two will work closely together to achieve the Bank’s compliance goals. https://mailchi.mp/rbnz.govt.nz/reserve-bank-launches-new-enforcement-department?e=1769bcd465


Clear fee disclosure prevents this problem:

Susan Edmunds, reporting at Stuff.co.nz, tells us of a client that was surprised by the extent of the fee a mortgage broker charged when they refinanced their loan early. They complained about it to FSCL, here is the essence of their decision: 

FSCL said the adviser was entitled to a fee but the terms of engagement were too vague to be enforceable. “The clause did not set out how much the clawback fee could be, or how the fee would be calculated. It simply said that, if the client fully repaid their loan within 24 months, the adviser would be entitled to charge an early repayment fee. For all [the client] knew, it could be a $25 fee, as opposed to $2500.” 

Faced with that, the adviser agreed to waive the fee. That's the problem with a vague disclosure - a few examples could have made this really clear. Glen McLeod makes a robust defence of the right to charge such a fee - which I broadly agree with - I just think it should be really clear to a client what the fee will amount to. In the absence of good disclosure, the dispute resolution bodies will rule in the client's favour. I quite like the approach outlined by Bruce Patten, of LoanMarket, in the article. I believe that would stand up to a test such as this complaint. 

 


Themes for 2021 in life and health insurance

What will be the big themes for 2021 for life and health insurance? 

  • Helping people keep their cover through disruption will continue to be a theme - although economic performance has been better than expected there remain quite a few people out there struggling with adjustment to the COVID economy. Several advisers tell me of long conversations that are essentially about conservation. They take time and they generate little revenue - this largely unsung work is of a piece with claims help and is part of the value of the commission model: the adviser isn't expecting to charge a fee for these discussions, they just want to help the client stay covered. 
  • The shift towards digital - within advice businesses, at insurers, and for consumers. Digital is an enabler of faster transactions, more efficient administration, better accuracy, and more meaningful engagement. More adviser businesses will develop better digital capability and be looking for ways to automate certain processes. That includes digital advice offerings. It also means better underwriting processes built around access to 
  • Direct - it has shown solid growth - and not merely as a proportion of the market which has shrunk, but in absolute terms. It has benefitted from a big drop in bancassurance and a big push through online social media platforms. I really want to see the quality of the offers improved in 2021, but that will probably require more work in the area above to achieve. 
  • Regtech - this is the year we begin to see regtech applied to insurer and adviser conduct programmes - analysis of all clients by a range of factors will be a vital complement to human-managed compliance processes.
  • Transition - to the new advice regime means that a lot of advisers will be spending a bit more time than usual working on systems, new processes, and disclosure requirements. That will hit productivity for a few weeks. Combined with holidays, will the nadir be the first quarter production figures with a recovery from there, or will the second quarter be the low point? I am expecting recovery and more confidence to recruit and focus on marketing to be able to get traction in at least the third quarter. 
  • Consolidation - adviser business size is definitely rising. The greater integration and co-ordination required to successfully meet new compliance requirements is reflected in the high number of authorised body structures being disclosed by FMA licensing statistics. 
  • Consumer knowledge and understanding will continue to rise as more advisers share relevant content in easily digestible digital media. Gradually the focus on what is most relevant and readily explainable will begin to percolate through consumer finance forums changing the general perception of 'good' this will further current consumer trends towards more living products and more packages of benefits. 

 

 


Cygnus Law guide to financial advice service disclosure

Cygnus Law published a guide for financial advisers on the impending disclosure requirements. The document provides an overview of the new requirements, it outlines the general information that is needed to be outlines and the specific disclosure requirements.

Cygnus Law is a law firm based in Auckland City and offers legal services relating to commercial dealings.  Key services include:

  • Practical help to support new and established financial service providers to meet regulatory requirements and commercial objectives
  • Support for businesses to establish and succeed through effective commercial agreements, transactions and compliance
  • Help to understand the law’s impact on your business and how the law can be used to achieve commercial solutions

The overview of an advice business’s disclosure requirements explores who is responsible for disclosing, the type of information that must be disclosed, when the information is required, the amount of information, commission disclosures, conflicts of interest, information updates, and other things to consider.

General information to be disclosed provides insight into the general matters relevant to each disclosure stage. While the specific disclosure information to be disclosed section provides an outline of specific information that is required to be disclosed at each stage.

 Download Cygnus Law Disclosure Guide


Legal and regulatory update for the life and health insurance sector

15 Sept 2020 – NZX provided an update on various Listing Rules class waivers granted in March 2020 in relation to Covid-19.

15 Sept 2020 - Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, announced New Zealand will be the first country in the world to require the financial sector to report on climate risks. The new regime will be on a comply-or-explain basis, based on the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework. Businesses covered by the requirements will have to make annual disclosures, covering governance arrangements, risk management and strategies for mitigating any climate change impacts. If businesses are unable to disclose, they must explain why. If approved by Parliament, financial entities could be required to make disclosures in 2023 at the earliest. The new climate reporting requirements will apply to:

  • All registered banks, credit unions, and building societies with total assets of more than $1 billion
  • All managers of registered investment schemes with greater than $1 billion in total assets under management
  • All licensed insurers with greater than $1 billion in total assets under management or annual premium income greater than $250 million
  • All equity and debt issuers listed on the NZX
  • Crown financial institutions with greater than $1 billion in total assets under management, such as ACC and the NZ Super Fund

https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/new-zealand-first-world-require-climate-risk-reporting

 


Planning for the new disclosure regime - what to do:

With the publication of new disclosure regulations, each transitionally licensed Financial Advice Provider must now develop a process for implementing these to take effect from 15 March 2020.

This change means engaging with systems people, reviewing websites, reviewing statements of services, and reviewing statements of advice. Outlined below is a more detailed process for designing and implementing a new disclosure procedure. It is significant.

The core work involves:

  • Identification, review and development of the disclosure content required:
    • To be publicly available on the Financial Advice Provider website, and
    • To be delivered to consumers
      • When the nature and scope of advice is known
      • When advice is given
      • When a complaint is received
    • Determining how the required disclosure is to be given to a consumer (verbally or in writing, while noting that a consumer can always request written disclosure)
  • Development of an implementation plan to ensure introduction of the disclosure changes as and when required (15 March 2020)
  • Development of a compliance and compliance assurance plan to provide comfort to the Financial Adviser Provider Governance Structure (e.g. Board) that the legal disclosure requirements are being met, or, in the event of a failure, any such instances of failure are identified and remedied.

The regulations also contain further information on other matters that should be considered, such as:

  • The requirement to consider materiality when considering what should be disclosed
  • When information must be given about a person as well as about the Financial Advice Provider
  • When reference to publicly available information will be sufficient to fulfill the disclosure requirement, rather than having to specifically provide a disclosure direct
  • When reliance can be given to past disclosures already completed until or unless a material change occurs

If you would like to discuss how Chatswood Consulting Ltd may be able to support you during this change, please call.