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Swiss Regulator Relaxes Insurance Rules After Low Interest Rates

The Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority said it will temporarily relax solvency rules for insurers as low interest rates hurt earnings.

Finma plans to adjust the valuation yield curve temporarily and adjust the supervisory intervention ladder to give insurers “some breathing space,” Patrick Raaflaub, Finma’s chief executive officer, said in a speech in Zurich today.

The solvency test, which was introduced in January last year, requires insurers including Zurich Insurance Group AG and Swiss Life Holding AG to provide a mark-to-market valuation of assets and liabilities that for the first time takes into account their investments.

“For 2013, Finma will make some temporary adjustments to the SST, as a measure to alleviate the situation for insurance companies, especially those in the life segment which have been particularly badly hit by the persistently low interest rates,” Raaflaub said.

The European Union, which wants to introduce similar capital rules, said in June it’s considering phasing in the regulation to ease the burden on insurers which had criticized the changes.

The seven-year transition may buy the industry time to come up with a long-term solution to its struggle with the low interest-rate environment that reduces yields insurers earn on their investments.

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