Archive for the ‘Regulation’ Category

BoC Hikes Overnight 50bp to 1.00%; Prime Follows

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

The Bank of Canada has announced it has:

increased its target for the overnight rate to 1%, with the Bank Rate at 1¼% and the deposit rate at 1%. The Bank is also ending reinvestment and will begin quantitative tightening (QT), effective April 25. Maturing Government of Canada bonds on the Bank’s balance sheet will no longer be replaced and, as a result, the size of the balance sheet will decline over time.

Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine is causing unimaginable human suffering and new economic uncertainty. Price spikes in oil, natural gas and other commodities are adding to inflation around the world. Supply disruptions resulting from the war are also exacerbating ongoing supply constraints and weighing on activity. These factors are the primary drivers of a substantial upward revision to the Bank’s outlook for inflation in Canada.

The war in Ukraine is disrupting the global recovery, just as most economies are emerging from the impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. European countries are more directly impacted by confidence effects and supply dislocations caused by the war. China’s economy is facing new COVID outbreaks and an ongoing correction in its property market. In the United States, domestic demand remains very strong and the US Federal Reserve has clearly indicated its resolve to use its monetary policy tools to control inflation. As policy stimulus is withdrawn, US growth is expected to moderate to a pace more in line with potential growth. Global financial conditions have tightened and volatility has increased. The Bank now forecasts global growth of about 3½% this year, 2½% in 2023 and 3¼% in 2024.

In Canada, growth is strong and the economy is moving into excess demand. Labour markets are tight, and wage growth is back to its pre-pandemic pace and rising. Businesses increasingly report they are having difficulty meeting demand, and are able to pass on higher input costs by increasing prices. While the COVID-19 virus continues to mutate and circulate, high rates of vaccination have reduced its health and economic impacts. Growth looks to have been stronger in the first quarter than projected in January and is likely to pick up in the second quarter. Consumer spending is strengthening with the lifting of pandemic containment measures. Exports and business investment will continue to recover, supported by strong foreign demand and high commodity prices. Housing market activity, which has been exceptionally high, is expected to moderate.

The Bank forecasts that Canada’s economy will grow by 4¼% this year before slowing to 3¼% in 2023 and 2¼% in 2024. Robust business investment, labour productivity growth and higher immigration will add to the economy’s productive capacity, while higher interest rates should moderate growth in domestic demand.

CPI inflation in Canada is 5.7%, above the Bank’s forecast in its January Monetary Policy Report (MPR). Inflation is being driven by rising energy and food prices and supply disruptions, in combination with strong global and domestic demand. Core measures of inflation have all moved higher as price pressures broaden. CPI inflation is now expected to average almost 6% in the first half of 2022 and remain well above the control range throughout this year. It is then expected to ease to about 2½% in the second half of 2023 and return to the 2% target in 2024. There is an increasing risk that expectations of elevated inflation could become entrenched. The Bank will use its monetary policy tools to return inflation to target and keep inflation expectations well-anchored.

With the economy moving into excess demand and inflation persisting well above target, the Governing Council judges that interest rates will need to rise further. The policy interest rate is the Bank’s primary monetary policy instrument, and quantitative tightening will complement increases in the policy rate. The timing and pace of further increases in the policy rate will be guided by the Bank’s ongoing assessment of the economy and its commitment to achieving the 2% inflation target.

Prime followed:

Well, Rob Carrick and Ryan Siever will be mad:

There’s a case to be made for banks giving borrowers a break when what is expected to be the biggest interest rate hike in 22 years is announced on Wednesday.

A brief flashback to 2015 is required to get the sense of this story. The economy back then was in the opposite shape of what it is now – weak enough to prompt the Bank of Canada to cut its trendsetting overnight rate by 0.25 of a percentage point in January and again in July.

The big banks hijacked part of that rate cut. While the overnight rate fell by a total 0.5 of a point, the banks cut their prime rate by cumulative 0.3 of a point. They held back the rest of the rate cut to build their revenues and profit.

There was a delay in reducing the prime when the Canada Overnight rate dropped 25bp to 0.75% in January 2015 and again when Canada Overnight dropped a further 25bp to 0.50% in July of that year.

BoC Hikes Overnight to 0.50%; Prime Follows

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

The Bank of Canada has announced it has:

increased its target for the overnight rate to ½ %, with the Bank Rate at ¾ % and the deposit rate at ½ %. The Bank is continuing its reinvestment phase, keeping its overall holdings of Government of Canada bonds on its balance sheet roughly constant until such time as it becomes appropriate to allow the size of its balance sheet to decline.

The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a major new source of uncertainty. Prices for oil and other commodities have risen sharply. This will add to inflation around the world, and negative impacts on confidence and new supply disruptions could weigh on global growth. Financial market volatility has increased. The situation remains fluid and we are following events closely.

Global economic data has come in broadly in line with projections in the Bank’s January Monetary Policy Report (MPR). Economies are emerging from the impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 more quickly than expected, although the virus continues to circulate and the possibility of new variants remains a concern. Demand is robust, particularly in the United States. Global supply bottlenecks remain challenging, although there are indications that some constraints have eased.

Economic growth in Canada was very strong in the fourth quarter of last year at 6.7%. This is stronger than the Bank’s projection and confirms its view that economic slack has been absorbed. Both exports and imports have picked up, consistent with solid global demand. In January, the recovery in Canada’s labour market suffered a setback due to the Omicron variant, with temporary layoffs in service sectors and elevated employee absenteeism. However, the rebound from Omicron now appears to be well in train: household spending is proving resilient and should strengthen further with the lifting of public health restrictions. Housing market activity is more elevated, adding further pressure to house prices. Overall, first-quarter growth is now looking more solid than previously projected.

CPI inflation is currently at 5.1%, as expected in January, and remains well above the Bank’s target range. Price increases have become more pervasive, and measures of core inflation have all risen. Poor harvests and higher transportation costs have pushed up food prices. The invasion of Ukraine is putting further upward pressure on prices for both energy and food-related commodities. All told, inflation is now expected to be higher in the near term than projected in January. Persistently elevated inflation is increasing the risk that longer-run inflation expectations could drift upwards. The Bank will use its monetary policy tools to return inflation to the 2% target and keep inflation expectations well-anchored.

The policy rate is the Bank’s primary monetary policy instrument. As the economy continues to expand and inflation pressures remain elevated, the Governing Council expects interest rates will need to rise further. The Governing Council will also be considering when to end the reinvestment phase and allow its holdings of Government of Canada bonds to begin to shrink. The resulting quantitative tightening (QT) would complement increases in the policy interest rate. The timing and pace of further increases in the policy rate, and the start of QT, will be guided by the Bank’s ongoing assessment of the economy and its commitment to achieving the 2% inflation target.

Prime followed:

OSFI Revises Rules for LRCNs; Finally Provides Information for Insurers

Friday, March 19th, 2021

The Office of the Superintendant of Financial Institutions Canada (OSFI) has announced:

OSFI has published an update to its July 18, 2020 capital ruling on the Limited Recourse Capital Notes (LRCNs). The revised ruling now addresses LRCN issuances from institutions of all sizes and across different industry sectors.

The revisions include a number of clarifications to the ruling’s conditions and limitations, which are part of OSFI’s prudent approach to assessing the quality and quantity of financial instruments used as regulatory capital. This is consistent with our mandate to protect the rights and interests of depositors, policyholders and financial institution creditors, while also allowing financial institutions to compete effectively and take reasonable risks.

The ruling continues to conclude that federally regulated financial institutions may recognize the LRCNs as regulatory capital subject to the capital treatment, conditions and limitations set out in the revised ruling. Should you have any questions, please contact CapitalConfirmations@osfi-bsif.gc.ca.

The new limits are set out in the appendix to the new rules:

LRCN Issuance Limitations by FRFI Sector
Note: For life insurers, the following limitations supplement and are subject to any existing capital composition limits set out in OSFI’s capital guidelines. P&C insurers and mortgage insurers should consult OSFI’s Capital Division in respect of the limitations applicable to any prospective LRCN issuances.

FRFI
Sector
Regulatory
Capital
Treatment
LRCN Issuance Cap Floor
Deposit-
Taking
Institutions
AT1 Greater of $150 million, 0.75%
RWA, or 50% of the
institution’s aggregate net AT1
capital
Lesser of 0.30% RWA or 20% of
the institution’s aggregate AT1
capital
Life Tier 1 Capital
other than
Common
Shares
Greater of $150 million or
12.5% of Net Tier 1 capital
5.0% of Net Tier 1 capital

The “Floor” has the following effect:

The Cap may be removed with the prior approval of OSFI’s Capital Division. In seeking this approval, a FRFI must demonstrate that it has issued institutional preferred shares and/or other Additional Tier 1 capital instruments (other than LRCNs) targeted towards institutional investors that, in aggregate, are no less than the applicable limit, or Floor, set out in the Appendix. If the FRFI’s outstanding institutional preferred shares and/or other Additional Tier 1 capital instruments issued to institutional investors were to subsequently drop below the Floor, the FRFI would not be permitted to issue additional LRCNs in excess of the Cap until it has re-established compliance with the Floor. The Floor will not apply where the LRCNs are issued exclusively to a FRFI’s affiliates.

IAIS Says No To DeemedRetractions

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

The International Association of Insurance Supervisors has released a bevy of documents related to the supervision of Internationally Active Insurance Groups.

Of these, the most important for our purposes is the “Technical Note on ICS Version 2.0 for the monitoring period” which states:

Principal Loss Absorbency Mechanism (PLAM): A distinction is made for mutual and non-mutual IAIGs. For non-mutual IAIGs, the 10% limit for Tier 1 Limited financial instruments will be maintained for Tier 1 Limited financial instruments that do not have a PLAM. An additional 5% allowance is granted to those Tier 1 Limited financial instruments that do have a PLAM. The limits are stated as a % of the ICS capital requirement.

For mutual IAIGs: A PLAM is not required as part of Tier 1 Limited capital resources and the limit for Tier 1 Limited capital resources is maintained at 30% of the ICS capital requirement

So that’s an end to the saga that began in February, 2011. As an investor, I’m shocked; as a taxpayer who will end up footing the bill if one of our outsized insurance companies goes down, I’m disappointed.

Update: An end? Or a new beginning? The Canadian Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions – which has disgraced itself throughout the negotiations for ICS 2.0 – has announced:

While broadly supportive of the goals of the Insurance Capital Standard (ICS), the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) did not support the ICS design proposed for a five-year monitoring period at the Executive Committee Meeting of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

OSFI’s view is that that the Standard in its current form is not fit for purpose for the Canadian market. Specifically, the proposed capital requirements for long-term products are too high to be compatible with OSFI’s mandate of allowing Canadian insurers to compete and take reasonable risks.

During the five-year monitoring period, OSFI will continue its work in trying to achieve an international capital standard for insurance companies that works for all jurisdictions.

Quick Facts

  • Canadian insurers will continue to be subject to the requirements of OSFI’s robust capital frameworks for federally regulated insurance companies.
  • An initiative of the IAIS, the International Capital Standard is a proposed common capital standard for large internationally active insurance groups.

So, maybe a PLAM for Tier 1 Limited capital resources is a bargaining chip …

Update: There hasn’t been much press coverage of this, but here are two articles:

Update, 2019-11-17: States and Feds Split on Major World Insurance Standards Deal

Update, 2019-11-18: OSFI rebuffs global capital rules for insurers.

FixedReset Prospectuses Are Imprecise!

Friday, September 13th, 2019

As we all know, FixedResets will reset their dividend every five years based on the Government of Canada Five Year yield (“GOC-5 rate” or “GOC-5 yield”) and therefore the prospectus for each issue needs to include information regarding exactly how that yield is determined.

The prospectus for ALA.PR.G (chosen because I can link to it!) contains typical language with respect to this process:

“Bloomberg Screen GCAN5YR Page” means the display designated as page “GCAN5YR” on the Bloomberg Financial L.P. service (or such other page as may replace the GCAN5YR page on that service) for purposes of displaying Government of Canada bond yields.

“Government of Canada Yield” on any date means the yield to maturity on such date (assuming semi-annual compounding) of a Canadian dollar denominated non-callable Government of Canada bond with a term to maturity of five years as quoted as of 10:00 a.m. (Toronto time) on such date and that appears on he Bloomberg Screen GCAN5YR Page on such date; provided that if such rate does not appear on the Bloomberg Screen GCAN5YR Page on such date, then the Government of Canada Yield shall mean the arithmetic average of the yields quoted to AltaGas by two registered Canadian investment dealers selected by AltaGas as being the annual yield to maturity on such date, compounded semi-annually, that a non-callable Government of Canada bond would carry if issued, in Canadian dollars, at 100% of its principal amount on such date with a term to maturity of five years.

I am not aware of any material differences in the definitions between prospectuses.

So this sounds pretty good, right? The GOC-5 yield will be calculated by an independent third party with no ambiguity and complete verifiability, right? Wrong.

As noted in the post Reset Calculation Oddity for 2019-9-30 / 2019-10-1, the following four issues had the GOC-5 rate underlying their dividends recalculated by their issuers on September 3:

Basis Comparison of Resets
Ticker Issue Reset Spread Announced Rate Implied GOC-5 Yield Screenshot
ALA.PR.G 306bp 4.242% 1.182% LINK
EFN.PR.E 472bp 5.903% 1.183% LINK
BAM.PF.F 286bp 4.029% 1.169% LINK
DC.PR.B 410bp 5.284% 1.184% LINK

The AltaGas screenshot shows they made a slight mistake: the time of the screenshot is 10:00:18, so they missed their proper time by 18 seconds, although they could argue that the prospectus only uses four significant figures and therefore their calculation is completely OK. However, each of the other screenshots shows a genuine effort being made to determine just what exactly the GOC-5 rate was at 10:00:00.00000 and each methodology resulted in a different answer.

Four companies, four identically specified calculations, four different answers.

I will be the first to agree that the variance is minor: the spread between the highest and lowest measurement is only 1.5bp and that’s not a lot. On a typical issue size of $250-million, that comes to $37,500 annually or $187,500 over the full five years. On a per-share basis, a 1.5bp yield difference comes to $0.00375 p.a., slightly less than two cents over the full five years.

But that’s not the point. First, the prospectus should specify the yield to be used in a completely precise manner. To quote again from the representative language of the ALA.PR.G prospectus:

“Annual Fixed Dividend Rate” means, for any Subsequent Fixed Rate Period, the annual rate of interest (expressed as a percentage rounded to the nearest one hundred thousandth of one percent (with 0.000005% being rounded up)) equal to the sum of the Government of Canada Yield on the applicable Fixed Rate Calculation Date and 3.06%.

What’s the point of being so horrifyingly precise about the rounding of the Annual Fixed Dividend Rate when the underlying figure is nowhere near that precisely measured?

In addition, once this becomes widely known, what’s to prevent a company from determining the GOC-5 yield in as many ways as their Bloomberg users can invent and choosing the lowest answer?

Clearly, the Bloomberg methodology is not adequate for the task of determining a precise, public, third-party figure and the procedure needs to be changed. The first alternative that leaps to mind is the Bank of Canada’s bond yield reporting:

Selected benchmark bond yields are based on mid-market closing yields of selected Government of Canada bond issues that mature approximately in the indicated terms. The bond issues used are not necessarily the ones with the remaining time to maturity that is the closest to the indicated term and may differ from other sources. The selected 2-, 5-, 10-, or 30-year issues are generally changed when a building benchmark bond is adopted by financial markets as a benchmark, typically after the last auction for that bond.

Yes, it’s not quite the same thing and yes, there might be a perceived problem if the benchmark changes near the time of calculation (typically, new benchmarks will trade to yield less than the ‘off the run’ issues they supersede). I don’t care. I want something precise, public (certainly more public than a subscription to a Bloomberg terminal!) and prepared by an independent third party. If somebody has a better idea, let’s hear it.

IAIS SecGen Discusses ICS 2.0 Timeline

Monday, May 27th, 2019

The International Association of Insurance Supervisors released its May, 2019, Newsletter today, which was led by a piece from the Secretary-General, Jonathan Dixon:

Our committee meetings next month in Buenos Aires mark an important point in the IAIS’ journey to a global Insurance Capital Standard (ICS). The IAIS embarked on the development of the ICS to create a common language
for supervisory discussions of group solvency of internationally active insurance groups. In June, the focus of our committee discussions will shift from design to implementation issues.

The final round of field testing is now underway, with data due at the end of July. While some ICS design elements remain to be finalised this year, the IAIS remains committed to resolving those elements and beginning the monitoring period in 2020, while recognising that the ICS will continue to evolve during this period. This includes possible refinements and corrections of major flaws or unintended consequences identified during the monitoring period.

In June, we will discuss the overall framework for the monitoring period, including confidentiality safeguards around disclosure of the ICS results and modalities for considering unintended consequences, given that our intention has always been to undertake this work once the ICS is sufficiently developed. We will also further our discussions on the timelines, process and governance for developing comparability criteria and completing the comparability assessment of other solvency regimes relative to the ICS.

As we move towards November and the adoption of ICS Version 2.0 for the monitoring period, we will continue our constructive engagement with stakeholders in order to ensure that there is greater clarity on the process for finalising and implementing the ICS.

This is all consistent with previous schedules provided for ICS 2.0, which include the IAIS deliberations regarding the definition of Insurance company Tier 1 Limited Capital (which includes preferred shares); I take the view that rules comparable, if not identical to the bank NVCC rules will be imposed by OSFI at some point in the future.

IAIS Releases ICS 2.0 Consultation Comments

Friday, April 5th, 2019

The International Association of Insurance Supervisors has released the comments received to its 2018 ICS 2.0 Consultation. Assiduous Readers will remember that the comment period closed at the end of October, 2018 and included the following questions that are critical to the question of Deemed Maturities for Insurance issues:

The consultation document, downloadable from the above page, contains the critical (for our purposes) question:

173. The IAIS is considering whether to set an additional criterion requiring Tier 1 Limited instruments to have a principal loss absorbency mechanism (PLAM). Such mechanisms would provide a means for financial instruments to absorb losses on a going-concern basis through reductions in the principal amount and cancellation of distributions. Without such mechanisms these instruments might only provide going concern loss absorbency through cancellation of distributions.

deemedretractiblequestion_181103
Click for Big

The consultation document, and the files with respondents’ answers to the questions, may be downloaded from the IAIS Insurance Capital Standards page. The ‘critical questions’, ##52-54, are found in Section 6 Reference ICS – Capital resources (public). The IAIS notes that:

The IAIS received 56 submissions in response to the 2018 ICS Consultation Document of which 18 were requested by the respondents to be kept confidential. Therefore, the comments that are posted here publicly are a subset of those that the IAIS will be taking into account as it moves forward with the ICS.

Q52 Section 6 Is a PLAM [Principal Loss Absorbency Mechanism] an appropriate requirement for Tier 1 Limited financial instruments? Please explain any advantages and disadvantages of requiring a PLAM.

There were 17 responses, 8 yes and 9 no.

OSFI answered “No”:

A PLAM is one option considered to assess loss absorbency in a going concern. However, OSFI’s view is that PoNV (point of non viability) loss absorbency could also be considered. Specifically, the IAIS could consider loss absorbency on a going concern basis, as well as on a gone concern basis with contractual or statutory) PoNV triggers. It is possible that an insurer could fail before a PLAM trigger occurs due to the lagging nature of PLAM triggers. Moreover, PLAM triggers could have adverse signalling effects in respect of the financial condition of the issuer, which could precipitate non-viability.

This advocacy of ‘point of non viability loss absorbency’ is consistent with the NVCC rules OSFI has imposed on banks and with its answer to the 2016 consultation. Assiduous readers will remember that I consider the ‘adverse signalling effects’ of a PLAM trigger to be a feature, not a bug; high triggers are good things, and I’m not the only one who says so:

Moreover, high-trigger CoCos would presumably get converted not infrequently which, in terms of reducing myopia in capital markets, would have the merit of reminding holders and issuers about risks in banking.

Broadly speaking, Europeans were in favour of PLAM, although some expressed concerns about complexity: China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC); European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA); Insurance Europe; Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin); General Insurance Association of Japan; Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) & Financial Services Commission (FSC); Legal & General; Association of British Insurers. Comments included EIOPA’s remark:

Requiring a PLAM, i.e. write-down or conversion features, provides a means for the principal of a financial instrument to absorb losses on a going-concern basis. Without such mechanisms these instruments only provide going concern loss absorbency through cancellation of distributions.

Naysayers were dominated by American regulators and firms: Dai-ichi Life Holdings, Inc., American Council of Life Insurers, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies; Prudential Financial, Inc.; American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCI); MetLife, Inc; Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI); and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The Americans have a high degree of concern regarding the continued eligibility of “surplus notes”, as exemplified by the response of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies:

PLAM is an addition to the discussion that NAMIC strongly opposes. NAMIC does not see any value in a PLAM requirement. It is simply a way to further complicate the ICS 2.0 providing no value. It seems to be designed to reduce the value of allowing surplus notes to qualify as Tier 1 capital resources.

The elephant in the room is AIG and the European bank bail-outs that left Tier 1 noteholders unscathed, at least relatively. How can anybody say with a straight face that loss absorbency via cessation of dividends is sufficient in the face of those memories?

Q53 Section 6 If a PLAM requirement is not introduced, what amount should be included in ICS capital resources for instruments that qualify as Tier 1 Limited, to reflect going concern loss absorbency? Please explain.

OSFI’s answer is a disgrace:

Capital composition limits address the concerns related to loss absorbency of Tier 1 Limited instruments and therefore their full face amount should be included in the ICS capital resources.

In other words, OSFI would have us believe that since Limited Tier 1 Capital is a limited proportion of the insurers’ high quality capital, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s actually high quality or not. Disgusting.

EIOPA and BaFin stepped into the breach:

Without a PLAM requirement, it is difficult to see how the principal of an instrument absorbs losses in a going concern basis.

Interestingly, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) stated:

In support, PCI cites the response of OSFI-Canada to a similar question in the prior ICS consultation

and quoted in full the dovish response to the 2016 consultation … including the grudging support for a NVCC solution.

Others stated that cessation of distributions worked just fine, e.g., American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCI):

Tier 1 Limited instruments already provide loss absorbency on a going concern loss basis through cancellation of distributions. Reducing the principal amount of these instruments is only necessary during resolution.

Q54 Section 6 Are there other criteria that could be added to enhance the ability of financial instruments to absorb losses on a going concern and / or on a gone concern basis? Please explain.

OSFI had nothing to say. BaFin and EIOPA had identical answers again:

• In T1, mandatory cancellation of distributions on breach of capital requirement (i.e. a lock-in feature).
• In T2, mandatory deferral of distributions and redemption of principal on breach of capital requirement (i.e. a lock-in feature).
• Requirement for early repurchase (within 5 years from issuance) to be funded out of proceeds of new issuance of
same/higher quality (all tiers).

I don’t quite understand this response. Does “cancellation” mean cancellation forever and ever on T1, as opposed to a temporary “deferral” on T2? How about redemptions? Would such instruments have any rights if the issuer actually did go bankrupt ten years later? And I don’t understand what they mean by an early purchase requirement at all.

So, there you have it. I don’t find anything particularly surprising here; there might be some meaning behind the heavy American participation in this consultation, but an outsider such as myself would be foolish to speculate on just what that meaning might be.

DBRS: Canadian Banks’ Trends Now Stable on Bail-In Approval

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

DBRS has announced that it has:

changed the trend to Stable from Negative on the Long-Term Issuer Ratings, Senior Debt Ratings and Deposits ratings of the Bank of Montreal, The Bank of Nova Scotia, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the National Bank of Canada. These actions result from the publication by the Minister of Finance of the final rules related to the Bank Recapitalization Regime (the Bail-in Regime). DBRS notes that the Stable trends on the long-term ratings of The Toronto-Dominion Bank and Royal Bank of Canada were unaffected. For these domestic systemically important banks (D-SIBs) to which the Bail-in Regime is applicable, DBRS has created a new obligation named Bail-inable Senior Debt. This new obligation rating reflects the senior debt that these banks will begin issuing once the Bail-in Regime goes into effect on September 23, 2018. Lastly, DBRS has downgraded the legacy Subordinated Debt ratings of these D-SIBs by one notch.

The revision of the trend to Stable from Negative for the affected long-term ratings reflects DBRS’s view that a downgrade of existing senior debt for the D-SIBs is now unlikely. It is anticipated that systemic support would still be sufficient to add a notch for such support until the D-SIBs issue adequate amounts of Bail-inable Senior Debt to meet their total loss-absorbing capacity (TLAC) requirements. Once an adequate level of bail-inable debt has been issued, the likelihood of future systemic support would be much lower. Accordingly, the notch of support would then be withdrawn. However, the new Bail-inable Senior Debt creates an additional buffer that better protects all senior obligations that cannot be bailed in under the regulation. Therefore, DBRS does not expect to downgrade any long-term ratings of existing senior obligations of the D-SIBs.

When issued, DBRS will rate the new Bail-inable Senior Debt at the level of each bank’s Intrinsic Assessment (IA), reflecting the risk of a D-SIB being put into resolution.

The downgrades of the legacy Subordinated Debt ratings reflect the structural subordination to the Bail-inable Senior Debt.

This has been telegraphed for a long, long time:

S&P Revises Bank Outlook to Stable on Federal Complacency

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

Standard & Poor’s has announced:

  • •We continue to evaluate the likelihood, degree, and timeframe with respect to which the default risk of systemically important Canadian banks may change as a result of the government’s progress toward introducing a bank bail-in framework.
  • •We now expect that the timeframe could be substantially longer than we had previously assumed. We see the absence of the topic from the new government’s Dec. 4 Speech from the Throne as recent, incremental evidence in this regard.
  • •We now do not expect to consider the removal of rating uplift for our expectation of the likelihood of extraordinary government support from the issuer credit ratings (ICRs) on systemically important Canadian banks until a point beyond our standard two-year outlook horizon for investment-grade ratings, if at all.
  • •When and if we remove such uplift, the potential ratings impact will also consider uplift for additional loss-absorbing capacity, as well as any changes to our stand-alone credit profiles on these banks.
  • •As a result, we are revising our outlooks on all systemically important Canadian banks to stable from negative.

RATING ACTION
On Dec. 11, 2015, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services revised its outlooks on the Canadian banks that it views as having either “high” (Bank of Montreal, The Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada, The Toronto-Dominion Bank), or “moderate” (Caisse centrale Desjardins and National Bank of Canada) systemic importance, to stable from negative (see ratings list). The issuer credit ratings (ICRs) on the banks are unchanged.

RATIONALE
We believe that the potential negative ratings impact of a declining likelihood of extraordinary government support, at least within our standard two-year outlook horizon, has subsided. This reflects our updated view that there could be an extended implementation timetable–2018 or later–for the proposed Canadian bail-in framework. Importantly, at the point we would consider removing any uplift from the likelihood of extraordinary government support from our ratings, we would also consider the potential ratings impact of any uplift for additional loss-absorbing capacity (ALAC), as well as any
changes to our stand-alone credit profiles (SACPs) on these banks. In our view, the extended timetable introduces some potential that either the presence of ALAC or fundamental changes in credit quality at individual banks might come into play more than under the previously contemplated timetable.

We had revised our outlooks on systemically important Canadian banks to negative chiefly in reaction to the former government’s “Taxpayer Protection and Bank Recapitalization Regime” consultation paper of Aug. 1, 2014, as we then expected a bail-in regime could be fully implemented by 2016 (see “Outlook On Six Big Canadian Banks Revised To Negative Following Review Of Bail-In Policy Proposal,” published Aug. 8, 2014, on RatingsDirect). A number of subsequent developments have caused us to re-evaluate this expectation:

  • •In its April 2015 budget proposal, the former government affirmed its intention to introduce a bank bail-in regime in Canada, but it provided only very limited additional information relative to what it had outlined in its 2014 consultation paper; nor did the government make substantial subsequent public statement on the topic; nor did it specify timing for the announcement of its fully-developed (post-consultation) legislative proposal.
  • •The Oct. 19 federal election changed the party in government to Liberal (center-left), from Conservative (center-right). The former government’s proposed bail-in regime did not feature prominently in election debates.
  • •The new government’s Dec. 4 Speech from the Throne made no mention of the proposed bail-in framework, nor were any of the legislative priorities enumerated therein closely related, in our opinion. We believe this indicates the introduction of a bail-in framework is not among the immediate priorities of the new government.

Moreover, with Canada experiencing no government bank bail-outs, nor large bank failures, for decades, we believe the political incentive to rapidly end “too-big-to-fail” is less in Canada than in the U.S. and several EU countries, which are jurisdictions under which we have already removed uplift for our expectation of the likelihood of extraordinary government support from our ratings (see “U.S. Global Systemically Important Bank Holding Companies Downgraded Based On Uncertain Likelihood Of Government Support,” and “Most European Bank Ratings Affirmed Following Government Support And ALAC Review,” both published Dec. 2, on RatingsDirect). We will take this factor into consideration as we continue to evaluate our view on the likelihood of extraordinary government support in Canada relative to not only the U.S. and Europe, but also other jurisdictions where we maintain a government support assessment of “supportive” or “highly supportive” under our criteria (such as for many countries in Latin America and Asia-Pacific; see “Banking Industry Country Risk Assessment Update: November 2015,” published Nov. 27).

We now believe the procedural hurdles to passing legislation and related regulations (the latter after passage of the former) for a bail-in regime will alone require a minimum of one-to-two years, after the new government decides on a final legislative framework to propose to Parliament. Considering all of this, we now expect the eventual date for initial implementation of the bail-in regime (that is, banks issuing bail-inable debt) could be in 2018 or later.

In addition, and in contrast to bail-in frameworks outlined by U.S. authorities or in European countries like Germany, Canadian officials’ statements have made clear that only debt issued or renegotiated after an initial implementation date would be subject to conversion. It will take some time for the banks to issue or renegotiate bail-inable debt. We believe this means it could take several years after the initial implementation date before we would consider a Canadian bail-in regime effective, so as to provide a viable alternative to the direct provision of extraordinary government support.

As well, and again in contrast to the U.S. and EU jurisdictions, Canadian governments have made no attempt to limit their ability to provide direct extraordinary support to their banks, if needed. We expect bailing in senior creditors to be the first Canadian policy response in the face of a crisis. At the same time, we believe Canadian governments would be likely to consider all policy options, in such a circumstance. It is therefore not certain that the introduction of a bail-in regime would of itself result in our revising our government support assessment on Canada to “uncertain” from the current “supportive” and the removal of rating uplift for our view on the likelihood of extraordinary government support from our ICRs on systemically important Canadian banks. Rather, our decision would depend, among other factors, on the details of the eventual bail-in regime, including the extent to which bail-inable and unbail-inable senior debt is distinguishable.

Partly to honor G-20 and other international commitments, the Canadian government will, we expect, present a finalized legislative proposal for the bail-in framework in 2016 or 2017. However, we expect an implementation date that could be in 2018 or later, and we think it could take at least one and possibly several years more for substantial bail-in eligible debt to be in place. With a runway that long, the potential ratings impact from removing uplift for the likelihood of extraordinary government support is beyond our standard two-year outlook horizon for investment-grade ratings, and could by then be more meaningfully affected by either ALAC uplift (from the bail-inable debt, assuming our related criteria are met) or SACP changes, than under the previously contemplated timetable.

When the government presents the detailed provisions of the framework, along with a more specific timeframe, we will review the applicable notching for various bank liabilities, taking into account the framework’s implications on different instruments. We expect that issue ratings on new bail-inable instruments will be at a level that is notched in reference to banks’ SACPs, while ratings on non-bailinable senior debt may continue to incorporate rating uplift above the banks’ SACPs, based on our expectation of the likelihood of extraordinary government support, or ALAC.

OUTLOOK
Our outlooks on the systemically important Canadian banks are stable, based on our reassessment of the likelihood, degree, and timeframe with respect to which the default risk of systemically important Canadian banks may change as a result of the government’s progress toward introducing a bank bail-in framework. We believe that the likelihood of extraordinary government support will continue to be a factor in systemically important Canadian bank ratings throughout the current outlook period.

Moreover, we believe these banks will continue to exhibit broad revenue diversification, conservative underwriting standards, and strong overall asset quality. Our current view is that the impact of low oil prices on their profitability and credit quality will be contained, given the modest direct exposure of the banks to the oil and gas sector, and the limited knock-on impact so far on consumer credit in regional economies affected by low oil prices.

On the other hand, we continue to monitor a number of key downside risks to our ratings on these banks, including low margins, high Canadian consumer leverage, residential real estate prices we believe are at least somewhat inflated in some parts of Canada, a Canadian macroeconomic outlook that is very tentative, and the higher-risk nature of certain recent foreign acquisitions.

The August 2014 imposition of Outlook-Negative was reported on PrefBlog, as was the federal consultation on the recapitalization regime. As far as I can tell, the comments received on the consultation paper have not been published; I believe this is because Canadians are too stupid to understand smart stuff like legislation and parliament and all that – if given a pile of comments to work through, we’d probably try to eat them.

Issues affected are:

BMO.PR.K, BMO.PR.L, BMO.PR.M, BMO.PR.Q, BMO.PR.R, BMO.PR.S, BMO.PR.T, BMO.PR.W, BMO.PR.Y and BMO.PR.Z

BNS.PR.A, BNS.PR.B, BNS.PR.C, BNS.PR.D, BNS.PR.L, BNS.PR.M, BNS.PR.N, BNS.PR.O, BNS.PR.P, BNS.PR.Q, BNS.PR.R, BNS.PR.Y and BNS.PR.Z

CM.PR.O, CM.PR.P and CM.PR.Q

NA.PR.Q, NA.PR.S and NA.PR.W

RY.PR.A, RY.PR.B, RY.PR.C, RY.PR.D, RY.PR.E, RY.PR.F, RY.PR.G, RY.PR.H, RY.PR.I, RY.PR.J, RY.PR.K, RY.PR.L, RY.PR.M, RY.PR.N, RY.PR.O, RY.PR.P RY.PR.W and RY.PR.Z

TD.PF.A, TD.PF.B, TD.PF.C, TD.PF.D, TD.PF.E, TD.PF.F, TD.PR.S, TD.PR.T, TD.PR.Y and TD.PR.Z

Update On OSFI Insurer Regulation

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

OSFI Assistant Superintendent Neville Henderson gave a speech to the 2015 Life Insurance Invitational Forum:

Domestic Insurance Capital Standards

On the domestic front, we are still on track to implement OSFI’s new life insurance regulatory capital framework in 2018. The new capital framework will provide a superior risk based assessment methodology for determining capital requirements. The new test will make use of more current analysis and methodologies as well as explicitly taking into account mitigating actions and diversification benefits. It will allow our capital requirements to remain state of the art compared to those of other jurisdictions.

The capital changes in the new framework are explicitly calibrated to a consistent level of conditional tail expectation (CTE) across the various risks. Actuarial valuation of insurance company liabilities are explicitly intended to include conservative margins with the degree of conservatism varying across risks.

To help ensure that this approach results in consistent capital measures across companies, OSFI has asked the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and the Actuarial Standards Board to consider certain issues with a view to updating actuarial standards and /or guidelines if required.

To avoid double counting and inconsistent treatment of different risks, this new framework will include margins for adverse deviations as an available capital resource.

While we are awaiting the results of Quantitative Impact Study (QIS)7, we are in the process of planning to conduct two framework runs, one in 2016 followed by another one in 2017. These “test drives” will allow us to validate the new capital test and help insurers gear up for the updated regulatory compliance requirements under the new framework.

We should also have a final guideline ready for issue in July 2016, following input from the industry on the draft. Any anomalies uncovered in the testing will be taken into consideration prior to implementation. This will allow time for industry feedback and enable insurers to plan and prepare their systems for implementation of the framework in early 2018.

Global Insurance Capital Developments

While work continues on the domestic front, there are also developments in standards for internationally active insurers.

The International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) is refining the Basic Capital Requirement (BCR) and Higher Loss Absorbency (HLA) requirements for Global Systemically Important Insurers (GSIIs) for implementation in 2019. Work in this area is aimed at mitigating or avoiding risks to the global financial system.

To eventually replace the BCR, the IAIS is developing an internationally agreed upon risk based capital test. The Insurance capital standard (ICS 1.0) for the broader list of Internationally Active Insurance Groups (IAIG) will be ready by the end of 2016, for implementation in 2019.

OSFI looks carefully at the Canadian marketplace and Canadian requirements before deciding whether to adopt international standards. We will take ICS into consideration as we fine tune our current capital tests. The work we do on the OSFI life insurance framework already includes many of the changes stemming from these international standards and we don’t expect ICS 1.0 to be as sophisticated as our current Minimum Continuing Capital and Surplus Requirements (MCCSR) capital test. Consequently, we do not foresee a need to implement any significant changes.

The significant changes will likely come as ICS 2.0 is finalized. It may bring sufficient worldwide convergence for OSFI to start thinking about implementation.

The important thing about ICS is that this is what will determine whether or not preferred shares must be convertible into equity (or have other pre-bankruptcy capital loss absorption features) in order to be counted as Tier 1 capital. This proposal is outlined in the Consultation Paper “Risk-based Global Insurance Capital Standard” which is available in a ludicrously inconvenient manner, paragraph 92 with associated question 25:

92. The IAIS is considering a requirement for a principal loss absorbency mechanism to apply to Tier 1 instruments for which there is a limit. This principal loss absorbency mechanism would provide a means for such instruments to absorb losses on a going-concern basis through reductions in the principal amount in addition to cancellation of distributions.

Question 25. Should Tier 1 instruments for which there is a limit be required to include a principal loss absorbency mechanism that absorbs losses on a going-concern basis by means of the principal amount in addition to actions with respect to distributions (e.g. coupon cancellation)? If so, how would such a mechanism operate in practice and at what point should such a mechanism be triggered?

OSFI’s response to this question is available in the document “Compiled Responses to ICS Consultation 17 Dec 2014 – 16 Feb 2015”, which is also available in a ludicrously inconvenient manner:

No, OSFI does not support the inclusion of a principal loss absorbency mechanism on Tier 1 instruments for which there is a limit. Tier 1 instruments must be able to absorb losses on a going concern basis, which these instruments do through coupon cancellation.

Despite this, I expect that OSFI will adopt whatever ends up being in ICS, as in this way any future criticism will be deflected to the international body and they will be able to keep their jobs and continue angling for future employment with those whom they currently regulate.

OSFI’s response to this – and other – questions has never been explained to the Canadian public as far as I know, because we’re disgusting taxpayer and investor scum, not worth the dirt underneath our own fingernails.

Further discussion of the capital standard and my reasons for believing that the NVCC rule will be applied to insurers and insurance holding companies are provided in every edition of PrefLetter.