BaFin publishes interpretative decision on reinsurance offered by third country insurers
Since the entry into force of the new German Insurance Supervisory Act on 1 January 2016, third-country insurers are allowed to conduct reinsurance business in Germany only where they (i) have established a German branch for which they have obtained the relevant licence from the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), or (ii) operate without a branch in Germany, but sell only reinsurance and have a head office in a country for which the European Commission has decided that the solvency regime for reinsurance activities is fully equivalent to the regime described in the Solvency II directive. The latter currently applies only to insurers based in Switzerland, Bermuda and Japan.
Third-country insurers that do not meet these requirements may only sell reinsurance cover to German cedants by way of reverse solicitation, also referred to as “self-procurement” or “insurance by correspondence” (Korrespondenzversicherung). On 31 August 2016, BaFin published an interpretative decision explaining the requirements that reinsurers have to comply with when concluding reinsurance contracts by correspondence. At the same time, BaFin confirmed that reinsurance contracts entered into on or before 31 December 2015 can be executed and run-off without authorisation.
Insurance by correspondence applies to reinsurance business where a reinsurance contract is concluded by correspondence between a cedant situated in Germany and an insurer situated abroad at the initiative of the German cedant and, as a rule, without one of the parties being assisted by a professional intermediary in Germany or a professional intermediary situated abroad but acting as an intermediary with regard to the German market.
The crucial elements are that the reinsurance contract (i) is concluded by way of correspondence, for instance telephone, fax, e-mail or post and (ii) on the initiative of the German cedant. This would not be the case if this initiative is instigated by activities carried out by a third-country insurer that qualify as conducting reinsurance business in Germany. Such activities include not only the establishment of own distribution structures in Germany, but also the deliberate targeting of the German market, e.g. by advertising specific products, maintaining an internet presence aimed at German protection buyers or sending employees to visit customers with the aim of offering reinsurance cover or the use of intermediaries, both within and outside of Germany, conducting business targeted at the German market. Further, an insurer entering into reinsurance contracts with German based cedants on a regular basis will also be regarded as conducting reinsurance business in Germany. As appears from BaFin’s reference to the (permitted) run-off of contracts entered on or before 31 December 2015, the interpretative decision is already relevant for the upcoming renewals of existing reinsurance agreements which do not simply roll over, but require a contractual agreement between the parties (in particular regarding key elements such as the scope of cover or premiums).
Within the definition of insurance by correspondence, BaFin states that it is permitted for German cedants to authorize, on their initiative, a third party, in particular an intermediary situated in Germany or abroad, to prepare and/or conclude a reinsurance contract with a particular third-country insurer provided that this insurer is not conducting any reinsurance business in Germany. BaFin considers the criteria for conducting business in Germany as fulfilled, if an intermediary situated in Germany or abroad offers contracts on behalf of the German cedant to a third-country reinsurer which either (i) maintains an ongoing business relationship with the intermediary, or (ii) otherwise deliberately targets the German market on a regular basis. Equally, a third party may, with the involvement of third-country insurers, advise a German insurer regarding the development of reinsurance solutions only where the relevant third-country insurer does not deliberately target the German market through this third party.
BaFin specifically points out that it has the power to stop unlawful operations of a third-country reinsurer, and that any individual responsible for committing (or aiding and abetting) an intentional or negligent breach of the new provisions may be subject to fines and imprisonment under criminal law.
Under the new German law provisions, this interpretative decision is an important step towards greater legal certainty on the definition of “conduct of reinsurance business by third-country reinsurers” and the circumstances under which domestic and foreign intermediaries can become an active part in selling reinsurances by way of insurance by correspondence.
It remains to be seen whether and to what extent BaFin’s approach will also be adopted by other regulators in the European Union and the European Economic Area.
For further information please contact Andreas Börner and Eva-Maria Barbosa in Munich.