The revised Insurance Supervision Act and the revised Insurance Supervision Ordinance will come into force on 1 January 2024 and will bring important changes for the intermediary market. Insurance intermediaries must take action. They are now called upon to take the necessary steps.
Since the adoption of the Insurance Supervision Ordinance, FINMA has provided ongoing information via various channels in order to draw the attention of the affected financial market participants to the changes at an early stage. FINMA therefore organised four symposia in Bern, Lausanne, Zurich and Lugano in October and November 2023. Over 3000 participants attended the events and were able to find out more. There are channels for communicating with FINMA regarding supervision issues and registration, which are already being actively utilised.
At the FINMA symposia, the people responsible for registering and supervising intermediaries explained the reforms and answered specific questions regarding implementation.
Philipp Lüscher, Head of Legal Expertise, Authorisation and Registration, provided information on fundamental supervision matters. He pointed out which activities are considered insurance intermediation and explained the criteria for properly distinguishing tied from untied intermediary activities. He emphasised that financial market regulation is designed to be technology-neutral: Internet platforms or smartphone apps therefore also fall under the Insurance Supervision Act if the services offered are covered by the legal definition of insurance intermediation.
Noémie Savaria, Head of Authorisation and Registration, and Serge Selhofer, Head of Supervision of Insurance Intermediaries, presented the most important key points and requirements in relation to the registration and follow-up documentation for already registered untied intermediaries. Logging in to the FINMA portal and the registration process were demonstrated live. Serge Selhofer explained the new obligations that intermediaries must fulfil, the legislative expectations that must be met at the point of sale and the reporting requirements that FINMA will impose.
According to the revised ISA, the industry is to establish a minimum standard in the area of training and further education, which must be submitted to FINMA as part of a recognition process. Two-year transitional periods apply for this. Noémie Savaria provided information on the ongoing work that the Insurance Industry Vocational Training Association (VBV) is currently undertaking to define these minimum standards. In doing so, she focussed on individual aspects of training and further education based on the requirements contained in the revised Insurance Supervision Ordinance.
Claudine Delavy, Senior Specialist in the Insurance Intermediaries Supervision division, addressed the special situation of tied intermediaries and their relationships with insurance companies. She explained the duties and responsibilities of both parties and the impact of the new regulation in this area. In doing so, she emphasised the deadlines that must be observed in view of the entry into force of the revised legislation.
In his presentation, Markus Geissbühler, Head of the Digital Supervision of Insurance Companies and Intermediaries section, explained the organisational and personnel changes FINMA has made in order to effectively implement the new mandate of ongoing intermediary supervision and the focus on client protection. The new supervisory concept and the selected course of action will include the use of digital tools in order to cope with the large number of intermediaries.
At the end of the event, representatives from the insurance and intermediation industries discussed their concerns and questions with FINMA representatives in a panel discussion. The industry participants represented different business models and companies of various sizes.
FINMA was keen to interact with the participants at all four symposia and to listen to their problems, questions and comments. That is why there were various smartphone surveys during the events, which were analysed live. Below is an example of a survey conducted during the event in Zurich, which shows the aspects that are still causing uncertainty, questions or criticism at the moment.
Thanks to the four symposia, FINMA was able to receive a lot of feedback. On the one hand, questions arose about supervision in specific individual cases. There is no general answer to these questions. On the other hand, clarification of questions relating to training and further education or the disclosure of compensation was requested. The former will be possible when the industry submits its final minimum standard to FINMA for recognition. The latter forms part of FINMA’s supervisory practice, which will be further developed and made public as required. However, it should be noted that such explanations do not affect the principles laid down by the legislator. They must be implemented by all market participants when the act and the ordinance come into force.