2 Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
The principal accounting policies are set out below. These policies have been applied consistently to all the periods presented unless otherwise stated.
2.1 Basis of preparation
The consolidated financial statements of Swiss Life have been prepared in accordance and compliance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The consolidated financial statements have been prepared on a historical cost basis, except for the following assets and liabilities, which are stated at their fair value: derivatives, financial assets and liabilities at fair value through profit or loss, financial assets classified as available for sale and investment property.
The preparation of consolidated financial statements in conformity with IFRS requires the use of certain critical accounting estimates. It also requires management to exercise its judgement in the process of applying the Group’s accounting policies. The areas involving a higher degree of judgement or complexity, or areas where assumptions and estimates are significant to the consolidated financial statements, are disclosed in note 3.
Figures may not add up exactly due to rounding.
2.2 Changes in accounting policies
In September 2016, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) amended IFRS 4 (applying IFRS 9 financial instruments with IFRS 4 insurance contracts) by introducing an optional temporary exemption from applying IFRS 9 for companies whose activities are predominantly connected with insurance. The use of this deferral approach to IFRS 9 has been aligned with the amended effective date of IFRS 17, so that qualifying insurance entities would only be required to apply IFRS 9 for annual periods beginning on or after 1 January 2023.
The Swiss Life Group made an assessment of whether it is eligible for the temporary exemption and decided to adopt the option of deferring the application of IFRS 9.
The Swiss Life Group determined its eligibility by comparing the carrying amount of its liabilities arising from contracts within the scope of IFRS 4 and liabilities relating to the insurance business such as investment contracts at FVPL (unit-linked), hybrid debt, post-employment liabilities, insurance payables and policyholder deposits with the total carrying amount of its liabilities. The insurance-related liabilities represent 93 per cent of the total carrying amount of its liabilities based on 31 December 2015.
In response to the IBOR reform, the IASB amended the IFRS Standards IFRS 9 Financial Instruments, IAS 39 Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement, IFRS 7 Financial Instruments: Disclosures and IFRS 16 Leases in August 2020. The amendments introduce a practical expedient if a change to a financial contract results directly from the IBOR reform and occurs on an “economically equivalent” basis. In these cases, changes will be accounted for by updating the effective interest rate. A similar practical expedient applies under IFRS 16 Leases for lessees when accounting for lease modifications which are a result of the IBOR reform. The amendments also modify some specific hedge accounting requirements. For example, hedging relationships will not have to be discontinued because of changes to the hedge documentation required solely by the IBOR reform. Swiss Life adopted the amendments with effect from 1 January 2021. They have no material impact on the consolidated financial statements.
Other new or amended standards and interpretations did not have an impact on the consolidated financial statements.
2.3 Consolidation principles
The Group’s consolidated financial statements include the assets, liabilities, income and expenses of Swiss Life Holding and its subsidiaries. A subsidiary is an entity over which Swiss Life Holding has control. Control is achieved if Swiss Life Holding has the power over the subsidiary, is exposed, or has rights, to variable returns from its involvement with the subsidiary and has the ability to use its power to affect its returns. Subsidiaries are consolidated from the date on which effective control is obtained. All intercompany balances, transactions and unrealised gains on such transactions have been eliminated. Unrealised losses have been eliminated unless the transaction provides evidence of an impairment of the asset transferred. A listing of the Group’s significant subsidiaries is set out in note 35. The financial effect of acquisitions and disposals of subsidiaries is shown in note 28. Changes in the Group’s ownership interests in subsidiaries that do not result in the Group losing control over the subsidiaries are accounted for as equity transactions.
The Swiss Life Group acts as a fund manager for various investment funds. In order to determine if the Group controls an investment fund, aggregate economic interest (including performance fees, if any) is taken into account. Third-party rights to remove the fund manager without cause (kick-out rights) are also taken into account.
Associates for which the Group has significant influence are accounted for using the equity method. Significant influence is the power to participate in the financial and operating policy decisions of the investee, but is not control or joint control over those decisions. The investment is initially recognised at cost and subsequently adjusted to recognise the Group’s share of the post-acquisition profits or losses of the investee in profit or loss, and the Group’s share of movements in other comprehensive income of the investee in other comprehensive income. The Group’s share of net income is included from the date on which significant influence begins until the date on which significant influence ceases. Unrealised gains arising from transactions with associates are eliminated to the extent of the Group’s interest. Unrealised losses are eliminated unless the transaction provides evidence of an impairment of the asset transferred. The carrying amount includes goodwill on the acquisition.
The Group has elected to measure the performance of certain associates that are held by the insurance business at fair value through profit or loss instead of applying the equity method. Changes in the fair value of such investments are included in net gains /losses on financial instruments at fair value through profit or loss.
A listing of the Group’s principal associates is shown in note 15.
Non-controlling interest is the part of profit or loss and net assets of a subsidiary attributable to equity interest that is not controlled, directly or indirectly, through subsidiaries by the parent. The amount of non-controlling interest comprises the proportion of the net fair value of the identifiable assets, liabilities and contingent liabilities not attributable, directly or indirectly, to the parent at the date of the original acquisition, goodwill attributable to non-controlling interest, if any, and the proportion of changes in equity not attributable, directly or indirectly, to the parent since the date of acquisition. Summarised financial information of subsidiaries with material non-controlling interests is set out in note 26.
2.4 Foreign currency translation and transactions
Functional and presentation currency
Items included in the consolidated financial statements of the Group are measured using the currency of the primary economic environment in which the Group’s entities operate (the “functional currency”). The consolidated financial statements are presented in millions of Swiss francs (CHF), which is the Group’s presentation currency.
Foreign currency exchange rates
|For the balance sheet||For the income statement|
|31.12.2021||31.12.2020||Average 2021||Average 2020|
|1 British pound (GBP)||1.2335||1.2083||1.2579||1.2051|
|1 Czech koruna (CZK)||0.0417||0.0412||0.0422||0.0404|
|1 Euro (EUR)||1.0377||1.0821||1.0814||1.0717|
|100 Norwegian kroner (NOK)||10.3485||n/a||10.6334||n/a|
|1 Singapore dollar (SGD)||0.6763||0.6699||0.6804||0.6806|
|1 US dollar (USD)||0.9114||0.8852||0.9143||0.9387|
Foreign currency translation
On consolidation, assets and liabilities of Group entities denominated in foreign currencies are translated into Swiss francs at year-end exchange rates. Income and expense items are translated into Swiss francs at the annual average exchange rate. Goodwill reported before 1 January 2005 is translated at historical exchange rates. Goodwill for which the acquisition date is on or after 1 January 2005 is carried in the foreign operation’s functional currency and is translated into Swiss francs at year-end exchange rates. The resulting translation differences are recorded in other comprehensive income as cumulative translation adjustments. On disposal of foreign entities (loss of control), such translation differences are recognised in profit or loss as part of the gain or loss related to the sale.
Foreign currency transactions
For individual Group entities, foreign currency transactions are accounted for using the exchange rate at the date of the transaction. Outstanding balances in foreign currencies at year-end arising from foreign currency transactions are translated at year-end exchange rates for monetary items, while historical rates are used for non-monetary items. Those non-monetary items in foreign currencies recorded at fair values are translated at the exchange rate on the revaluation date.
2.5 Cash and cash equivalents
Cash amounts represent cash on hand and demand deposits. Cash equivalents are primarily short-term highly liquid investments with an original maturity of 90 days or less. Cash and cash equivalents include cash and cash equivalents for the account and risk of the Swiss Life Group’s customers.
The Group enters into forward contracts, futures, forward rate agreements, currency and interest rate swaps, options and other derivative financial instruments for hedging risk exposures or for trading purposes. The notional amounts or contract volumes of derivatives, which are used to express the volume of instruments outstanding and to provide a basis for comparison with other financial instruments, do not, except for certain foreign exchange contracts, represent the amounts that are effectively exchanged by the parties and, therefore, do not measure the Group’s exposure to credit risk. The amounts exchanged are calculated on the basis of the notional amounts or contract volumes and other terms of the derivatives that relate to interest or exchange rates, securities prices and the volatility of these rates and prices.
All derivative financial instruments are initially recognised at fair value on the date on which a derivative contract is entered into and are subsequently remeasured at their fair value as assets when favourable to the Group and as liabilities when unfavourable. Gains and losses arising on remeasurement to fair value are recognised immediately in profit or loss, except for derivatives that are used for cash flow hedging or for net investment hedges.
Derivatives embedded in other financial instruments or in insurance contracts which are not closely related to the host contract are separated and measured at fair value, unless they represent surrender options with a fixed strike price embedded in host insurance contracts and host investment contracts with discretionary participation features. Changes in the fair value are included in profit or loss. Derivatives embedded in insurance contracts which are closely related or which are insurance contracts themselves, such as guaranteed annuity options or guaranteed interest rates, are reflected in the measurement of the insurance liabilities. Options, guarantees and other derivatives embedded in an insurance contract that do not carry any insurance risk are recognised as derivatives.
Derivatives and other financial instruments are also used to hedge or modify exposures to interest rate, foreign currency and other risks if certain criteria are met. Such financial instruments are designated to offset changes in the fair value of an asset or liability and unrecognised firm commitments (fair value hedge), or changes in future cash flows of an asset, liability or a highly probable forecast transaction (cash flow hedge) or hedges of net investments in foreign operations. In a qualifying fair value hedge, the change in fair value of a hedging derivative is recognised in profit or loss. The change in fair value of the hedged item attributable to the hedged risk adjusts the carrying value of the hedged item and is also recognised in profit or loss.
In a qualifying cash flow hedge, the effective portion of the gain or loss on the hedging derivative is recognised in other comprehensive income. Any ineffective portion of the gain or loss is recognised immediately in profit or loss. For a hedged forecast transaction that results in the recognition of a financial asset or liability, the associated gain or loss recognised in other comprehensive income is reclassified into profit or loss in the same period or periods during which the asset acquired or liability assumed affects profit or loss. When a hedging instrument expires or is sold, or a hedge no longer meets the criteria for hedge accounting, any cumulative hedging gain or loss at that time remains in other comprehensive income and is recognised when the forecast transaction is ultimately recognised in profit or loss. However, when a forecast transaction is no longer expected to occur, the cumulative hedging gain or loss is immediately transferred from other comprehensive income to profit or loss.
Hedges of net investments in foreign operations (net investment hedges) are accounted for similarly to cash flow hedges, i.e. the effective portion of the gain or loss on the hedging instrument is recognised in other comprehensive income and any ineffective portion is recognised immediately in profit or loss. On the disposal of the foreign operation, the gains or losses included in other comprehensive income are reclassified to profit or loss.
When a hedge relationship is no longer effective, expires or is terminated, hedge accounting is discontinued from that point on.
2.7 Financial assets
“Regular way” purchases and sales of financial assets are recorded on the trade date. The amortisation of premiums and discounts is computed using the effective interest method and is recognised in profit or loss as an adjustment of yield. Dividends are recorded as investment income on the ex-dividend date. Interest income is recognised on an accrual basis.
A financial asset is derecognised when the contractual rights to the cash flows from the financial asset have expired or substantially all risks and rewards of ownership have been transferred or the risks and rewards have neither been transferred nor retained, but control of the asset has been transferred.
Financial assets at fair value through profit or loss (FVPL)
Financial assets at fair value through profit or loss comprise financial assets designated as at fair value through profit or loss. Financial assets are irrevocably designated as such on initial recognition in the following instances:
- Financial assets backing insurance liabilities and liabilities arising from investment contracts for the account and risk of the Swiss Life Group’s customers (contracts with unit-linked features, separate accounts, private placement life insurance) in order to avoid measurement inconsistencies with the corresponding liabilities.
- Certain equity instruments with a quoted price in an active market which are managed on a fair value basis.
- Certain financial assets with embedded derivatives which otherwise would have to be separated.
- Certain financial assets and financial liabilities where a measurement or recognition inconsistency can be avoided (“accounting mismatch”) that would otherwise arise from measuring those assets or liabilities or recognising the gains and losses on them on different bases.
Interest, dividend income and realised and unrealised gains and losses are included in net gains /losses on financial instruments at fair value through profit or loss.
Financial assets available for sale (AFS)
Financial assets classified as available for sale are carried at fair value. Financial assets are classified as available for sale if they do not qualify as held to maturity, loans and receivables or if they are not designated as at fair value through profit or loss. Gains and losses arising from fair value changes, being the difference between fair value and cost/amortised cost, are reported in other comprehensive income. On disposal of an AFS investment, the cumulative gain or loss is transferred from other comprehensive income to profit or loss for the period. Gains and losses on disposal are determined using the average cost method.
Loans and receivables
Loans and receivables are non-derivative financial assets with fixed or determinable payments. Loans include loans originated by the Group and investments in debt instruments which are not quoted in an active market and for which no intention of sale exists in the near term. Loans are initially recognised at fair value, net of transaction costs, or direct origination costs. Subsequent measurement is at amortised cost using the effective interest method.
Debt securities reclassified from financial assets available for sale to loans and receivables due to the disappearance of an active market are not reclassified back to available for sale if the market becomes active again.
Financial assets pledged as collateral
Transfers of securities under repurchase agreements or under lending agreements continue to be recognised if substantially all the risks and rewards of ownership are retained. They are accounted for as collateralised borrowings, i.e. the cash received is recognised with a corresponding obligation to return it, which is included in other financial liabilities.
Financial assets that have been sold under a repurchase agreement or lent under an agreement to return them, and where the transferee has the right to sell or repledge the securities given as collateral, are reclassified to financial assets pledged as collateral.
Measurement rules are consistent with the ones for corresponding unrestricted financial assets.
2.8 Impairment of financial assets
The Group reviews the carrying value of financial assets regularly for indications of impairment.
Financial assets at amortised cost
The Group assesses at each balance sheet date if there is objective evidence that a financial asset or a group of financial assets is impaired. It is assessed whether there is objective evidence of impairment individually for financial assets that are individually significant, and collectively for financial assets that are not individually significant.
A financial asset or a group of financial assets is impaired and impairment losses are incurred if, and only if, there is objective evidence of impairment as a result of one or more events that occurred after the initial recognition of the asset (a “loss event”) and that loss event (or events) has an impact on the estimated future cash flows of the financial asset or group of financial assets that can be reliably estimated. Loans and receivables are assessed for impairment when a significant decrease in market value related to credit risk arises, namely after a downgrade of a debtor’s rating below single B– after initial recognition (i.e. CCC or lower according to Standard and Poor’s or equivalent) or when payments of principal and/or interest are overdue by more than 90 days. If there is objective evidence that an impairment loss on loans and receivables has been incurred, the amount of the loss is measured as the difference between the asset’s carrying amount and the present value of estimated future cash flows (excluding future credit losses that have not been incurred) discounted at the financial asset’s original effective interest rate. The carrying amount of the asset is reduced through the use of an allowance account and the amount of the loss is recognised in profit or loss. If a loan has a variable interest rate, the discount rate for measuring any impairment loss is the current effective interest rate determined under the contract.
For the purposes of a collective evaluation of impairment, financial assets are grouped on the basis of similar credit risk characteristics. Those characteristics are relevant to the estimation of future cash flows from groups of such assets by being indicative of the debtors’ ability to pay all amounts due according to the contractual terms of the assets being evaluated.
If, in a subsequent period, the amount of the impairment loss decreases and the decrease can be related objectively to an event occurring after the impairment was recognised (such as an improvement in the debtor’s credit rating), the previously recognised impairment loss is reversed by the amount that represents the difference between the carrying amount and the new amortised cost value by adjusting the allowance account. The amount of the reversal is recognised in profit or loss.
Financial assets carried at fair value (available for sale)
At each balance sheet date, an assessment is made whether there is objective evidence that a financial asset or a group of financial assets is impaired. In the case of an equity instrument classified as available for sale, a significant or prolonged decline in the fair value of the security below its cost is considered objective evidence of impairment. In this respect, a decline of 30% or more is regarded as significant, and a period of 12 months or longer is considered to be prolonged. In such a situation, the impairment loss – measured as the difference between the acquisition cost and the current fair value – is removed from other comprehensive income and recognised in profit or loss. After recognition of an impairment loss, any further declines in fair value are recognised in profit or loss, and subsequent increases in fair value are recognised in other comprehensive income.
Available-for-sale debt instruments are assessed for impairment when a significant decrease in market value related to credit risk arises, namely after a downgrade of a debtor’s rating below single B– after initial recognition (i.e. CCC or lower according to Standard and Poor’s or equivalent) or when payments of principal and/ or interest are overdue by more than 90 days. If, in a subsequent period, the fair value of a debt instrument classified as available for sale increases and the increase can be objectively related to an event after the impairment loss was recognised, the impairment loss is reversed through profit or loss.
Impairment losses are presented in the income statement as part of net gains and losses on financial assets.
2.9 Investment property
Investment property is property (land or a building or both) held by the Group to earn rentals or for capital appreciation or both, rather than for administrative purposes.
Investment property includes completed investment property and investment property under construction. Completed investment property consists of investments in residential, commercial and mixed-use properties primarily located within Switzerland.
Some properties comprise a portion that is held to earn rentals or for capital appreciation and another portion that is held for administrative purposes. If these portions could be sold separately, they are accounted for separately. If these portions could not be sold separately, the portion is investment property only if an insignificant portion is held for administrative purposes.
Investment property is carried at fair value and changes in fair values are recognised in profit or loss. Fair values are determined either on the basis of periodic independent valuations or by using discounted cash flow projections. The valuation of each investment property is reviewed by an independent recognised valuer at least once every three years. Rental income is recognised on a straight-line basis over the lease term. The fair value of an investment property is measured based on its highest and best use. The highest and best use of an investment property takes into account the use of the asset that is physically possible, legally permissible and financially feasible.
Investment property under construction is also measured at fair value with changes in fair value being recognised in profit or loss. However, where the fair value is not reliably determinable, the property is measured at cost until either its fair value becomes reliably measurable or construction is completed.
Investment property being redeveloped for continuing use as investment property, or for which the market has become less active, continues to be measured at fair value.
If an item of property and equipment becomes an investment property because its use has changed, the positive difference resulting between the carrying amount and the fair value of this item at the date of transfer is recognised in other comprehensive income as a revaluation surplus. However, to the extent a fair value gain reverses a previous impairment loss, the gain is recognised in profit or loss. Any resulting decrease in the carrying amount of the property is recognised in net profit or loss for the period. Upon the disposal of such investment property, any revaluation surplus included in other comprehensive income is transferred to retained earnings; the transfer is not made through profit or loss.
If an investment property becomes owner-occupied, it is reclassified as property and equipment, and its fair value at the date of reclassification becomes its cost for subsequent measurement purposes.
2.10 Insurance operations
Definition of insurance contracts
Insurance contracts are contracts under which one party accepts significant insurance risk from another party (the policyholder) by agreeing to compensate the policyholder if a specified uncertain future event adversely affects the policyholder. Significant insurance risk exists if an insured event could cause an insurer to pay significant additional benefits in any scenario, excluding scenarios that lack commercial substance (i.e. have no discernible effect on the economics of the transaction). The classification of contracts identifies both the insurance contracts that the Group issues and reinsurance contracts that the Group holds. By Group policy, Swiss Life considers those contracts to be insurance contracts that require the payment of additional benefits in excess of 10% of the benefits that would be payable if the insured event had not occurred, excluding scenarios that lack commercial substance.
The Group has assessed the significance of insurance risk on a contract-by-contract basis. Contracts that do not transfer insurance risk at inception but at a later date are classified as insurance from inception unless the Group remains free to price the insurance premium at a later date. In this case, the contract is classified as insurance when the insurance premiums are specified. A contract that qualifies as an insurance contract remains an insurance contract until all rights and obligations are extinguished or expire.
Contracts under which the transfer of insurance risk to the Group from the policyholder is not significant are classified as investment contracts.
Investment contracts with and without discretionary participation features
For investment contracts that contain discretionary participation features (see below), the same recognition and measurement principles as for insurance contracts apply. For investment contracts without discretionary participation features, the recognition and measurement rules for financial instruments apply.
Recognition and measurement principles
Subject to certain limitations, the Group uses its existing accounting policies for the recognition and measurement of insurance contracts and investment contracts with discretionary participation features that it issues (including related deferred acquisition costs and related intangible assets) and reinsurance contracts that it holds. The existing accounting policies for recognition and measurement have primarily been based on the requirements of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the United States (status of US GAAP as of the first application of IFRS 4).
The accounting policies for insurance contracts and investment contracts with discretionary participation features have been modified as appropriate to be consistent with the IFRS requirements. Guidance in dealing with similar and related issues, definitions, recognition and measurement criteria for assets, liabilities, income and expenses as set out in the IASB Framework for the Preparation and Presentation of Financial Statements has been considered.
Discretionary participation features (DPF)
Discretionary participation features are defined in IFRS 4 Insurance Contracts as contractual rights to receive, as a supplement to guaranteed benefits, additional benefits which are likely to be a significant portion of the total contractual benefits and whose amount or timing is contractually at the discretion of the issuer. These DPF are contractually based on the performance of a specified pool of contracts or a specified type of contract or on the realised and unrealised investment returns on a specified pool of assets held by the issuer or on the profit or loss of the company. The unrealised investment returns comprise gains /losses recognised in other comprehensive income.
The bonuses which are allocated to the policyholders in the participating insurance business (insurance and investment contracts) in Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein follow the definition of DPF as set out in IFRS 4 Insurance Contracts.
IFRS 4 Insurance Contracts is silent on the measurement of the amounts identified as DPF. This topic will be addressed in IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts. Cash flows to policyholders that vary depending on returns on underlying items are included in the measurement of insurance liabilities. If these cash flows are substantial, a modification of the general measurement model in IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts applies (“variable fee approach” for direct participating contracts).
The accounting for the amounts identified as DPF has been done as follows:
In jurisdictions where no statutory minimum distribution ratio (“legal quote”) exists, the contractual right to receive, as a supplement to guaranteed benefits, additional benefits which are likely to be a significant portion of the total contractual benefits arise when management ratifies the allocation of policyholder bonuses. When ratified by management, a corresponding liability is set up. To the extent discretion with regard to amount and/or timing is involved, these amounts are included within policyholder participation liabilities. In that respect the policyholder bonus reserve set up in the statutory accounts for these contracts is regarded as discretionary. For these contracts the entire DPF is classified as a liability.
In other jurisdictions, a statutory minimum distribution ratio (“legal quote”) exists for certain types of business. Geographical areas in which the Swiss Life Group is present and in which such a statutory minimum distribution ratio (“legal quote”) exists are as follows: Switzerland (only group business subject to “legal quote”), France (life insurance business) and Germany. For these contracts the Swiss Life Group defines DPF as the policyholder bonus reserve set up in the statutory accounts and the amount of temporary valuation differences between the IFRS basis and the statutory basis on the assets and liabilities relating to the respective insurance portfolio measured using the statutory minimum distribution ratio (“legal quote”). The policy of the Swiss Life Group is to classify as a liability the entire DPF as defined.
When such temporary valuation differences disappear (e.g. management decides to realise certain unrealised gains and losses on assets), additional benefits which arise from the application of the statutory minimum distribution ratio (“legal quote”) are allocated to the policyholders and become part of their guaranteed benefits. These amounts are always accounted for as liabilities.
Because there is a direct effect on the measurement of DPF liabilities when asset gains or losses are realised, changes in these liabilities are recognised in other comprehensive income when, and only when, the valuation differences on the assets arise from gains or losses recognised in other comprehensive income (“shadow accounting”).
As the liabilities to policyholders arising from the insurance business are fully recognised, no further liabilities relating to the rights arising from DPF have been set up.
The statutory minimum distribution ratios (“legal quote”) relating to the Swiss Life Group’s operations are as follows:
Group business subject to “legal quote”: at least 90% of the calculated income on the savings, risk and cost components minus the expenses thereof must be allocated to the policyholders. All other business: no “legal quote”.
In life insurance business, 85% of the net investment returns and 90% of any other results are allocated to the policyholders as a minimum.
A minimum of 90% of the net investment returns, a minimum of 90% of the risk result and a minimum of 50% of the positive other result including expenses /costs are allocated to the policyholder. A negative investment result can be offset with positive other profit sources.
No statutory minimum distribution ratios are in place.
Non-discretionary participation features
Certain policyholder participation systems do not satisfy the criteria for discretionary participation features. These policyholder bonuses might be guaranteed elements. Some policyholder bonuses are based on benchmark interest rates which are credited to the policyholders. For certain products, policyholder bonuses are based on the development of biometric parameters such as mortality and morbidity. These policyholder bonuses are allocated based on the risk result of the contracts involved. The amount and timing of these bonuses are not subject to management discretion and are accrued to the policyholders’ liabilities based on the relevant contractual terms and conditions.
For investment-type products, bonuses are only accrued on deposits under policyholder accounts if the policyholders were entitled to receive those bonuses upon surrender at the balance sheet date.
Income and related expenses from insurance contracts and investment contracts with discretionary participation features
Premiums from traditional life insurance contracts are recognised when due from the policyholder. Insurance liabilities are established in order to recognise future benefits and expenses. Benefits are recognised as an expense when due.
Amounts collected as premiums from investment-type contracts such as universal life and unit-linked contracts are reported as deposits. Only those parts of the premiums used to cover the insured risks and associated costs are treated as premium income. These include fees for the cost of insurance, administrative charges and surrender charges. Benefits recognised under expenses include claims for benefits incurred in the period under review that exceed the related deposits under policyholder contracts and interest that is credited to the appropriate insurance policy accounts.
For contracts with a short duration (e.g. most non-life contracts), premiums are recorded as written upon inception of the contract and are earned primarily on a pro-rata basis over the term of the related policy coverage. The unearned premium reserve represents the portion of the premiums written relating to the unexpired terms of coverage.
Insurance liabilities and liabilities from investment contracts
Future life policyholder benefit liabilities
These liabilities are determined by using the net-level-premium method. Depending on the type of profit participation, the calculations are based on various actuarial assumptions as to mortality, interest rates, investment returns, expenses and persistency, including a margin for adverse deviation. The assumptions are initially set at contract issue and are locked in except for deficiency.
For investment-type contracts, savings premiums collected are reported as deposits (deposit accounting). The liabilities relating to these contracts comprise the accumulation of deposits received plus interest credited less expenses, insurance charges and withdrawals.
Liability adequacy test
If the actual results show that the carrying amount of the insurance liabilities together with anticipated future revenues (less related deferred acquisition costs [DAC] and related intangible assets) are not adequate to meet the future obligations and to recover the unamortised DAC or intangible assets, the entire deficiency is recognised in profit or loss, either by reducing the unamortised DAC or intangible assets or by increasing the insurance liabilities. The liability adequacy test is performed at portfolio level at each reporting date in accordance with a loss recognition test considering current estimates of future cash flows including those resulting from embedded options and guarantees.
Liabilities for claims and claim settlement costs
Liabilities for unpaid claims and claim settlement costs are for future payment obligations under insurance claims for which normally either the amount of benefits to be paid or the date when payments must be made is not yet fixed. They include claims reported at the balance sheet date, claims incurred but not yet reported, and claim settlement expenses. Liabilities for unpaid claims and claim settlement costs are calculated at the estimated amount considered necessary to settle future claims in full, using actuarial methods. These methods are continually reviewed and updated. Claim reserves are not discounted except for claims with determinable and fixed payment terms.
Embedded options and guarantees in insurance contracts
Insurance contracts often contain embedded derivatives. Embedded derivatives which are not closely related to their host insurance contracts are separated and measured separately at fair value. Exposure to embedded options and guarantees in insurance contracts which are closely related or which are insurance contracts themselves, such as guaranteed annuity options or guaranteed interest rates, is reflected in the measurement of the insurance liabilities.
The Group assumes and/or cedes insurance in the normal course of business. Reinsurance assets principally include receivables due from both insurance and reinsurance companies for ceded insurance liabilities. Amounts recoverable or due under reinsurance contracts are recognised in a manner consistent with the reinsured risks and in accordance with the terms of the reinsurance contract. Reinsurance is presented in the consolidated balance sheet and income statement on a gross basis unless a right and the intention to offset exist.
Reinsurance contracts that do not transfer insurance risk are accounted for as financial reinsurance and are included in financial assets or liabilities. A deposit asset or liability is recognised based on the consideration paid or received, less any explicitly identified premiums or fees retained by the reinsured. These contracts are primarily measured at amortised cost using the effective interest method with future cash flows being estimated to calculate the effective interest rate.
If a reinsurance asset is impaired, the impairment loss is recognised in profit or loss and the carrying amount is reduced accordingly.
Separate account /unit-linked contracts /private placement life insurance
Separate account contracts represent life insurance contracts with a separated part that is invested in assets managed for the account and risk of the Swiss Life Group’s customers according to their specific investment objectives. Separate account liabilities are included in insurance liabilities. Separate account liabilities include the right of the policyholder to participate in the performance of the underlying assets.
Unit-linked contracts are insurance or investment contracts where the insurance benefits are linked to the unit values of investment funds. Certain unit-linked contracts contain guaranteed minimum insurance benefits. The deposit components of unit-linked liabilities are measured at fair value through profit and loss and are included in investment and unit-linked contracts (“unbundling of deposit components”). The components of the unit-linked liabilities that cover insurance risk, if any, are carried under insurance liabilities.
Liabilities relating to private placement life insurance are measured at fair value through profit and loss and are included in investment and unit-linked contracts.
Assets associated with separate account/unit-linked contracts and private placement life insurance are included in financial assets designated as at fair value through profit or loss, derivatives and cash and cash equivalents. The related income and gains or losses are included in the income statement under the respective line items. The Group has allocated on a rational basis the proportion of acquisition costs related to the insurance and deposit components. The accounting policy for deferred acquisition costs applies to the portion of acquisition costs associated with the insurance component, and the policy for deferred origination costs applies to the other portion (see 2.16 Intangible assets).
Administrative and surrender charges are included in policy fee income.
2.11 Property and equipment
Property and equipment are carried at cost less accumulated depreciation. Land is carried at cost and not depreciated. Depreciation is principally calculated using the straight-line method to allocate the cost of assets to their residual values over the assets’ estimated useful life as follows: buildings 25 to 50 years; furniture and fixtures five to ten years; computer hardware three to five years.
The assets’ residual values and useful lives are reviewed, and adjusted if appropriate, at each balance sheet date.
Subsequent costs are included in the asset’s carrying amount or are recognised as a separate asset, as appropriate, only when it is probable that future economic benefits associated with the item will flow to the Group and the cost of the item can be measured reliably. All other repair and maintenance costs are charged to the income statement during the financial period in which they are incurred. Borrowing costs directly attributable to the construction or acquisition of a qualifying asset are capitalised as part of the cost of that asset. Realised gains and losses on disposals are determined by comparing proceeds with the carrying amount and are included in profit or loss.
Property and equipment are reviewed for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount may not be recoverable. An asset’s carrying amount is written down immediately to its recoverable amount if the asset’s carrying amount is greater than its estimated recoverable amount. The recoverable amount is the higher of the asset’s fair value less costs to sell and value in use.
2.12 Inventory property
Inventory property comprises land and buildings that are intended for sale in the ordinary course of business or in the process of construction or development for such a sale, primarily property acquired with a view to subsequent disposal in the near future or for development and resale. Such property is included in other assets.
Inventory property is measured at the lower of cost and net realisable value. Acquisition costs comprise the purchase price and other costs directly attributable to the acquisition of the property (notary fees etc.). Construction costs include costs directly related to the process of construction of a property. Construction and other related costs are included in inventory property until disposal.
The estimated net realisable value is the proceeds expected to be realised from the sale in the ordinary course of business, less estimated costs to be incurred for renovation, refurbishment and disposal.
Revenue from sales is recognised when construction is complete and legal title to the property has been transferred to the buyer.
Future lease payments that are fixed or variable based on an index or rate are discounted and recorded on the balance sheet as a lease liability, included in other financial liabilities. The lease liability is amortised by the payments made to the lessor, less the interest expense.
At inception of the lease contract, the leased asset is capitalised (right-of-use asset), measured at the initial amount of the lease liability plus any additional initial payments made before the initial capitalisation and any payments for restoring the leased asset at the end of the lease term. The right-of-use asset is depreciated on a straight-line basis over the useful life of the underlying asset, if the ownership of the underlying asset will be transferred to the lessee by the end of the lease term or a purchase option is reasonably certain to be exercised. Otherwise, the right-of-use asset is depreciated over the useful life of the underlying asset, or the lease term, whichever is shorter. The right-of-use assets are included in property and equipment.
Purchase options, penalties, and changes to the lease term are considered in the measurement of the lease liability if reasonably certain. As an exemption, variable payments, payments for short-term leases with an initial lease term of less than twelve months and low-value leases with an initial value of less than CHF 5000 are expensed as they occur.
2.14 Investment management
Revenue consists principally of investment management fees, commission revenue from distribution and sales of investment fund units. Such revenue is recognised when earned, i.e. when the services are rendered.
Incremental costs that are directly attributable to securing an investment management contract are recognised as an asset if they can be identified separately and measured reliably and if it is probable that they will be recovered. Such deferred origination costs are included in intangible assets. Deferred investment management fees are included in other liabilities.
2.15 Commission income and expense
Revenue consists principally of brokerage fees, recurring fees for existing business and other fees. Such revenue is recognised when earned, i.e. when the services are rendered. Cancellations are recorded as a deduction of commission income.
Expenses primarily comprise commissions paid to independent financial advisors, fees for asset management and other (advisory) services.
2.16 Intangible assets
Present value of future profits (PVP) arising from acquired insurance contracts and investment contracts with discretionary participation features (DPF)
On acquisition of a portfolio of insurance contracts or a portfolio of investment contracts with discretionary participation features (DPF), either directly from another insurer or through the acquisition of a subsidiary undertaking, the Group recognises an intangible asset representing the present value of future profits (PVP) embedded in the contracts acquired. The PVP represents the difference between the fair value of the contractual rights acquired and insurance obligations assumed and a liability measured in accordance with the accounting policies for insurance contracts and investment contracts with DPF. The PVP is determined by estimating the net present value of future cash flows from the contracts in force at the date of acquisition. For acquired insurance and investment contracts with DPF, future positive cash flows generally include net valuation premiums while future negative cash flows include policyholders’ benefits and certain maintenance expenses.
PVP is amortised in proportion to gross profits or gross margins over the effective life of the acquired contracts, which generally ranges from 20 to 30 years. Realised gains /losses are thereby taken into account as well as gains /losses recognised in other comprehensive income (unrealised gains /losses). If these unrealised gains /losses were to be realised, the gross profits or gross margins used to amortise PVP would be affected. Therefore, an adjustment relating to these unrealised gains /losses is recognised in other comprehensive income and is also reflected in the amount of PVP in the balance sheet (“shadow accounting”).
PVP is subject to impairment tests. The effect of changes in estimated gross profits or margins on unamortised PVP is reflected as an expense in the period in which such estimates of expected future profits or margins are revised.
Deferred acquisition costs (DAC)
Costs that vary with and are directly related to the acquisition of new and renewed insurance contracts and investment contracts with discretionary participation features, including commissions, underwriting costs, agency and policy issue expenses, are deferred. Deferred acquisition costs are periodically reviewed to ensure that they are recoverable from future revenues.
For participating life insurance contracts, where the contribution principle applies to the allocation of the policyholder bonus, the deferred acquisition costs are amortised over the life of the contract based on the present value of the estimated gross margin amounts expected to be realised. Expected gross margins include expected premiums and investment results less expected benefit claims and administrative expenses, anticipated changes to future life policyholder benefit liabilities and expected annual policyholder bonuses.
Deferred acquisition costs for other traditional life insurance contracts and annuities with life contingencies are amortised in proportion to the expected premiums.
Deferred acquisition costs for investment-type contracts such as universal life contracts are amortised over the life of the contract based on the present value of the estimated gross profits or gross margins expected to be realised. The estimated gross profits are made up of margins available from mortality charges and contract-administration costs, investment earnings spreads, surrender charges and other expected assessments and credits.
When DAC are amortised in proportion to gross profits or gross margins on the acquired contracts, realised gains /losses are taken into account as well as gains /losses recognised in other comprehensive income (unrealised gains /losses). If these gains /losses were to be realised, the gross profits or gross margins used to amortise DAC would be affected. Therefore, an adjustment relating to these unrealised gains /losses is recognised in other comprehensive income and is also reflected in the amount of DAC in the balance sheet (“shadow accounting”).
Assumptions used to estimate the future value of expected gross margins and profits are evaluated regularly and adjusted if estimates change. Deviations of actual results from estimated experience are reflected in profit or loss.
For short-duration contracts, acquisition costs are amortised over the period in which the related premiums written are earned, in proportion to premium revenue.
Deferred origination costs (DOC)
Incremental costs of obtaining investment management services for investment contracts without DPF are recognised as an intangible asset if they are expected to be recovered. The asset represents the contractual right to benefit from providing investment management services and is amortised on a straight-line basis consistent with the transfer to the customer of the investment management services. The asset is reviewed for impairment regularly. Costs to obtain a contract that would have been incurred regardless of whether the contract was obtained are recognised as an expense when incurred.
Deferred origination costs are generally amortised on a straight-line basis over the life of the contracts.
The Group’s acquisitions of other companies are accounted for under the acquisition method.
Goodwill represents the excess of the fair value of the consideration transferred and the amount of any non-controlling interest recognised, if applicable, over the fair value of the assets and liabilities recognised at the date of acquisition. The Group has the option for each business combination in which control is achieved without buying all of the equity of the acquiree to recognise 100% of the goodwill in business combinations, not just the acquirer’s portion of the goodwill (“full goodwill method”). Goodwill on acquisitions of subsidiaries is included in intangible assets. Acquisition-related costs are expensed. Goodwill on associates is included in the carrying amount of the investment.
For the purpose of impairment testing, goodwill is allocated to cash-generating units. Goodwill is tested for impairment annually and whenever there is an indication that the unit may be impaired. Goodwill is carried at cost less accumulated impairment losses. Impairment losses on goodwill are not reversed in subsequent periods.
Gains and losses on the disposal of an entity include the carrying amount of goodwill relating to the entity sold.
Negative goodwill is immediately recognised in profit and loss.
Customer relationships consist of established relationships with customers through contracts that have been acquired in a business combination or non-contractual customer relationships that meet the requirement for separate recognition. They have a definite useful life of generally 5 to 20 years. Amortisation is calculated using the straight-line method over their useful lives.
Acquired computer software licences are capitalised on the basis of the costs incurred to acquire and bring to use the specific software. These costs are amortised on a straight-line basis for the expected useful life up to three years. Costs associated with developing or maintaining computer software programs are recognised as an expense as incurred. Development costs that are directly associated with identifiable software products controlled by the Group and that will probably generate future economic benefits are capitalised. Direct costs include the software development team’s employee costs. Computer software development costs recognised as assets are amortised using the straight-line method over their useful lives, not exceeding a period of three years.
Brands and other
Brands and other intangible assets with a definite useful life of generally 5 to 20 years are amortised using the straight-line method over their useful lives.
2.17 Impairment of non-financial assets
For non-financial assets the recoverable amount is measured as the higher of the fair value less costs of disposal and its value in use. Fair value less costs of disposal is the price that would be received to sell an asset in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date, less the costs of disposal. Value in use is the present value of the future cash flows expected to be derived from an asset or cash-generating unit from its continuing use.
Impairment losses and reversals on non-financial assets are recognised in profit or loss.
2.18 Income taxes
Current and deferred income taxes are recognised in profit or loss except when they relate to items recognised directly in equity. Income taxes are calculated using the tax rates enacted or substantively enacted as of the balance sheet date.
Deferred income taxes are recognised for all temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities in the consolidated balance sheet and the tax bases of these assets and liabilities using the balance sheet liability method. Current income taxes and deferred income taxes are charged or credited directly to equity if the income taxes relate to items that are credited or charged in the same or a different period, directly to equity.
Deferred income tax assets are recognised only to the extent that it is probable that future taxable profits will be available against which they can be used. For unused tax losses a deferred income tax asset is recognised to the extent that it is probable that these losses can be offset against future taxable profits. Deferred income tax liabilities represent income taxes payable in the future in respect of taxable temporary differences.
A deferred income tax liability is recognised for taxable temporary differences relating to investments in subsidiaries, branches and associates, except where the Group is able to control the timing of the reversal of the temporary difference and it is probable that the temporary difference will not reverse in the foreseeable future.
Where the entity has a legally enforceable right to set off current tax assets against current tax liabilities and the deferred income tax assets and deferred income tax liabilities relate to income taxes levied by the same tax authority, the corresponding assets and liabilities are presented on a net basis.
2.19 Assets held for sale and associated liabilities
A disposal group consists of a group of assets to be disposed of, by sale or otherwise, together as a group in a single transaction, and liabilities directly associated with these assets. Non-current assets classified as held for sale and disposal groups are measured at the lower of the carrying amount and the fair value less costs to sell. The carrying amount will be recovered through a highly probable sale transaction rather than through continuing use. Assets held for sale and the associated liabilities are presented separately in the balance sheet.
2.20 Financial liabilities
Financial liabilities are recognised in the balance sheet when the Swiss Life Group becomes a party to the contractual provisions of the instrument. A financial liability is derecognised when the obligation specified in the contract is discharged or cancelled or expires.
Borrowings are recognised initially in the amount of the proceeds received, net of transaction costs incurred. Borrowings are subsequently stated at amortised cost using the effective interest method. Any difference between the proceeds (net of transaction costs) and the redemption value is recognised in profit or loss over the period of the borrowings.
Based on the terms and conditions, such as repayment provisions and contractual interest payments, certain hybrid instruments are considered financial liabilities.
Debt instruments with embedded conversion options to a fixed number of shares of the Group are separated into a debt and an equity component. The difference between the proceeds and fair value of the debt component at issuance is recorded in equity. The fair value of the debt component at issuance is determined using a market interest rate for similar instruments with no conversion rights. The Group does not recognise any change in the value of these options in subsequent reporting periods.
Borrowing costs presented in the consolidated statement of income relate to the interest expense on the financial liabilities classified as borrowings, whilst interest expense presented in the consolidated statement of income relates to interest expense on insurance and investment contract deposits and other financial liabilities.
Other financial liabilities
For deposits with fixed and guaranteed terms the amortised cost basis is used. Initial recognition is at the proceeds received, net of transaction costs incurred. Subsequently, they are stated at amortised cost using the effective interest method. Any difference between the proceeds (net of transaction costs) and the redemption value is recognised in profit or loss over the period of the deposits. For repurchase agreements, initial recognition is at the amount of cash received, net of transaction costs incurred. Subsequently, the difference between the amount of cash initially received and the amount of cash exchanged upon maturity is amortised over the life of the agreement using the effective interest method.
Financial liabilities arising from third-party interest in consolidated investment funds are irrevocably designated as at fair value through profit or loss, as the related assets are managed and their performance is evaluated on a fair value basis.
2.21 Employee benefits
The Swiss Life Group provides post-employment benefits under two types of arrangement: defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans.
The assets of these plans are generally held separately from the Group’s general assets in trustee-administered funds. Defined benefit plan contributions are based upon regulatory requirements and/or plan terms. The Group’s defined benefit obligations and the related defined benefit costs are determined at each balance sheet date by a qualified actuary using the Projected Unit Credit Method.
The amount recognised in the consolidated balance sheet represents the present value of the defined benefit obligations reduced by the fair value of plan assets. Any surplus resulting from this calculation is limited to the present value of any economic benefits available in the form of refunds from the plans or reductions in future contributions to the plans (asset ceiling).
Remeasurements, comprising actuarial gains and losses, the effect of the changes of the asset ceiling and the return on plan assets (excluding interest), are reflected immediately in the consolidated balance sheet and in other comprehensive income in the period in which they occur. Such remeasurements recognised in other comprehensive income will subsequently not be reclassified to profit or loss. Past service cost is recognised in profit or loss in the period of a plan amendment. Net interest is calculated by applying the discount rate at the beginning of the period to the net defined benefit asset or liability. Defined benefit costs comprise service costs and net interest expense, which are presented in the income statement under employee benefits expense.
Insurance contracts issued to a defined benefit pension plan covering own employees have generally been eliminated. However, certain assets relating to these plans qualify as plan assets and are therefore not eliminated.
The Group recognises the contribution payable to a defined contribution plan in exchange for the services of the employees rendered during the period as an expense.
Some Group companies provide healthcare benefits to their retirees. The entitlement to these benefits is usually based on the employee remaining in service up to the retirement age and the completion of a minimum service period. The expected costs of these benefits are accounted for in the same manner as for defined benefit plans.
The Group operates equity-settled, share-based compensation plans. The fair value of the employee services received in exchange for the grant of the shares is recognised in profit or loss with a corresponding increase in equity. As the fair value of the services received cannot reliably be measured, the value is measured by reference to the fair value of the equity instruments granted and the price the employees are required to pay.
2.22 Provisions and contingent liabilities
Provisions are liabilities with uncertainties as to the amount or timing of payments. Provisions are recognised if there is a present obligation that probably requires an outflow of resources and a reliable estimate can be made at the balance sheet date and be measured on a best estimate basis. Contingent liabilities are disclosed in the Notes if there is a possible obligation or a present obligation that may, but probably will not, require an outflow of resources or the amount of the obligation cannot be measured with sufficient reliability.
2.23 Treasury shares
Treasury shares are presented in the consolidated balance sheet as a deduction from equity and are recorded at cost. The difference between the purchase price and the sales proceeds is included in share premium.
Financial assets and liabilities are offset and the net amount is reported in the balance sheet when there is a legally enforceable right to set off the recognised amounts and there is an intention to settle on a net basis, or to realise the asset and settle the liability simultaneously.
2.25 Forthcoming changes in accounting policies
In January 2020 an amendment to IAS 1 Presentation of Financial Statements was published clarifying that liabilities are classified as either current or non-current, depending on the rights regarding the settlement of the liability that exist at the end of the reporting period, and not depending on expectations or management intentions. The effective date of the amendment will be 1 January 2023.
In May 2017, IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts was published and replaces IFRS 4 insurance contracts, which currently permits a wide variety of practices. IFRS 17 will fundamentally change the accounting by entities that issue insurance contracts, reinsurance contracts and investment contracts with discretionary participation features. IFRS 17 requires a current measurement model, where estimates are remeasured in each reporting period. The measurement is based on the building blocks of discounted, probability-weighted cash flows, a risk adjustment and a contractual service margin (“CSM”) representing the unearned profits of the contract. The CSM is released to profit or loss based on the transfer of services in each period. An entity groups contracts of similar risks which are managed together and separates the contracts that are onerous at initial recognition from contracts that are not onerous at initial recognition. On a group of onerous contracts a loss is recognised in profit or loss at initial recognition. A loss is also immediately recognised in profit or loss if a group of contracts becomes onerous on subsequent measurement. The standard provides a simplified accounting approach for certain short-duration contracts, as well as an accounting policy choice to recognise the impact of changes in discount rates and other assumptions that relate to financial risks either in profit or loss, or in other comprehensive income. The variable fee approach is required for insurance contracts that specify a link between payments to the policyholder and the returns on underlying items. Requirements in IFRS 17 align the presentation of revenue with other industries. Revenue is allocated to periods in proportion to the value of expected coverage and other services that the insurer provides in the period, and claims are presented when incurred. The disclosure requirements are more detailed than currently required under IFRS 4. On transition to IFRS 17, an entity applies the standard fully retrospectively to groups of insurance contracts, unless it is impracticable, in which case there is a choice between a modified retrospective approach and the fair value approach. IFRS 17 will be effective for reporting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2023. The Swiss Life Group is currently assessing the impact on its consolidated financial statements, which will be significant.
In July 2014 the IASB completed IFRS 9 Financial Instruments. The new standard replaces IAS 39 Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement. IFRS 9 covers classification and measurement of financial instruments, impairment of financial assets and hedge accounting. Classification determines how financial assets and financial liabilities are accounted for in financial statements and how they are measured on an ongoing basis. Financial assets are classified on the basis of the business model within which they are held and their contractual cash flow characteristics. An expected-loss impairment model is introduced. Under the new model, an impairment loss is recognised immediately, regardless of whether the credit event actually has occurred. The new model for hedge accounting aligns accounting treatment more closely with risk management activities. IFRS 9 was effective for annual periods beginning on or after 1 January 2018. However, as set out above, the Swiss Life Group will defer the application of IFRS 9 until 1 January 2023 and therefore continues to apply IAS 39 Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement, as its activities were predominantly connected with insurance on 31 December 2015.
Other new or amended standards and interpretations, such as the amendments to IAS 1 Presentation of Financial Statements, IAS 8 Accounting Policies, Changes in Accounting Estimates and Errors and IAS 12 Income Taxes, that the IASB published in 2021 with an effective date of 1 January 2023, will not have an impact on the Group’s accounting policies.