3 Critical Accounting Estimates and Judgements in Applying Accounting Policies
Certain reported amounts of assets and liabilities are subject to estimates and judgements. Estimates and judgements by management are continually evaluated and are based on historical experience and other factors, including expectations of future events that are believed to be reasonable under the circumstances.
The sensitivity analysis with regard to insurance risk and market risk is set out in note 5.
Estimates and judgements in applying fair value measurement to financial instruments and investment property are described in note 30.
Impairment of available-for-sale debt instruments and loans and receivables
As a Group policy, available-for-sale debt securities and 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.
The carrying amounts of available-for-sale debt securities and loans and receivables are set out in notes 11, 12 and 13.
Impairment of available-for-sale equity instruments
At each balance sheet date, an assessment is made whether there is objective evidence that an available-for-sale equity instrument is impaired. 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.
The carrying amount of available-for-sale equity instruments is set out in note 11.
Past experience, adjusted for the effect of current developments and probable trends, is assumed to be an appropriate basis for predicting future events. Actuarial estimates for incurred but not reported losses are continually reviewed and updated and adjustments resulting from this review are reflected in income.
For insurance contracts and investment contracts with discretionary participation features with fixed and guaranteed terms, the definition of estimates occurs in two stages. At inception of the contract, estimates of future deaths, surrender, exercise of policyholder options, investment returns and administrative expenses are made and form the assumptions used for calculating the liabilities during the life of the contract. A margin for risk and uncertainty (adverse deviation) is added to these assumptions. These assumptions are “locked in” for the duration of the contract. Subsequently, new estimates are made at each reporting date in order to determine whether the values of the liabilities so established are adequate in the light of these latest estimates (liability adequacy test). If the valuation of the liabilities is deemed adequate, the assumptions are not altered. However, if the valuation of the liabilities is deemed inadequate, the assumptions underlying the valuation of the liabilities are altered (“unlocked”) to reflect the latest estimates; no margin is added to the assumptions in this event.
For insurance contracts and investment contracts with discretionary participation features without fixed and guaranteed terms, future premiums can be increased in line with experience. The assumptions used to determine the liabilities do not contain margins and are not locked in but are updated at each reporting date to reflect the latest estimates.
Mortality and longevity
Pricing and valuation assumptions for mortality and longevity are generally based on the statistics provided by national insurance associations and complemented with internal claims experience reflecting own company records.
In Switzerland, mortality tables are usually reviewed every five years when new statistics from the Swiss Insurance Association become available. The tables are updated for significant changes.
In France, life annuities in payment are reserved using the regulatory tables TGH05/TGF05 and non-life annuities in payment are reserved with the regulatory table TD 88/90.
In Germany, mortality tables provided by the German Actuarial Association are in use. They are verified periodically by the Association and updated, if necessary. Best-estimate assumptions are deduced from these generally accepted tables.
In Luxembourg, mortality tables are updated when significant changes arise.
Morbidity and disability
For the individual and group life business in Switzerland internal tables are in place. In the individual life business, the internal disability rates are based on Swiss Insurance Association statistics and reflect the average situation of the past in the Swiss market. In the individual life business, only reactivation is considered, whereas increased mortality is also taken into account in group life business. In the individual life business, disability tables are usually reviewed every five years when new statistics from the Swiss Insurance Association become available.
In the group life business, tariffs can be adjusted due to loss experience with regard to disability each year. In the group life business, the tables are based on own company records reflecting loss experience. Especially in the group life business, changes in the labour market may have a significant influence on disability. The tables are updated for significant changes.
In France, individual and group disability annuities are reserved using tables certified by an independent actuary.
In Germany, disability insurance products for the group life business are based on tables of the German Actuarial Association, which are reviewed periodically. New disability insurance products for the individual life business are developed in close collaboration with reinsurance companies, which evaluate pricing and valuation assumptions for disability and morbidity on statistics provided by the database of reinsurance pool results. Furthermore, own company records and occupation classes are considered. Similar to the disability insurance products for the individual life business, assumptions for pricing and valuation of nursing care insurance products are acquired in cooperation with reinsurance companies. In particular, best estimate assumptions are considered with respect to claims experience.
In Luxembourg, pricing reflects industry tables and own company records.
Policyholders are typically offered products which include options such as the right to terminate the contract early or to convert the accumulated funds into a life annuity at maturity. In case of early termination the policyholder receives a specified surrender value or a value which varies in response to the change in financial variables, such as an equity price or an index. In the case of the conversion option, the policyholder has the right to convert an assured sum into a fixed life annuity. The option values typically depend on both biometric assumptions and market variables such as interest rates or the value of the assets backing the liabilities. In certain countries and markets, policyholder behavioural assumptions are based on own company records. The assumptions vary by product type and policy duration.
Expenses and inflation
In Switzerland, expenses are taken into account in the pricing of the contracts using internal statistics. Such calculated amounts are allocated to the different lines of business. Inflation is reflected in these calculations.
In France, expense allocation is based on an activity-based cost methodology. Recurrent costs are subdivided into the following main cost categories: acquisition costs, administration costs and asset management costs.
In Germany, expenses are divided into the following cost categories based on German regulation: acquisition costs, administration costs, regulatory costs and asset management expenses. They are subdivided into recurring and non-recurring costs. All recurring costs except asset management expenses are allocated to the different lines of business and transformed into cost parameters. An assumption on future inflation is applied to all cost parameters in euro.
In Luxembourg, expense allocation is based on an activity-based cost methodology. Recurring costs are subdivided into the following main cost categories: acquisition costs, administration costs and asset management costs, which are allocated by lines of business.
Assumptions relating to investment returns are based on the strategic asset allocation. From this gross investment return, projected asset management fees are deducted to obtain a net investment return.
The interest rates used in actuarial formulae to determine the present value of future benefits and contributions caused by an insurance contract are called technical interest rates. The technical interest rates have to be approved by the regulator. In certain countries, the insurance liabilities are based on the technical interest rates.
The carrying amount of insurance liabilities is set out in note 22.
Impairment of goodwill
Goodwill is tested for impairment annually (in autumn), or more frequently if events or changes in circumstances indicate that goodwill might be impaired. The recoverable amounts of the business relating to the cash generating unit each goodwill is assigned to have been determined based on value-in-use calculations. These calculations require the use of estimates which are set out in note 17.
The carrying amount of goodwill is set out in note 17.
Defined benefit liabilities
The Swiss Life Group uses certain assumptions relating to the calculation of the defined benefit liabilities. These assumptions comprise future salary increases and future pension increases, which have been derived from estimates based on past experience. Assumptions are also made for mortality, employee turnover and discount rates. In determining the discount rate, the Swiss Life Group takes into account published rates of well-known external providers. The discount rates reflect the expected timing of benefit payments under the plans and are based on a yield curve approach.
The carrying amounts of defined benefit liabilities and the assumptions are set out in note 23.
Deferred income tax assets are recognised for unused tax-loss carryforwards and unused tax credits to the extent that realisation of the related tax benefit is probable. The assessment of the probability with regard to the realisation of the tax benefit involves assumptions based on the history of the entity and budgeted data for the future.
The carrying amounts of deferred income tax assets and liabilities are set out in note 24.
The recognition of provisions involves assumptions about the probability, amount and timing of an outflow of resources embodying economic benefits. A provision is recognised to the extent that an outflow of resources embodying economic benefits is probable and a reliable estimate can be made.
The carrying amount of provisions is set out in note 25.