December 15, 2017 / 5:06 PM / a year ago

Germany's conservatives plan to reform life insurance regulations

BERLIN, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) are considering reforming life insurance regulations to make it more difficult for insurance companies to sell run-off portfolios, weekly news magazine Spiegel reported on Friday.

Many German life insurers sold savings plans with guaranteed interest rates as high as 4 percent in the past and, with current interest rates near zero, are finding it increasingly tough to achieve the returns needed to pay policyholders.

Record-low interest rates, combined with more stringent European capital rules, have prompted some companies to offload life insurance operations.

“We are now exploring a scheme where the insured must agree for their insurance contracts to be sold,” CDU finance expert Anja Karliczek told Spiegel, adding that in offloading policies, insurers were breaching trust towards their clients.

Frank Grund, head of insurance supervision at financial market regulator BaFin warned that many investors currently in the run-off market are overestimating its potential.

Responding to the Spiegel story, one CDU source said the initiative was still at very early stage, and that any concrete steps were a long way off.

CDU deputy leader Ralph Brinkhaus said last month that the party no longer wanted to allow the sale of unprofitable insurance policies from one company to another.

“Unfortunately, we are noticing that more and more run-offs are being discussed: what no longer yields sufficient returns in life insurance, should be repelled,” Brinkhaus said.

The Berlin-based German Insurance Association (GDV) said the proposed regulations would interfere with entrepreneurial freedom of decision and would make restructuring virtually impossible.

“Further legal regulation is not necessary. For the consolidation or transfer of life insurance is already subject to strict regulations and controls by BaFin,” the GDV said in a statement.

The association said insurance contracts may only be transferred to other life insurance companies that are subject to German law. (Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Douglas Busvine and David Evans)

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