Currently the insurance world is facing various changes to the industry. Insurers find themselves under the pressure to adopt innovative technologies with the acceleration in digital innovation as generative artificial intelligence gains momentum. Insurance companies’ finance functions are also undergoing major changes as companies transition from the interim International Financial Reporting Standard 4 (IFRS 4) to the new International Financial Reporting Standard 17 (IFRS 17) which applies to all insurance contracts. Navigating through this intricate transition is undeniably challenging, but a transformative solution exists to guide you on this journey. 

This solution presents an opportunity for you to forge a more streamlined, proficient, and insight-driven finance function. By doing so, not only can your business adeptly respond to industry changes, but it can also showcase resilience and foster sustainable growth. Embracing this solution positions, you to maintain a competitive edge in the dynamic insurance sector. 

Understanding the differences between IFRS 4 and IFRS 17  

Embracing the IFRS 17 can be a helpful move for insurers if their executives take the opportunity to not just comply to the new standard but to review the way they manage the financial operations of their business to make it more transparent and effective for all functions of their organisation.  

The earlier interim standard IFRS 4 for accounting for insurance contracts which was introduced in 2004. IFRS 17 aims to remove the diversity in accounting for insurance contracts and to ensure a more meaningful comparison among insurers and other entities. IFRS 17 effective date was from the 1st of January 2023. Implementing IFRS 17 creates an opportunity for users of financial statements to assess the effect that insurance contracts have on the entity’s financial position, financial performance and cash flows. IFRS 17 is here, and executives of insurance companies should embrace it and implement it to the benefit of their organisation. 

Key Challenges Experienced by Insurers in Implementing IFRS 17  

According to 50% respondents to a survey by PwC South Africa, “the integration of technology solutions is by far the most common challenge being faced by insurers”. 

The article further mentions amongst others that due to unsophisticated finance reporting systems and manual processes are being used to support reporting for statutory and internal purposes. The demands of IFRS 17 will make it even more challenging to support effective controls. According to this KPMG article, companies are finding the following IFRS 17 challenges: 

  • Resource-intensive processes and longer close cycles  
  • Significant manual workarounds  
  • Data preparation and cleansing 
  • Large volumes of spreadsheets 
  • Significant process and control gaps 
  • High resource turnover  
  • Errors and potential restatements  
  • Regulatory risk, including non-compliance with filing deadlines. 

Other challenges worth mentioning include the complexity of IFRS 17, which demands a comprehensive grasp of insurance contracts, along with the associated financial and actuarial principles. Moreover, adherence to the new standard may necessitate substantial alterations to the systems and processes of insurance companies to ensure compliance.  IFRS 17 requires insurers to collect and manage a large amount of data on a very granular level and to ensure that reporting on the financials of the company is accurate. An article written by Ernst & Young (EY) Norway states that “IFRS 17 requires companies to use actuarial models to estimate the expected cash flows from insurance contract”. Insurers need to carefully manage their finance models to ensure that they are robust and transparent. The investment to implement IFRS 17 can be a very costly exercise for companies needing to invest in new systems, processes and people.  

The ideal scenario for insurance companies would be to have a fully automated reporting system to ensure minimal manual intervention to minimise the risk of errors and together with that would be to have an effective control system and environment in place. 

Other challenges experienced in South Africa with the implementing of IFRS 17 according to an article Implementation of IFRS 17 by insurers: Challenges and Insights is the shortage of persons with the necessary skillsets and running the risk of hiring resources that would be redundant post implementation of IFRS 17.  

The use of consultants for system building and automation would help address the situation of resourcing needed for the implementation of IFRS 17 and use permanent staff to work on company policies and methodologies around IFRS 17. 

Insurance company executives must delve into the intricacies of IFRS 17 challenges and devise solutions to ensure alignment with the newly established standard. They should seek opportunities to leverage their capital investment in implementing IFRS 17, aiming to derive benefits for their businesses.  

In the ever-evolving business landscape, change is a constant factor, often accompanied by uncertainties that require a period of adjustment to embrace the new normal. Company executives play an important role in fostering a mindset that welcomes positive changes to enhance business practices and performance. As outlined in this article, IFRS 17 has become an enduring presence. To position your insurance company at the forefront of the industry, it is imperative to make use of the advantages offered by IFRS 17. While the implementation of IFRS 17 may present numerous challenges, it certainly brings forth substantial benefits when effectively executed. 

Author
Synthie Enoch, Content Administrator

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