1 Organisation and summary of significant accounting policies
Nature of operations
The Swiss Re Group, which is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, comprises Swiss Re Ltd (the parent company) and its subsidiaries (collectively, the “Swiss Re Group” or the ”Group”). The Swiss Re Group is a wholesale provider of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer. Working through brokers and a network of offices around the globe, the Group serves a client base made up of insurance companies, mid- to large-sized corporations and public-sector clients.
Basis of presentation
The accompanying consolidated financial statements have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (US GAAP) and comply with Swiss law. All significant intra-group transactions and balances have been eliminated on consolidation.
In the half-year 2018 report, the impact of the Accounting Standard Updates (ASUs) 2016-01, 2016-16 and 2018-02 was reflected in the Group’s statement of comprehensive income. In the year-end 2018 report, the Group revised the presentation and presented the statement of comprehensive income without the impact of these ASUs totalling USD –139 million. The revision had no impact on the Group’s financial position, net income and cash flow. Please refer to the subsection ”Adoption of new accounting standards” for more details about the ASUs.
Principles of consolidation
The Group’s financial statements include the consolidated financial statements of Swiss Re Ltd and its subsidiaries. Voting entities which Swiss Re Ltd directly or indirectly controls through holding a majority of the voting rights are consolidated in the Group’s accounts. Variable interest entities (VIEs) are consolidated when the Swiss Re Group is the primary beneficiary. The Group is the primary beneficiary when it has power over the activities that impact the VIE’s economic performance and at the same time has the obligation to absorb losses or the right to receive benefits that could potentially be significant to the VIE. Companies which the Group does not control, but over which it directly or indirectly exercises significant influence, are accounted for using the equity method or the fair value option and are included in other invested assets. The Swiss Re Group’s share of net profit or loss in investments accounted for under the equity method is included in net investment income. Equity and net income of these companies are adjusted as necessary to be in line with the Group’s accounting policies. The results of consolidated subsidiaries and investments accounted for using the equity method are included in the financial statements for the period commencing from the date of acquisition.
Use of estimates in the preparation of financial statements
The preparation of financial statements requires management to make significant estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses as well as the related disclosure, including contingent assets and liabilities. The Swiss Re Group’s liabilities for unpaid claims and claim adjustment expenses and policy benefits for life and health include estimates for premium, claim and benefit data not received from ceding companies at the date of the financial statements. In addition, the Group uses certain financial instruments and invests in securities of certain entities for which exchange trading does not exist. The Group determines these estimates based on historical information, actuarial analyses, financial modelling and other analytical techniques. Actual results could differ significantly from the estimates described above.
Foreign currency remeasurement and translation
Transactions denominated in foreign currencies are remeasured to the respective subsidiary’s functional currency at average exchange rates. Monetary assets and liabilities are remeasured to the functional currency at closing exchange rates, whereas non-monetary assets and liabilities are remeasured to the functional currency at historical rates. Remeasurement gains and losses on monetary assets and liabilities and trading securities are reported in earnings. Remeasurement gains and losses on available-for-sale securities, investments in consolidated subsidiaries and investments accounted for using the equity method are reported in shareholders’ equity.
For consolidation purposes, assets and liabilities of subsidiaries with functional currencies other than US dollars are translated from the functional currency to US dollars at closing rates. Revenues and expenses are translated at average exchange rates. Translation adjustments are reported in shareholders’ equity.
Valuation of financial assets
The fair value of the majority of the Group’s financial instruments is based on quoted prices in active markets or observable inputs. These instruments include government and agency securities, commercial paper, most investment-grade corporate debt, most high-yield debt securities, exchange-traded derivative instruments, most mortgage- and asset-backed securities and listed equity securities. In markets with reduced or no liquidity, spreads between bid and offer prices are normally wider compared to spreads in highly liquid markets. Such market conditions affect the valuation of certain asset classes of the Group, such as some asset-backed securities as well as certain derivative structures referencing such asset classes.
The Group considers both the credit risk of its counterparties and own risk of non-performance in the valuation of derivative instruments and other over-the-counter financial assets. In determining the fair value of these financial instruments, the assessment of the Group’s exposure to the credit risk of its counterparties incorporates consideration of existing collateral and netting arrangements entered into with each counterparty. The measure of the counterparty credit risk is estimated with incorporation of the observable credit spreads, where available, or credit spread estimates derived based on the benchmarking techniques where market data is not available. The impact of the Group’s own risk of non-performance is analysed in the manner consistent with the aforementioned approach, with consideration of the Group’s observable credit spreads. The value representing such risk is incorporated into the fair value of the financial instruments (primarily derivatives), in a liability position as of the measurement date. The change in this adjustment from period to period is reflected in realised gains and losses in the income statement.
For assets or derivative structures at fair value, the Group uses market prices or inputs derived from market prices. A separate internal price verification process, independent of the trading function, provides an additional control over the market prices or market input used to determine the fair values of such assets. Although management considers that appropriate values have been ascribed to such assets, there is always a level of uncertainty and judgement over these valuations. Subsequent valuations could differ significantly from the results of the process described above. The Group may become aware of counterparty valuations, either directly through the exchange of information or indirectly, for example through collateral demands. Any implied differences are considered in the independent price verification process and may result in adjustments to initially indicated valuations. As of 31 December 2018, the Group had not provided any collateral on financial instruments in excess of its own market value estimates.
The Group’s investments in fixed income securities are classified as available-for-sale (AFS) or trading. Fixed income securities AFS are carried at fair value, based on quoted market prices, with the difference between the applicable measure of cost and fair value being recognised in shareholders’ equity. Trading fixed income securities are carried at fair value with unrealised gains and losses recognised in earnings. A trading classification is used for securities that are bought and held principally for the purpose of selling them in the near term.
For fixed income securities AFS that are other-than-temporary impaired and for which there is not an intention to sell, the impairment is separated into (i) the estimated amount relating to credit loss, and (ii) the amount relating to all other factors. The estimated credit loss amount is recognised in earnings, with the remainder of the loss amount recognised in other comprehensive income. In cases where there is an intention or requirement to sell and the fair value is lower than cost expressed in functional currency terms, the cost of fixed income securities AFS is reduced to fair value, with a corresponding charge to realised investment losses. Subsequent recoveries are not recognised in earnings.
Equity investments are carried at fair value with unrealised gains and losses recognised in earnings, with the exception of equity method investments and investments that result in consolidation.
Interest on fixed income securities is recorded in net investment income when earned and is adjusted for the amortisation of any purchase premium or discount. Dividends on equity securities are recognised as investment income on the ex-dividend date. Realised gains and losses on sales are included in earnings and are calculated using the specific identification method.
Policy loans, mortgages and other loans are carried at amortised cost. Interest income is recognised in accordance with the effective yield method.
Investment in real estate that the Group intends to hold for the production of income is carried at depreciated cost, net of any write-downs for impairment in value. Depreciation on buildings is recognised on a straight-line basis over the estimated useful life of the asset. Land is recognised at cost and not depreciated. Impairment in value is recognised if the sum of the estimated future undiscounted cash flows from the use of the real estate is lower than its carrying value. The impairment loss is measured as the amount by which the asset’s carrying amount exceeds its fair value and is recognised in realised investment losses. Depreciation and other related charges or credits are included in net investment income. Investment in real estate held for sale is carried at the lower of cost or fair value, less estimated selling costs, and is not depreciated. Reductions in the carrying value of real estate held for sale are included in realised investment losses.
Short-term investments are measured at fair value with changes in fair value recognised in net income. The Group considers highly liquid investments with a remaining maturity at the date of acquisition of one year or less, but greater than three months, to be short-term investments.
Other invested assets include affiliated companies, equity accounted companies, derivative financial instruments, collateral receivables, securities purchased under agreement to resell, deposits and time deposits, and investments without readily determinable fair value (including limited partnership investments). Investments in limited partnerships where the Group’s interest equals or exceeds 3% are accounted for using the equity method. Investments in limited partnerships where the Group’s interest is below 3% and equity investments in corporate entities which are not publicly traded are accounted for at estimated fair value with changes in fair value recognised in earnings.
The Group enters into securities lending arrangements under which it loans certain securities in exchange for collateral and receives securities lending fees. The Group’s policy is to require collateral, consisting of cash or securities, equal to at least 102% of the carrying value of the securities loaned. In certain arrangements, the Group may accept collateral of less than 102% if the structure of the overall transaction offers an equivalent level of security. Cash received as collateral is recognised along with an obligation to return the cash. Securities received as collateral that can be sold or repledged are also recognised along with an obligation to return those securities. Securities lending fees are recognised over the term of the related loans.
Derivative financial instruments and hedge accounting
The Group uses a variety of derivative financial instruments including swaps, options, forwards and exchange-traded financial futures for the Group’s trading and hedging strategy in line with the overall risk management strategy. Derivative financial instruments are primarily used as a means of managing exposure to price, foreign currency and/or interest rate risk on planned or anticipated investment purchases, existing assets or existing liabilities and also to lock in attractive investment conditions for funds which become available in the future. The Group recognises all of its derivative instruments on the balance sheet at fair value. Changes in fair value on derivatives that are not designated as hedging instruments are recorded in income.
If the derivative is designated as a hedge of the fair value of assets or liabilities, changes in the fair value of the derivative are recognised in earnings, together with changes in the fair value of the related hedged item. If the derivative is designated as a hedge of the variability in expected future cash flows related to a particular risk, changes in the fair value of the derivative are reported in other comprehensive income until the hedged item is recognised in earnings. The ineffective portion of the hedge is recognised in earnings. When hedge accounting is discontinued on a cash flow hedge, the net gain or loss remains in accumulated other comprehensive income and is reclassified to earnings in the period in which the formerly hedged transaction is reported in earnings. When the Group discontinues hedge accounting because it is no longer probable that a forecasted transaction will occur within the required time period, the derivative continues to be carried on the balance sheet at fair value, and gains and losses that were previously recorded in accumulated other comprehensive income are recognised in earnings.
The Group recognises separately derivatives that are embedded within other host instruments if the economic characteristics and risks are not clearly and closely related to the economic characteristics and risks of the host contract and if it meets the definition of a derivative if it were a free-standing contract.
Derivative financial instrument assets are generally included in other invested assets and derivative financial instrument liabilities are generally included in accrued expenses and other liabilities.
The Group also designates non-derivative and derivative monetary financial instruments as hedges of the foreign currency exposure of its net investment in certain foreign operations. From the inception of the hedging relationship, remeasurement gains and losses on the designated non-derivative and derivative monetary financial instruments and translation gains and losses on the hedged net investment are reported as translation gains and losses in shareholders’ equity.
Cash and cash equivalents
Cash and cash equivalents include cash on hand, short-term deposits, certain short-term investments in money market funds and highly liquid debt instruments with a remaining maturity at the date of acquisition of three months or less.
Deferred acquisition costs
The Group incurs costs in connection with acquiring new and renewal reinsurance and insurance business. Some of these costs, which consist primarily of commissions, are deferred as they are directly related to the successful acquisition of such business.
Deferred acquisition costs for short-duration contracts are amortised in proportion to premiums earned. Future investment income is considered in determining the recoverability of deferred acquisition costs for short-duration contracts. Deferred acquisition costs for long-duration contracts are amortised over the life of underlying contracts. Deferred acquisition costs for universal-life and similar products are amortised based on the present value of estimated gross profits. Estimated gross profits are updated quarterly.
Modifications of insurance and reinsurance contracts
The Group accounts for modifications of insurance and reinsurance contracts that result in a substantially unchanged contract as a continuation of the replaced contract. The associated deferred acquisition costs and present value of future profits (PVFP) will continue to be amortised. The Group accounts for modifications of insurance and reinsurance contracts that result in a substantially changed contract as an extinguishment of the replaced contract. The associated deferred acquisition costs or PVFP are written off immediately through income and any new deferrable costs associated with the replacement contract are deferred.
The Group applies the acquisition method of accounting for business combinations. This method allocates the cost of the acquired entity to the assets and liabilities assumed based on their estimated fair values at the date of acquisition.
Life Capital closed blocks of business can be acquired in different legal forms, either through an acquisition of an entity’s share capital or through a reinsurance transaction. The Group’s policy is to treat these transactions consistently regardless of the legal form of the acquisition. Accordingly, the Group records the acquired assets and liabilities directly to the balance sheet. Premiums, life and health benefits and other income statement items are not recorded in the income statement on the date of the acquisition.
The underlying assets and liabilities acquired are subsequently accounted for according to the relevant US GAAP guidance. This includes specific requirements applicable to subsequent accounting for assets and liabilities recognised as part of the acquisition method of accounting, including present value of future profits, goodwill and other intangible assets.
Acquired present value of future profits
The acquired present value of future profits (PVFP) of business in force is recorded in connection with the acquisition of life and health business. The initial value is calculated as the difference between established reserves, which are set up in line with US GAAP accounting policies and assumptions of the Group, and their fair value at the acquisition date. The resulting PVFP, which could be positive or negative, is amortised on a constant yield basis over the expected revenue recognition period of the business acquired, generally over periods ranging up to 30 years, with the accrual of interest added to the unamortised balance at the earned rate. Amortisation and accrual of interest are recognised in acquisition costs. The earned rate corresponds to either the current earned rate or the original earned rate depending on the business written. The rate is consistently applied for the entire life of the applicable business. For universal-life and similar products, PVFP is amortised in line with estimated gross profits, which are updated quarterly. The carrying value of PVFP is reviewed periodically for indicators of impairment in value. Adjustments to PVFP reflecting impairment in value are recognised in acquisition costs during the period in which the determination of impairment is made, or in other comprehensive income for shadow loss recognition.
The excess of the purchase price of acquired businesses over the estimated fair value of net assets acquired is recorded as goodwill, which is reviewed periodically for indicators of impairment in value. Adjustments to reflect impairment in value are recognised in earnings in the period in which the determination of impairment is made.
Other assets include deferred expenses on retroactive reinsurance, prepaid reinsurance premiums, receivables related to investing activities, real estate for own use, other classes of property, plant and equipment, accrued income, certain intangible assets and prepaid assets.
The excess of estimated liabilities for claims and claim adjustment expenses payable over consideration received in respect of retroactive property and casualty reinsurance contracts is recorded as a deferred expense. The deferred expense on retroactive reinsurance contracts is amortised through earnings over the expected claims-paying period.
Real estate for own use as well as other classes of property, plant and equipment are carried at depreciated cost. Depreciation on buildings is recognised on a straight-line basis over the estimated useful life. Land is recognised at cost and not depreciated.
Capitalised software costs
External direct costs of materials and services incurred to develop or obtain software for internal use, payroll and payroll-related costs for employees directly associated with software development and interest cost incurred while developing software for internal use are capitalised and amortised on a straight-line basis through earnings over the estimated useful life.
Deferred income tax assets and liabilities are recognised based on the difference between financial statement carrying amounts and the corresponding income tax bases of assets and liabilities using enacted income tax rates and laws. A valuation allowance is recorded against deferred tax assets when it is deemed more likely than not that some or all of the deferred tax assets may not be realised.
The Group recognises the effect of income tax positions only if sustaining those positions is more likely than not. Changes in recognition or measurement are reflected in the period in which a change in judgement occurs.
The Group releases stranded tax effects for unrealised gains/losses on AFS securities to earnings on a straight-line basis over the average duration of the relevant AFS portfolio as an approximation of when the individual securities within the portfolio are sold or mature. For adjustment for pension and other post-retirement benefits, stranded tax effects are released to earnings when the relevant pension plan is terminated. For foreign currency translation, stranded tax effects are released to earnings in line with the recycling of the underlying foreign currency translation amounts.
Unpaid claims and claim adjustment expenses
Liabilities for unpaid claims and claim adjustment expenses for property and casualty and life and health insurance and reinsurance contracts are accrued when insured events occur and are based on the estimated ultimate cost of settling the claims, using reports and individual case estimates received from ceding companies. A provision is also included for claims incurred but not reported, which is developed on the basis of past experience adjusted for current trends and other factors that modify past experience. The establishment of the appropriate level of reserves is an inherently uncertain process involving estimates and judgements made by management, and therefore there can be no assurance that ultimate claims and claim adjustment expenses will not exceed the loss reserves currently established. These estimates are regularly reviewed, and adjustments for differences between estimates and actual payments for claims and for changes in estimates are reflected in income in the period in which the estimates are changed or payments are made.
The Group does not discount liabilities arising from prospective property and casualty insurance and reinsurance contracts, including liabilities which are discounted for US statutory reporting purposes. Liabilities arising from property and casualty insurance and reinsurance contracts acquired in a business combination are initially recognised at fair value in accordance with the acquisition method of accounting.
The Group does not discount life and health claim reserves except for disability income claims in payment and mortality claims paid out in the form of an annuity. These claims are recognised at the estimated present value of the remaining ultimate net costs of the incurred claims.
Experience features which are directly linked to a reinsurance asset or liability are classified in a manner that is consistent with the presentation of that asset or liability.
Liabilities for life and health policy benefits
Liabilities for life and health policy benefits from reinsurance business are generally calculated using the net level premium method, based on assumptions as to investment yields, mortality, withdrawals, lapses and policyholder dividends. Assumptions are set at the time the contract is issued or, in the case of contracts acquired by purchase, at the purchase date. The assumptions are based on projections from past experience, making allowance for possible adverse deviation. Interest rate assumptions for life and health (re)insurance benefit liabilities are based on estimates of expected investment yields. Assumed mortality rates are generally based on experience multiples applied to the actuarial select and ultimate tables based on industry experience.
Liabilities for life and health policy benefits are increased with a charge to earnings if it is determined that future cash flows, including investment income, are insufficient to cover future benefits and expenses. Where assets backing liabilities for policy benefits are held as AFS, these liabilities for policyholder benefits are increased by a shadow adjustment, with a charge to other comprehensive income, where future cash flows at market rates are insufficient to cover future benefits and expenses.
Policyholder account balances
Policyholder account balances relate to universal-life-type contracts and investment contracts.
Universal-life-type contracts are long-duration insurance contracts, providing either death or annuity benefits, with terms that are not fixed and guaranteed.
Investment contracts are long-duration contracts that do not incorporate significant insurance risk, ie there is no mortality and morbidity risk, or the mortality and morbidity risk associated with the insurance benefit features offered in the contract is of insignificant amount or remote probability. Amounts received as payment for investment contracts are reported as policyholder account balances. Related assets are included in general account assets except for investments for unit-linked and with-profit business, which are presented in a separate line item on the face of the balance sheet.
Amounts assessed against policyholders for mortality, administration and surrender are shown as fee income. Amounts credited to policyholders are shown as interest credited to policyholders. Investment income and realised investment gains and losses allocable to policyholders are included in net investment income and net realised investment gains/losses except for unit-linked and with-profit business, which is presented in a separate line item on the face of the income statement.
Unit-linked and with-profit business are presented together as they are similar in nature. For unit-linked contracts, the investment risk is borne by the policyholder. For with-profit contracts, the majority of the investment risk is also borne by the policyholder, although there are certain guarantees that limit the downside risk for the policyholder, and a certain proportion of the returns may be retained by Swiss Re Group (typically 10%). Additional disclosures are provided in Note 7.
Funds held assets and liabilities
On the asset side, funds held by ceding companies consist mainly of amounts retained by the ceding company for business written on a funds withheld basis. In addition, the account also includes amounts arising from the application of the deposit method of accounting to ceded retrocession or reinsurance contracts.
On the liability side, funds held under reinsurance treaties consist mainly of amounts arising from the application of the deposit method of accounting to inward insurance and reinsurance contracts. In addition, the account also includes amounts retained from ceded business written on a funds withheld basis.
Funds withheld assets are assets that would normally be paid to the Group but are withheld by the cedent to reduce a potential credit risk or to retain control over investments. In case of funds withheld liabilities, it is the Group that withholds assets related to ceded business in order to reduce its credit risk or retain control over the investments.
The deposit method of accounting is applied to insurance and reinsurance contracts that do not indemnify the ceding company or the Group against loss or liability relating to insurance risk. Under the deposit method of accounting, the deposit asset or liability is initially measured based on the consideration paid or received. For contracts that transfer neither significant timing nor underwriting risk, and contracts that transfer only significant timing risk, changes in estimates of the timing or amounts of cash flows are accounted for by recalculating the effective yield. The deposit is then adjusted to the amount that would have existed had the new effective yield been applied since the inception of the contract. The revenue and expense recorded for such contracts is included in net investment income. For contracts that transfer only significant underwriting risk, once a loss is incurred, the deposit is adjusted by the present value of the incurred loss. At each subsequent balance sheet date, the portion of the deposit attributable to the incurred loss is recalculated by discounting the estimated future cash flows. The resulting changes in the carrying amount of the deposit are recognised in claims and claim adjustment expenses.
Funds withheld balances are presented together with assets and liabilities arising from the application of the deposit method because of their common deposit-type character.
Shadow adjustments are recognised in other comprehensive income reflecting the offset of adjustments to deferred acquisition costs and PVFP, typically related to universal-life-type contracts, and policyholder liabilities. The purpose is to reflect the fact that certain amounts recorded as unrealised investment gains and losses within shareholders’ equity will ultimately accrue to policyholders and not shareholders.
Shadow loss recognition testing becomes relevant in low interest rate environments. The test considers whether the hypothetical sale of AFS securities and the reinvestment of proceeds at lower yields would lead to negative operational earnings in future periods, thereby causing a loss recognition event. For shadow loss recognition testing, the Group uses current market yields to determine best estimate US GAAP reserves rather than using locked-in or current book yields. If the unlocked best estimate US GAAP reserves based on current market rates are in excess of reserves based on locked-in or current book yields, a shadow loss recognition reserve is set up. These reserves are recognised in other comprehensive income and do not impact net income. In addition, shadow loss recognition reserves can reverse up to the amount of losses recognised due to past loss events.
Property and casualty reinsurance premiums are recorded when written and include an estimate for written premiums receivable at period end. Premiums earned are generally recognised in income over the contract period in proportion to the amount of reinsurance provided. Unearned premiums consist of the unexpired portion of reinsurance provided. Life reinsurance premiums are earned when due. Related policy benefits are recorded in relation to the associated premium or gross profits so that profits are recognised over the expected lives of the contracts.
Life and health reinsurance premiums for group coverages are generally earned over the term of the coverage. For group contracts that allow experience adjustments to premiums, such premiums are recognised as the related experience emerges.
Reinstatement premiums are due where coverage limits for the remaining life of the contract are reinstated under pre-defined contract terms. The recognition of reinstatement premiums as written depends on individual contract features. Reinstatement premiums are either recognised as written at the time a loss event occurs or in line with the recognition pattern of premiums written of the underlying contract. The accrual of reinstatement premiums is based on actuarial estimates of ultimate losses. Reinstatement premiums are generally earned in proportion to the amount of reinsurance provided.
Insurance and reinsurance ceded
The Group uses retrocession arrangements to increase its aggregate underwriting capacity, to diversify its risk and to reduce the risk of catastrophic loss on reinsurance assumed. The ceding of risks to retrocessionaires does not relieve the Group of its obligations to its ceding companies. The Group regularly evaluates the financial condition of its retrocessionaires and monitors the concentration of credit risk to minimise its exposure to financial loss from retrocessionaires’ insolvency. Premiums and losses ceded under retrocession contracts are reported as reductions of premiums earned and claims and claim adjustment expenses. Amounts recoverable for ceded short- and long-duration contracts, including universal-life-type and investment contracts, are reported as assets in the accompanying consolidated balance sheet.
The Group provides reserves for uncollectible amounts on reinsurance balances ceded, based on management’s assessment of the collectability of the outstanding balances.
Premium and claims receivables which have been invoiced are accounted for at face value. Together with assets arising from the application of the deposit method of accounting that meet the definition of financing receivables they are regularly assessed for impairment. Evidence of impairment is the age of the receivable and/or any financial difficulties of the counterparty. Allowances are set up on the net balance, meaning all balances related to the same counterparty are considered. The amount of the allowance is set up in relation to the time a receivable has been due and any financial difficulties of the debtor, and can be as high as the outstanding net balance.
Pensions and other post-retirement benefits
The Group accounts for its pension and other post-retirement benefit costs using the accrual method of accounting. Amounts charged to expense are based on periodic actuarial determinations.
Share-based payment transactions
As of 31 December 2018, the Group has a Leadership Performance Plan, restricted shares and a Global Share Participation Plan. These plans are described in more detail in Note 15. The Group accounts for share-based payment transactions with employees using the fair value method. Under the fair value method, the fair value of the awards is recognised in earnings over the vesting period.
For share-based compensation plans which are settled in cash, compensation costs are recognised as liabilities, whereas for equity-settled plans, compensation costs are recognised as an accrual to additional paid-in capital within shareholders’ equity.
Treasury shares are reported at cost in shareholders’ equity.
Earnings per common share
Basic earnings per common share are determined by dividing net income available to shareholders by the weighted average number of common shares entitled to dividends during the year. Diluted earnings per common share reflect the effect on earnings and average common shares outstanding associated with dilutive securities.
Subsequent events for the current reporting period have been evaluated up to 13 March 2019. This is the date on which the financial statements are available to be issued.
Adoption of new accounting standards
In May 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2014-09, “Revenue from Contracts with Customers”, which creates topic 606, “Revenue from Contracts with Customers”. ASU 2014-09 outlines the principles that an entity should follow to provide useful information about the amount, timing and uncertainty of revenue and cash flows arising from contracts with its customers. The standard requires an entity to depict the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services. Insurance contracts and financial instruments are not in the scope of the new standard. The Group adopted ASU 2014-09 on 1 January 2018 together with the following ASUs related to topic 606: ASU 2016-08 “Principal versus Agent Considerations (Reporting Revenue Gross versus Net)”, ASU 2016-10 “Identifying Performance Obligations and Licensing”, ASU 2016-12 “Narrow-Scope Improvements and Practical Expedients” and ASU 2016-20 “Technical Corrections and Improvements to Topic 606”. The retrospective adoption of ASU 2014-09 and related ASUs did not have a material impact on the Group’s financial statements.
In January 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-01, “Recognition and Measurement of Financial Assets and Financial Liabilities”, an update to subtopic 825-10, “Financial Instruments – Overall”. The ASU requires the Group to carry investments in equity securities, including partnerships, unincorporated joint ventures and limited liability companies at fair value through earnings, with the exception of equity method investments, investments that result in consolidation or investments for which the measurement alternative has been elected. The Group did not elect the measurement alternative for any of its investments. For financial liabilities to which the fair value option has been applied, the ASU requires an entity to separately present the change in fair value attributable to instrument-specific credit risk in other comprehensive income (OCI) rather than in net income. In addition, the ASU requires an entity to assess whether a valuation allowance is needed on a deferred tax asset (DTA) related to fixed income securities available-for-sale in combination with the entity’s other DTAs rather than separately from other DTAs. The Group adopted ASU 2016-01 on 1 January 2018 together with ASU 2018-03, “Technical Corrections and Improvements to Financial Instruments – Overall (Subtopic 825-10)”. The opening balance sheet impact from the adoption was a reclassification within shareholders’ equity from net unrealised investment gains, net of tax, to retained earnings of USD 347 million. In addition, USD 5 million were reclassified from retained earnings to credit risk of financial liabilities at fair value option, net of tax. These reclassifications can be found in the statement of shareholders’ equity. The impact on pre-tax earnings in 2018 due to the adoption of ASU 2016-01 was an estimated net realised investment loss of USD 599 million.
In August 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-15, “Classification of Certain Cash Receipts and Cash Payments”, a consensus of the FASB Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF) to topic 230, “Statement of Cash Flows”. ASU 2016-15 provides guidance on eight issues related to the presentation and classification of cash receipts and cash payments in the statement of cash flows with the objective of reducing existing diversity in practice. The Group adopted ASU 2016-15 retrospectively on 1 January 2018. The adoption did not have a material impact on the Group’s statement of cash flows.
In October 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-16, “Intra-Entity Transfers of Assets Other Than Inventory”, an update to topic 740, “Income Taxes”. This ASU amends the former guidance which prohibited the recognition of current and deferred income taxes for an intra-entity asset transfer until the asset had been sold to an outside party. This new standard requires that an entity recognises the income tax consequences of an intra-entity transfer of an asset other than inventory when the transfer occurs. The Group adopted ASU 2016-16 on 1 January 2018 on a modified retrospective basis through a cumulative-effect adjustment directly to retained earnings as of the adoption date. The adoption resulted in an increase of net unrealised investment gains/losses, net of tax, of USD 44 million against a reduction of deferred tax of USD 41 million and retained earnings of USD 3 million. The movements in equity related to the adoption of ASU 2016-16 can be found in the statement of shareholders’ equity. The impact on earnings in 2018 due to the adoption of ASU 2016-16 was a tax benefit of USD 68 million.
In November 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-18, “Restricted Cash”, a consensus of the FASB EITF to topic 230, “Statement of Cash Flows”. The update requires that the statement of cash flows explains the change during the period in the total of cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash and restricted cash equivalents. Restricted cash and restricted cash equivalents should be included with cash and cash equivalents when reconciling the beginning-of-period and end-of-period total amounts shown on the statement of cash flows. The Group adopted ASU 2016-18 retrospectively on 1 January 2018. The adoption did not have a material impact on the Group’s financial statements.
In February 2017, the FASB issued ASU 2017-05, “Clarifying the Scope of Asset Derecognition Guidance and Accounting for Partial Sales of Nonfinancial Assets”, an update to subtopic 610-20, “Other Income – Gains and Losses from the Derecognition of Nonfinancial Assets”. This update clarifies and provides guidance on the scope of subtopic 610-20 including financial assets meeting the definition of an in-substance non-financial asset. The Group adopted ASU 2017-05 retrospectively on 1 January 2018. The adoption did not have an impact on the Group’s financial statements.
In March 2017, the FASB issued ASU 2017-07, “Improving the Presentation of Net Periodic Pension Cost and Net Periodic Postretirement Benefit Cost”, an update to topic 715, “Compensation – Retirement Benefits”. The amendments in this update require that an employer separates other components of net benefit cost from the service cost component and presents these components outside a subtotal of income from operations, if one is presented. Further, the ASU only allows the service cost component of net benefit cost to be capitalised. The Group adopted ASU 2017-07 retrospectively on 1 January 2018. The adoption did not have a material impact on the Group’s financial statements.
In May 2017, the FASB issued ASU 2017-09, “Scope of Modification Accounting”, an update to topic 718, “Compensation – Stock Compensation”. The amendments in this update provide guidance about which changes to the terms or conditions of a share-based payment award require to apply modification accounting under topic 718. The Group adopted ASU 2017-09 on 1 January 2018. The adoption did not have an impact on the Group’s financial statements.
In February 2018, the FASB issued ASU 2018-02, “Reclassification of Certain Tax Effects from Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income”, an update to topic 220, “Income Statement – Reporting Comprehensive Income”. The ASU allows a reclassification from accumulated other comprehensive income to retained earnings of stranded tax effects resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Group early adopted ASU 2018-02 on 1 January 2018. The adoption resulted in a reclassification within shareholders’ equity of USD 159 million of stranded tax charges from accumulated other comprehensive income to retained earnings. The reclassification can be found in the statement of shareholders’ equity.
Future adoption of new accounting standards
In February 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-02 “Leases”, which creates topic 842, “Leases”. The core principle of topic 842 is that a lessee should recognise the assets and liabilities that arise from leases. A lessee should recognise in the statement of financial position a liability to make lease payments (the lease liability) and a right-of-use asset representing the right to use the underlying asset for the lease term. This accounting treatment applies to finance leases and operating leases. The accounting applied by a lessor is largely unchanged from that applied under the current guidance. The Group will adopt this ASU on 1 January 2019. The expected impact from the adoption is a net balance sheet gross-up of approximately USD 0.5 billion. Further, deferred gains carried on the balance sheet and amortised over time under the existing sale-leaseback guidance (estimated to be approximately USD 97 million as of 1 January 2019) will be released as a cumulative-effect adjustment to opening retained earnings as of 1 January 2019.
In June 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-13, “Measurement of Credit Losses”, an update to topic 326, “Financial Instruments – Credit Losses”. ASU 2016-13 replaces the incurred loss impairment methodology in current US GAAP with a methodology that reflects expected credit losses. For financial instruments that are measured at amortised cost and available-for-sale debt securities, the standard requires that an entity recognises its estimate of expected credit losses as an allowance. The ASU is effective for annual and interim periods beginning after 15 December 2020. Early adoption is permitted. The Group is currently assessing the impact of the new requirements.
In January 2017, the FASB issued ASU 2017-04, “Simplifying the Test for Goodwill Impairment”, an update to topic 350, “Intangibles – Goodwill and Other”. This ASU simplifies the subsequent measurement of goodwill and eliminates Step 2 from the goodwill impairment test. In computing the implied fair value of goodwill under Step 2, an entity has to perform procedures to determine the fair value at the impairment testing date of its assets and liabilities (including unrecognised assets and liabilities) following the procedure that would be required in determining the fair value of assets acquired and liabilities assumed in a business combination. Instead, under the amendments in this update, an entity should perform its regular goodwill impairment test by comparing the fair value of a reporting unit with its carrying amount. An entity should recognise an impairment charge for the amount by which the carrying amount exceeds the reporting unit’s fair value; however, the loss recognised should not exceed the total amount of goodwill allocated to that reporting unit. The new requirements are effective for goodwill impairment tests in annual and interim periods beginning after 15 December 2020. Early adoption of the ASU is permitted. The Group is currently assessing the impact of the new requirements.
In August 2018, the FASB issued ASU 2018-12, “Targeted Improvements to the Accounting for Long-Duration Contracts”, an update to topic 944, “Financial Services – Insurance“. This ASU requires that the cash flows and net premium ratio will be updated for changes in insurance assumptions (eg mortality, morbidity, terminations) when measuring the liability for future policy benefits for non-participating traditional and limited-payment insurance and reinsurance contracts. The effect of updating cash flow assumptions will be measured on a retrospective catch-up basis and presented separately from the ongoing policyholder benefit expense in the statement of operations in the period the update is made. There will no longer be a provision for adverse deviation. In addition, the discount rate used to reflect the time value of money in the calculation of the liability for future policy benefits will be standardised. An upper-medium-grade fixed-income instrument yield will be required, which differs from the current requirement to use a discount rate reflecting expected investment yields. Further, a locked-in rate will be used in the periodic calculation of the net premium ratio and accretion of interest on the liability for income statement purposes. For balance sheet remeasurement purposes, the discount rate will be updated at each reporting date, with the effect of discount rate changes on the liability recorded immediately in OCI. The ASU requires deferred acquisition costs (DAC) relating to most long-duration contracts to be amortised on a constant basis over the expected term of the contract, and the resulting amortisation amount should not be a function of revenue or profit. The new standard also introduces a new category called market risk benefits, which are features that protect the contract holder from capital market risk and expose the insurer to that risk. These features have to be measured at fair value, with changes in own credit risk recognised in OCI, and presented separately in the primary financial statements. The ASU also requires significant additional disclosures, including disaggregated roll forwards of the liability for future policy benefits, policyholder account balances, market risk benefits and DAC. The ASU is effective for annual and interim periods beginning after 15 December 2020. Early adoption of the amendments is permitted. The new guidance relating to measurement of the traditional and limited-payment contract liabilities and DAC amortisation has to be adopted under a modified retrospective transition approach, with an option to elect a full retrospective transition if certain criteria are met. Under the modified retrospective approach, for contracts in force at the transition date, an entity would continue to use the existing locked-in investment yield interest rate assumptions to calculate the net premium ratio. However, for balance sheet measurement purposes, policyholder liabilities are discounted at the upper-medium-grade fixed-income instrument yield at the transition date, with the impact of the change recognised against accumulated OCI. The Group is currently assessing the impact of the new requirements.