Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts

Mar 4, 2012

EU: Risk Management Alert!

As faithful risk managers and actuaries, we got used to act in a compliant and regulated governance environment. While we are doing our work like buzzy bees, above our heads a disastrous and horrific risk management game takes place, it's called:


In order to end the European financial crisis, a new intergovernmental organisation, the 'European Stability Mechanism' (ESM), will be set up in Luxembourg under public international law .

Euro member countries already agreed and are now waiting for an approval of the EU-countries'  parliaments. The latest version of this ESM treaty has been signed on 2 February 2012 and is scheduled to enter into force on 1 July 2012.

The first ESM guarantee layer has been set at € 700. Here are the sustainable shareholders:

ESM Power & Effects
The ESM severely confines the economic sovereignty.

It violates democratic principles of its member states and provides extensive powers and immunity to the board of ESM Governors without parliamentary influence or control.

It's remarkable and unintelligible that even the European Parliament has no control over the ESM!

In short the power and effects of ESM as defined in the ESM 2012 document, are:

  • ESM may demand an unlimited amount of money from European countries (9.1 and 9.2)

  • In case of a demand, countries have to pay within seven days, without any negotiation or discussion. (9.3)

  • ESM is not accountable for what happens to the money; they’re allowed to make high-risk investments. (24.3)

  • ESM has the power to reduce private customer savings of bank accounts cross country without permission of the countries' parliaments or any interference from the countries' governments. (12)
    In accordance with IMF practice, in exceptional cases an adequate and proportionate form of private sector involvement shall be considered in cases where stability support is provided accompanied by conditionality in the form of a macro-economic adjustment programme.

  • There are no compliance or control measures defined with regard to ESM. Further, ESM has no targets, cost-limitation and enjoys complete immunity. (32)

  • The ministers of Finance will take a seat in the ESM Board of Governors. There they will receive a salary exempt from taxes.

  • The money supplied by all European countries will be used to save mainly the large (too big to fail) France and German banks with loans in weak European countries like Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain. The people in those countries will not benefit at all from the money supply.

Netherlands Court of Audit Alert
The president of the Netherlands Court of Audit has written an alert letter to her Euro area colleagues and the president of the ECA regarding this new treaty. The aim of the letter is to contribute to the preparation of the next ESM-meeting of Euro area SAIs on 14 March 2012 in Bonn.

The letter addresses the next shortcomings:
  • There is no reference to the use of international audit standards in audits by the Board of Auditors
  • The different types of audit that should be possible for the Board Of Auditors – regularity, compliance, performance, risk management – are not explicitly mentioned
  • The possibilities for open dissemination of audit results by the Board of Auditors are limited. The Board of Auditors can establish one annual report,which the Board of Auditors cannot send itself to national parliaments and SAIs. This has to be done by the Board of Governors. 

It's clear that it looks fishy.....

Let's hope our parliaments will show some governance sense before it's

too late....

Otherwise most of European people's savings will eventually be used to fill the endless financial gap of those European countries that are not able of mastering their own financial future....

And how many countries will that be?????

- ESM 2012 Documen9 (English)
- ESM 2012 Document (Dutch)
- Austria: Objections and Reservations to ESM 
- The EU architecture to avert a sovereign debt crisis (2011) 
- ESM: Technical (PDF/PPT)
- Alert Letter Netherlands Court of Audit 
- Interview (Dutch audio) with Albert Spits

- Dutch protest


Feb 4, 2012

World Roulette

This decade of quantum reality and quantum risk must have been foreseen by Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Charles Dickens,
English novelist (1812 - 1870)
, A Tale of Two Cities

Applying Dickens' wisdom to Europe: Europe will break up, Europe will survive.......    Who knows?

Let's dive a little deeper to find out what's happening.

Different interests
First of all different countries in Europe have different interests in the outcome of this debt crisis as the next charts (2010 data) of the Telegraph (nov 2011) show:

It's hard to get actual data on this subject (how about transparency?), however the 'Deutsche Bundesbank' opens up a bit, as the next table shows:

This table (3) clearly shows that Germany is increasingly funding the poor (default) positions of a number of countries.

Countries like Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain are in an extremely difficult and hopeless position.

Even France is 'on the wrong side' and moving in the wrong direction.....

As long as these bad performing countries are not showing any progress in getting their national finance under control and diminishing their debt, other countries like Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands are  throwing the money of their citizens into the bottomless pit of countries that can't take care of themselves.

As long as Europe cannot force individual member states to take appropriate measures, it's on a on a collision course and will eventually default.

For years now, Germany is putting a lot of energy and - even more - financial support in keeping Europe alive.

Despite this laudable way of acting, it's clear that if other countries don't catch up, the end of Europe is in sight.

The most horrible scenario is of course: a major (hyper)inflation in Europe.

Therefore, Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands would be wise to finance other countries only on basis of inflation-indexed-loans.

This way countries can't escape by means of (stimulated)  inflation.

Different types of roulette
The situation above is like a desperate German player in a casino in a lonely town.......

His European family lost a fortune that night....

In order to 'save' his family, he takes his 'responsibility' and decides to play 'double or nothing' by putting all his money on 'red' and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, his family continues to gamble on the other casino  tables, as if nothing has happened.

As Germans can calculate like no other, our Bundes-player knows he eventually can not win at roulette. But he has to play to prevent a family default.

Unfortunately, the German player doesn't realize he's not playing 'normal' European roulette, based on one green pocket.......

NO.., it's getting worse.......

Our German player is not even playing American roulette, with two green pockets and (therefore) less chance of winning.....

In fact our unlucky German friend is playing a kind of 'World roulette'..... as this inevitable European Debt Game will infect the world economy....

In 'economic practice' the situation is more risky than at the roulette table, as with roulette you can exactly calculate your probabilities, while in 'real life' you are not sure of your probabilities.

That's what Risk Management is all about, isn't it?

Keep following Europe the next months, as this story will continue.....

Next blog.... better news! 

Sources/Related Links:
- DBB:Euroland's hidden balance-of-payments crisis
- Bundesbank sinks deeper into debt saving Europe

- Bank exposure data (Bank for International Settlements, table 9D)
- Debt as percentage of GDP and total debt (Eurostat).
- ECB Stats

Oct 17, 2009

Actuarial Sustainability Alarm

Recently the European Commission launched the 'Sustainability Report 2009", investigating the long-term (2010-2060)sustainability of public finances.

This report clearly shows the long-term economic effects of the aging society and the continuous increasing life expectancy.

Financing increasing pension and health costs in the next decades, will be a real challenge for almost all European countries. Even more, the current financial crisis and unsure financial outlook urge for severe short term measures in order to prevent much more unpleasant other measures in the next decades.

The report claims that the ability to meet public pensions liabilities is a higher long-term risk for governments than ever before and in most cases reform of member states’ pensions systems is 'must' and can no longer be delayed.

Although the report manly focuses on the increase (the so called delta) of the sustainability gap, I would like to take a look at the development of the aging costs in relation to the debt development of each country.

Development Aging costs
Let's start to take a look at the development of the public pensions liabilities (pension costs) and health costs from a slightly different angle as published in the report:

On average the total aging costs are increasing from 25% in 2010 to about 30% in 2060 on bases of a no-policy-change assumption.But there a countries (BE, EL, LU, SI) that grow way above this average to a level that's even above the current level of countries with high social standards, like Sweden and Finland.

To conquer this development, some member countries are trying to tackling the longevity issue by raising retirement ages.
Not only the pension costs increase, but also the projected long-term increase in healthcare spending is large and constitutes on its own a risk to sustainability.

Countries whose regimes are listed by the report as 'high-risk' in terms of sustainability are: The Czech Republic, Cyprus, Ireland, Greece Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia and the UK. In many countries the age-related expenditure is expected to climb quickly against existing financial imbalances.

Development gross debt ratio
As is clear from the next table, the mentioned next decades increase in health and pension costs, in combination with the unhealthy financial situation - due to the credit crisis - cumulates in a clear desperate debt situation for most of the European countries:

The table shows the government gross debt ratio in 2008 and 2009, and the projections for 2010, 2030 and 2060, once the costs of servicing debt and paying for age-related expenditure are taken into account.

As mentioned before, the long-term debt projections have been prepared under a no-policy-change assumption and in partial equilibrium. Given these assumptions, the projections are not robust forecasts and are not meant to be realistic scenarios of what may happen in the future.

The aim of the debt projections is to illustrate the long-term trends and the size of the required remedial action to avoid government debts to enter into an exponentially increasing spiral.

Actuary Involvement
It's clear that the debt and social costs developments are not heading in the right direction..... Actuary involvement to analyze, advice and create new social systems seems necessary.
Actuaries on the bridge, please!

- EC
- Sustainability Report 2009
- Report 2009
- Download: Maggid Excel tables Aging Costs and Debt Development

Feb 28, 2009

Actuworry: Pension Math

According to Financial News the Pension Crisis is growing in Europe.
Except for Germany, most European countries are in trouble due to the credit crisis and subprime mortgages. On average, funding ratio's are below 100%.

As a lot of pension funds are mature, raising premium levels will not offer any help on the short term. Neither a 'selling stocks strategy' does. As a consequence all pension payments are at risk.

'Primarily' we should have learned from Einstein's Pensions theory:

Nevertheless, as actuaries have to be realistic, Einsteins' Pension Formule is a day after the fair. Let's look at at an other way out of this crisis.

When nothing helps, the only way out seems lowering pension rights and payments. However, this is premature and will most likely cause unnecessary social commotion.

Consider, what would you prefer:
A. $ 10.000 pension with a 100% funding ratio?
B. $ 8.000 pension with a 125% funding ratio?

Actuworry won't help. As actuaries we have to stay cool. The only realistic way out is simply to wait for better times.

Dec 11, 2008

European Mortality

Go to HomeThe Groupe Consultatif Actuariel Europeen published end 2005 a study, which for the first time compares how companies in different European countries measure life expectancy for their pension schemes. It reveals vast differences in mortality assumptions and indicates that practice across the EU varies widely when assessing company pension liabilities.

As you may see from some examples to the left, a wide area of classic mortality formulae in the different European countries passes by.

It's clear that that mortality assumptions in company pension schemes vary from
country to country, due to variations in underlying population mortality as well as in
variations of the profile of typical membership of a company pension scheme. However, the
variations in mortality assumptions are much greater than would be justified by these
factors alone.

Some of the variation is due to the fact that some countries incorporate an allowance
for expected future improvements in mortality, while others use tables that relate to mortality observed over a period in the past, without allowing for the fact that life expectancy continues to increase.

The total actuarial deficit with regard to (future) longevity in company pension schemes is substantial.

As a 'Survey of Actuarial Education in Europe' showed, not only mortality rates differ, but also the the education of different European actuarial professionals.

In short, work enough for actuaries.

More information:

Oct 1, 2008

European Actuarial Academy

The European Actuarial Academy (EAA) was founded on 29 August,2005, by the Actuarial Associations of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.

These four associations are also the EAA stakeholders. Its foundation was a response to the increased demand from Central and Eastern European countries for Actuary professionalisation.

EAA strives to become the knowledge centre of European Actuary education.

EAA has on offer:
  • Actuarial education, including examination
  • Permanent education for (certified) actuaries
  • Consulting on Actuarial education.
From October 1st to 3rd 2008, there's an EAA Seminar, ‘Pricing in General Insurance’ in St. Petersburg/Russia.

Read more about EAA.