COMMENT: Obrigado, Gabriel

Published in: Risk management, Solvency II, Rest of Europe, People

Companies: European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority, Eiopa

As of today, Gabriel Bernardino is no longer chair of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (Eiopa).

For those of us who have followed the development of EU insurance regulation and supervision over the last decade, this statement will need time to sink in.

Bernardino was the first chair of Eiopa and has made an immeasurable contribution to making the European insurance and pensions business more resilient to shocks and fairer to policyholders.

He has been instrumental in giving the authority its global profile and credibility. Never shy to argue or give his perspective, he did so while being courteous, professional and friendly.

His personality was well summed up by one senior leader who worked with him, who told me: "He's a natural diplomat. I've seen him have some quite vigorous disagreements with people, and then sit down to dinner in the evening with them and chat away quite merrily."

Reflecting on that decade of service starts with the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the collapse in interest rates, moves onto the introduction of Solvency II, then concludes with Brexit and Covid-19.

In 2011, financial regulation was definitely a career with prospects. Bernardino had been leading Eiopa's predecessor organisation, Ceiops, since 2009. His combination of pragmatism, diplomacy and actuarial skills made him a natural pick to head the newly empowered Eiopa.

Over the next 10 years, many of his visions would emerge and become the standard for regulation and supervision.

In the insurance world, he will probably be best remembered for his contribution to Solvency II.

But the agenda he has pursued has been far broader, and latterly included crucial issues facing insurers, such as conduct risk, digitalisation and climate change. He also positioned Eiopa as a central resource for data, and dealing with the threats of Brexit and Covid-19.

Some challenges proved harder to crack. Eiopa's technically informed recommendations do not always sit well with the EU's political realities, so some glaringly uneconomic elements of regulation (such as Solvency II's discount curve) remain unresolved so far.

Also, Eiopa's mandate to harmonise insurance supervision across the EU has been hampered by the fact it has hardly any supervisory powers itself. Bernardino did not make himself popular by trying to grab some of these, pitching Eiopa against its own board of national supervisors.

In his last major speech, at Eiopa's 10th Anniversary conference last month, Bernardino set out a vision for Eiopa's next decade. He envisaged that it would become the supervisor of internationally active insurers, instigate a revolution in the information consumers receive about products and providers, and deliver adequate and sustainable pensions to EU citizens.

Will his successor continue that agenda? At the moment, we are unsure who that will be.

The timetable to appoint a new chair slipped by last year, but Eiopa hopes it can announce its next leader by mid-2021. In the meantime, the chair's duties are being performed by vice-chair Peter Braumüller, managing director of insurance and pension supervision at the Austrian Financial Market Authority.

Bernardino has been silent on his next role, saying he wishes to take some time to reflect before deciding on his future path. For a man who was the embodiment of Eiopa, that is understandable.

Whatever happens next, he leaves a huge legacy to the EU's insurance and pensions sector.

Thank you, Gabriel, for your service. And good luck.

Christopher Cundy