Canadian Underwriter

How OSFI proposes to regulate the P&C industry’s cryptocurrency risk

August 22, 2022   by David Gambrill

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Canada’s solvency regulator is seeking comment on its proposed approach for regulating P&C insurers’ cryptocurrency risk exposure.

In a proposed advisory to take effect in 2023 Q2, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) defines and categorizes two different types of “cryptoasset exposures.”

“Cryptoassets are digital assets that use a mix of cryptography, peer-to-peer networks and a distributed ledger technology such as blockchain to make secure transactions,” OSFI states in a press release. “Examples of cryptoassets include cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether, stablecoins, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).”

OSFI continues on clarify the capital requirements for a P&C insurer’s cryptoasset exposures. It also outlines its approach to collateral recognition and considerations for foreign insurance branches. Public comment on OSFI’s proposed treatment of cryptoasset exposures will close Sept. 30.

Essentially, OSFI’s assessment of the risk hinges on whether or not the P&C insurer has obtained a legal opinion regarding the credibility of the cryptoassets. Also, OSFI takes into account whether or not there is regulatory oversight or supervision of the P&C insurer holding the cryptoassets.

Group 1 cryptoassets share the following criteria:

  • A legal opinion confirms all rights, obligations and interests arising from the cryptoasset are clearly defined, legally enforceable in all relevant jurisdictions, and are consistent with the risks associated with comparable traditional assets.
  • A legal opinion has been obtained confirming settlement finality of the cryptoasset.
  • All companies using cryptoassets for transfer, settlement or redeemability must follow robust risk governance and risk control policies, subject to appropriate risk management standards.
  • Any insurers redeeming transferring, storing, or settling using cryptocurrencies must be regulated and supervised.

Group 2 cryptoassets fail to meet any one or more of the above criteria.

OSFI’s approach to credit risk varies based on the cryptocurrency groups noted above.

“Group 1 cryptoasset exposures should receive a credit risk capital treatment consistent with that of comparable traditional assets,” as OSFI explains in its cover letter to P&C organizations, dated Aug. 18, 2022.

In a June 2022 consultation paper, OSFI proposes an additional capital charge for exposures related to crypto infrastructure providers, including “a 2.5% risk-weight add-on for infrastructure risk (i.e. 0.2% market risk capital charge)…applied to Group 1 cryptoassets.”

OSFI cautions P&C insurers to take a prudent approach to Group 2 cryptoasset risk exposures.

“Group 2 cryptoasset exposures, including the absolute value of short positions, the full notional amount of long-option positions and the full notional amount of long forward contracts should be deducted from capital available,” OSFI states in its proposed advisory.

Exposure limits apply to Group 2 cryptocurrencies. For P&C insurers, total gross positions across all Group 2 cryptoasset exposures cannot exceed 1% of capital available. And total net short positions of all Group 2 cryptoasset exposures cannot exceed 0.1% of capital available.

Additional restrictions apply to the use of Group 2 cryptoassets as collateral.

“No collateral value may be ascribed to Group 2 cryptoassets (i.e. such cryptoasset collateral is subject to a 100% haircut),” as OSFI explains in its cover letter to P&C insurers. “Collateral used as a financial resource to reduce capital requirements cannot include Group 2 cryptoasset exposures (e.g., collateral used for unregistered reinsurance).”

Moreover, foreign insurance branches are not allowed to vest their cryptoasset exposures in Canada.


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