Ireland is a key player in the global insurance and reinsurance industry.

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Regulatory Framework

By and large, insurance in Ireland is regulated under the Solvency II Directive which has been fully implemented in Ireland without any significant national additions. The Central Bank of Ireland ("CBI") is responsible for the authorisation, prudential regulation and supervision of (re)insurance undertakings authorised in Ireland. The CBI complies with the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority's Guidelines on the supervision of branches of third-country insurance undertakings (available here).

Passporting and Third Country Firms

(Re)insurance undertakings authorised in Ireland can passport to other EEA Ireland as a Location for Insurance Undertakings member states on either a services or cross-border establishment basis, subject to the fulfilment of certain notification requirements. The CBI has published Guidelines for the establishment of an EEA Branch (available here).

Generally, a (re)insurance undertaking needs to be authorised in an EEA member state in order to carry on the business of insurance in Ireland. A non-EEA authorised insurance undertaking must establish an Irish authorised branch in order to carry on business in Ireland or acquire an existing Irish authorised (re)insurance undertaking.

If a non-EEA member state ("a Third Country") has a supervisory regime which is considered to ensure a similar level of policyholder and beneficiary protection as Solvency II, that Third Country will be treated in many respects as if it were an EEA member state. While this does not permit an undertaking established in that Third Country to passport into the EEA, it does deal with the treatment of reinsurance, recognition of group treatment, financial reporting and sharing of information between regulators.

Authorisation Process

An application for authorisation must be made to the CBI. The application process involves a number of stages, namely:

  • a review of the authorisation requirements and a preliminary meeting with the CBI to discuss the application;
  • the submission of the information required in the relevant CBI check list (available here) together with the completed application form; and
  • a review of the application by the CBI: this review commences once the CBI has received a completed application.

Following the receipt of a completed application, the CBI expects to complete the authorisation process in three months, but applications can take up to six months, depending on the quality and complexity of the application, and the manner in which the applicant addresses any queries made. Further information on the authorisation process is available in the CBI's Guidelines on Completing and Submitting Life Insurance, Non-Life Insurance and Reinsurance Applications (available here).

An entity, including a Third Country (Re) Insurance Undertaking, that intends to acquire an existing Irish authorised (re)insurance undertaking will have to notify, and obtain approval from the CBI by completing an Acquiring Transaction Notification Form (available here). The approval process takes approximately two months, although this period may be interrupted if additional information or clarification is sought from the applicant.

Key Considerations

An undertaking that wishes to carry on an insurance business under Irish law must fulfil a number of requirements. For existing groups with substantial operations outside of Ireland, an important requirement will be the CBI's emphasis on ensuring that the applicant's "heart and mind" will be located in Ireland. This essentially means that the CBI will need to be satisfied that the applicant will be properly run in Ireland and that the CBI will be able to supervise it effectively. Among other things, the CBI will expect to see present in Ireland:

  • a senior management team with strength and depth overseen and directed by a strong board; and
  • organisation structure and reporting lines which ensure there is appropriate separation and oversight of all activities.

There is no requirement for any specific individual to be resident in Ireland. However, ideally, all of the personnel who are to fulfil the applicant's core functions should operate out of, and be resident in, Ireland.

An Irish authorised insurance undertaking may outsource/delegate some of its activities to entities in other jurisdictions, subject to compliance with the Solvency II Regulations. Among other things a (re)insurance undertaking will need to notify the CBI before outsourcing critical or important functions or activities and regarding subsequent material developments with respect to those functions or activities. The CBI has published a paper, Notification Process for (Re)Insurance Undertakings when Outsourcing Critical or Important Functions or Activities under Solvency II, which is available here.