Life insurers are having trouble giving a consulting firm the figures it needs to complete a study of the possible impact of shifting to a principles-based reserving (PBR) system for life products.

Towers Watson & Company, New York (NYSE:TW), originally had planned to deliver a PBR impact report to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Kansas City, Mo., by this coming Thursday.

In the study, Towers Watson consultants are supposed to examine the effects of VM-20, a section of a draft valuation manual that deals with PBR issues.

But only 13 of the 41 insurers that will be participating in the study say they can give Towers Watson the required data by Thursday. Another 6 will not have data ready until the end of June, and 11 either are not sure when they will have data ready or failed to answer Towers Watson’s questions, Towers Watson representatives said Saturday in Austin, Texas, at a meeting of the NAIC’s Principles-Based Reserving Working Group.

“The delays were not due to issues inherent within VM-20, but rather due to competing year-end statutory filing deadlines,” working group officials say in a meeting summary.

Towers Watson consultants now plan to break the study into two parts and give the NAIC the first part in June, officials say.

THE PBR PROJECT

The NAIC has been working on PBR projects for years.

Advocates say a PBR approach would replace reliance on static formulas with use of modern statistical forecasting methods and reliance on actuarial judgment.

Supporters say a shift to PBR would force insurers to think about their assets and liabilities more carefully and, in some cases, free them from the need to keep unnecessarily large reserves to satisfy the demand of an unrealistically conservative formula.

Critics say some insurers could use PBR flexibility as an excuse to reduce reserves to unsafe levels and that proper use of PBR methods could be too difficult or too expensive for smaller companies.

Towers Watson consultants are supposed to calculate the effects of proposed life PBR provisions on industry reserves and compare the results with the results obtained from current methods.

Other PBR coverage from National Underwriter Life & Health: