IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

The Impact of Mortgage-Backed Securities on Capital Requirements of Life Insurers in the Financial Crisis of 2007–2008

Listed author(s):
  • Etti G Baranoff

    (Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate, School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University, 301 West Main Street, Suite B4167, Richmond, VA 23284-4000, USA.)

  • Thomas W Sager

    (Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management, The University of Texas at Austin, CBA 5.202 Austin, TX, USA)

Registered author(s):

    In this paper, we explore U.S. life insurers’ exposure to mortgage backed securities (MBS) and its potential impact on capital should the credit ratings of these bonds be lowered. We analyse 2 years: 2003 (well before the realisation of problems with these instruments) and 2006 (immediately prior). We create five potential scenarios of different severity for recategorising MBS credit ratings and compute the theoretical impact on measured insurer asset risk, via a proxy for the C-1 component of life insurers’ risk-based capital. Under all scenarios, we find large increases in assessed asset risk. We then model insurer capital structure as a function of asset risk and other factors to assess whether insurers had prepared their capital structures for the possibility of problems with these instruments. Our findings indicate not only that insurers were unprepared for MBS downgrades, but also that they reduced capital as they accumulated MBS, as though acquiring MBS should raise the overall quality of the investment portfolio. Finally, we analyse possible adjustments to capital to accommodate the now recognised increased risks of MBS. Our models suggest, for example, that an insurer with median residential MBS exposure might be expected to increase its capital by 10 per cent or more to maintain a historical relationship between capital and risk factors, in the event of a moderate recategorisation of MBS risk. Even larger adjustments are indicated should the crisis spread to commercial MBS as well. The Geneva Papers (2009) 34, 100–118. doi:10.1057/gpp.2008.40

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    File Function: Link to full text PDF
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    File URL:
    File Function: Link to full text HTML
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Palgrave Macmillan & The Geneva Association in its journal The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance Issues and Practice.

    Volume (Year): 34 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 100-118

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:pal:gpprii:v:34:y:2009:i:1:p:100-118
    Contact details of provider: Web page:


    Route de Malagnou 53, CH - 1208 Geneva

    Phone: +41-22 707 66 00
    Fax: +41-22 736 75 36
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    Order Information: Web:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pal:gpprii:v:34:y:2009:i:1:p:100-118. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla)

    or (Rebekah McClure)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.