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The effects of a low interest rate environment on life insurers

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  • Berdin, Elia
  • Gründl, Helmut

Abstract

Low interest rates are becoming a threat to the stability of the life insurance industry, especially in countries such as Germany, where products with relatively high guaranteed returns sold in the past still represent a prominent share of the total portfolio. This contribution aims to assess and quantify the effects of the current low interest rate phase on the balance sheet of a representative German life insurer, given the current asset allocation and the outstanding liabilities. To do so, we generate a stochastic term structure of interest rates as well as stock market returns to simulate investment returns of a stylized life insurance business portfolio in a multi-period setting. Based on empirically calibrated parameters, we can observe the evolution of the life insurers' balance sheet over time with a special focus on their solvency situation. To account for different scenarios and in order to check the robustness of our findings, we calibrate different capital market settings and different initial situations of capital endowment. Our results suggest that a prolonged period of low interest rates would markedly affect the solvency situation of life insurers, leading to relatively high cumulative probability of default for less capitalized companies.
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Suggested Citation

  • Berdin, Elia & Gründl, Helmut, 2014. "The effects of a low interest rate environment on life insurers," ICIR Working Paper Series 15/14, Goethe University Frankfurt, International Center for Insurance Regulation (ICIR).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:icirwp:1514
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Pablo Antolin & Sebastian Schich & Juan Yermo, 2011. "The Economic Impact of Protracted Low Interest Rates on Pension Funds and Insurance Companies," OECD Journal: Financial Market Trends, OECD Publishing, vol. 2011(1), pages 237-256.
    2. Alexander Kling & Andreas Richter & Jochen Ruß, 2007. "The Impact of Surplus Distribution on the Risk Exposure of With Profit Life Insurance Policies Including Interest Rate Guarantees," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 74(3), pages 571-589.
    3. John C. Cox & Jonathan E. Ingersoll Jr. & Stephen A. Ross, 2005. "A Theory Of The Term Structure Of Interest Rates," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Theory Of Valuation, chapter 5, pages 129-164 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    4. Gatzert, Nadine, 2008. "Asset management and surplus distribution strategies in life insurance: An examination with respect to risk pricing and risk measurement," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 839-849, April.
    5. Bauer, Daniel & Kiesel, Rudiger & Kling, Alexander & Ru[ss], Jochen, 2006. "Risk-neutral valuation of participating life insurance contracts," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 171-183, October.
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    9. Bauer, Daniel & Reuss, Andreas & Singer, Daniela, 2012. "On the Calculation of the Solvency Capital Requirement Based on Nested Simulations," ASTIN Bulletin: The Journal of the International Actuarial Association, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(02), pages 453-499, November.
    10. Gerstner, Thomas & Griebel, Michael & Holtz, Markus & Goschnick, Ralf & Haep, Marcus, 2008. "A general asset-liability management model for the efficient simulation of portfolios of life insurance policies," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 704-716, April.
    11. Maurer, Raimond & Rogalla, Ralph & Siegelin, Ivonne, 2013. "Participating Payout Life Annuities: Lessons from Germany," ASTIN Bulletin: The Journal of the International Actuarial Association, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 159-187, May.
    12. Anke Kablau & Michael Wedow, 2012. "Gauging the Impact of a Low Interest Rate Environment on German Life Insurers," Applied Economics Quarterly (formerly: Konjunkturpolitik), Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 58(4), pages 279-298.
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    Cited by:

    1. Focarelli, Dario, 2017. "Why Insurance Regulation is Crucial for Long-term Investment and Economic Growth," SEP Working Papers 2017/1, LUISS School of European Political Economy.
    2. Schaper, Philipp, 2017. "Under pressure: how the business environment affects productivity and efficiency of European life insurance companiesAuthor-Name: Eling, Martin," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 258(3), pages 1082-1094.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Life Insurers; Interest Rate Guarantees; Duration Mismatch; Solvency II;

    JEL classification:

    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • G17 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Financial Forecasting and Simulation
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies

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