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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Insurers to change investment plans in preparation for rising interest rates

A survey of leading UK and European insurers reveals more than a quarter expect to increase their allocations to alternative investments in search of greater returns.

Insurers turn to alternative investments ©Shutterstock

This comes amid growing concern about the impact future interest rate rises may have on long-dated debt, according to Clear Path Analysis, which carried out the survey.

The industry research provider said the findings suggest insurers are now ready to embrace innovative investment structures in order to boost profitability.

National Bank of Belgium director, Jean Hilgers, said: “Considering the complexity of risks of alternative investment, the insurance industry will have to revisit the current risk management tools.

“For the supervisors, substantial changes will be needed in the way in which we oversee the asset side of the insurance business, from governance to the actual asset allocation process.”

The survey was carried out in conjunction with Invesco, Schroders and Aon, finding that 16% of insurers expect to increase their allocation to passive management strategies, and 15% to active ones.

Despite widespread talk about the growing role of private market investments in insurers’ portfolios, the research shows that illiquid assets remain very small, with only private equity exceeding a 5% allocation.

It also indicates that global equities will increase by 11.5%, but that domestic and US ones are out of favour, and will see reductions of 7.3% and 6.2% respectively – suggesting insurers expect emerging markets to drive growth.

Clear Path Analysis said fluctuating geo-political uncertainty, new regulation and an increasing number of insurers moving up the yield curve meant insurance asset management has “never been more interesting”.

It also argues that heightened attention paid by the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) on the role of alternatives and illiquid investments makes now a “pivotal time” for the industry.

However, the research shows that over one-fifth of insurance internal investment teams are not given a specific target to reach, highlighting the difficulty in benchmarking performance.

“A rigorous approach to selecting, assessing and managing illiquid assets is of vital importance, both to the firms themselves and from a wider financial stability standpoint,” warned Lewis Webber, PRA insurance data analytics head.

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