Monday, December 27, 2010

Insurance: Betting on the Old and Decrepit

[I do it every morning -ed]
Okay, not so decrepit.
From Salmon:

The longevity trend bond arrives
Swiss Re reinsures a lot of life insurance. As a result, it could lose billions of dollars if a lot of insured people die young, due to pandemics, terrorism, or the like. To hedge that risk, it has sold about $1.8 billion in mortality bonds to date. Such bonds earn a healthy yield, so long as there’s no big rise in mortality. If there is, then the bondholders lose some or all of their principal, and it’s used instead to make those unexpected life-insurance payouts.

Mortality bonds are an expensive hedge, though — one last year had a yield of 617bp over benchmark lending rates. Swiss Re would much rather hedge its mortality risk in a profit-making manner, by writing longevity risk. That’s what it did last year with the UK’s Royal County of Berkshire Pension Fund: in return for a steady stream of insurance premiums, Swiss Re contracted to pay out Berkshire’s pension obligations. The risk in that kind of deal is that the pensioners live too long, and that Swiss Re’s total payouts will be much bigger than the total insurance premiums.

Insuring longevity risk, then, is a great deal for Swiss Re: not only should it be profitable, if it’s priced correctly, but it also helps to naturally offset the company’s mortality risk. If people live longer, then pension payouts will be higher, but life-insurance payouts will be lower. And vice versa....MORE

“The only perfect hedge is in a Japanese garden”.
-Old traders adage