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01.02.2014 | Abhandlung | Ausgabe 1/2014

Zeitschrift für die gesamte Versicherungswissenschaft 1/2014

Stock investments for German life insurers in the current low interest environment: more homework to do

Zeitschrift:
Zeitschrift für die gesamte Versicherungswissenschaft > Ausgabe 1/2014
Autoren:
Christoph Schwarzbach, Frederik Kunze, Norman Rudschuck, Torsten Windels
Wichtige Hinweise
The paper is based on the working paper “Solvency II and the investment policy of German life insurers: still more homework to do” presented at the Jahrestagung des Deutschen Vereins für Versicherungswissenschaft e. V. 2013 in Berlin.

Abstract

Currently a stock market rally and at the same time extremely low interest rates can be observed. This coincides with more volatile risk premiums for interest baring assets like government bonds. The mixture makes life harder for investment managers of (especially life) insurances. They have to continuously find profitable investments with good returns for the customers’ money, in case of the life insurers, in order to be able to pay at least the promised returns of the contracts. After the stock market burst around the turn of the century the levels of stock investments by German insurers have declined significantly, therefore also missing out on the rises leading up to the Lehman crash and also not participating in recent developments. With insurance asset managers avoiding stocks in the past years the questions can be raised, if they are forfeiting a good opportunity for their portfolio and if there is still time to participate in possible future gains. On the other hand the upcoming regulatory environment, namely Solvency II, will play an important role in the future and likely already has an impact on the investment decisions of the companies. Higher capital requirements for stock investments make it even harder to earn the so-called “Garantiezins”. Without ignoring the risks related to stock investments, effectively banning equities from asset managers’ buy lists might lead to missing out on desperately needed returns for the life insurance industry. So policy makers probably should reconsider their directives.
This paper evaluates the attractiveness of stock investments from a long term as well as a risk adjusted perspective using e.g. different indicators and commonly used measurements for stocks with a rather conservative focus, in order to possibly get some insight into the future performance of stocks. Looking back to a decade of boom and bust cycles in the equity markets does not necessary rule out stocks as an important source for returns. The results are discussed comprehensively also in face of the regulatory changes to come. In the end timing plays a major role and due to that the current valuation of stocks as well as the look ahead are of vital importance. Assessing the reliability of professional forecasts for financial market time series—in this context especially for stocks as well as interest rates—plays an important role for asset managers.

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