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Jeroen Brinkhoff and Mr. Juan Sole
European life insurance companies are important bond investors and had traditionally played a stabilizing role in financial markets by pursuing “buy-and-hold” investment strategies. However, since the onset of the ultra-low interest rates era in 2008, observers noted a decline in the credit quality of insurers’ bond portfolios. The commonly-held explanation for this deterioration is that low returns pushed insurers to become more risk-taking. We argue that other factors—such as surging rating downgrades, bond revaluations, and regulatory changes—also played a key role. We estimate that rating changes, revaluations, and search for yield each account for about one-third each of the total deterioration in credit quality. This result has important policy implications as it reestablishes the view that insurers’ investment behavior tends to be passive through the cycle—rather than risk-seeking.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
This technical note focuses on issues in insurance supervision and regulation on France. France has a very high level of insurance penetration, particularly for life insurance. For each insurance company, a risk assessment is undertaken on at least an annual basis and is recorded in a supervisory review process tool. French insurance companies are significant users of the Volatility Adjustment (VA), with companies representing more than 90 percent of the technical provisions in the French insurance industry using the VA. The report discusses that French authorities should advocate to the relevant EU authorities to introduce a minimum number of independent members of the Administrative Management or Supervisory Boards, at least one-third. Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel et de Résolution should review the intensity and frequency of on-site supervision and its relationship to off-site supervision. With several other meetings with insurance companies possible, some of these meetings may be close to be called as focused on-site inspections.
Bibek Adhikari, Mr. Romain A Duval, Bingjie Hu, and Mr. Prakash Loungani
A number of advanced economies carried out a sequence of extensive reforms of their labor and product markets in the 1990s and early 2000s. Using the Synthetic Control Method (SCM), this paper implements six case studies of well-known waves of reforms, those of New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Ireland and Netherlands in the 1990s, and the labor market reforms in Germany in the early 2000s. In four of the six cases, GDP per capita was higher than in the control group as a result of the reforms. No difference between the treated country and its synthetic counterpart could be found in the cases of Denmark and New Zealand, which in the latter case may have partly reflected the implementation of reforms under particularly weak macroeconomic conditions. Overall, also factoring in the limitations of the SCM in this context, the results are suggestive of a positive but heterogenous effect of reform waves on GDP per capita.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department

This technical note focuses on issues in insurance supervision and regulation on France. France has a very high level of insurance penetration, particularly for life insurance. For each insurance company, a risk assessment is undertaken on at least an annual basis and is recorded in a supervisory review process tool. French insurance companies are significant users of the Volatility Adjustment (VA), with companies representing more than 90 percent of the technical provisions in the French insurance industry using the VA. The report discusses that French authorities should advocate to the relevant EU authorities to introduce a minimum number of independent members of the Administrative Management or Supervisory Boards, at least one-third. Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel et de Résolution should review the intensity and frequency of on-site supervision and its relationship to off-site supervision. With several other meetings with insurance companies possible, some of these meetings may be close to be called as focused on-site inspections.