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.
With strong policy support, Finland suffered a relatively mild economic contraction in 2020 followed by a swift recovery in 2021. Medium-term growth prospects are less strong, due to adverse demographics and low productivity growth—trends that precede the pandemic. Public debt has increased due to pandemic-related support and will remain on a rising trajectory in the medium term, largely reflecting permanent spending increases.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
Much of the work of the Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the FSAP’s focus on medium-term challenges and vulnerabilities, however, many of its findings and recommendations for strengthening policy and institutional frameworks remain pertinent. This report reflects key developments and policy changes since the FSAP mission work was completed, and includes illustrative scenarios to quantify the possible implications of the COVID-19 shock on the solvency of systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs). Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Danish authorities had taken important steps to improve financial system resilience. The authorities had actively used macroprudential tools to bolster the robustness of the financial system. The supervision of the banking and insurance sectors had improved. Likewise, recent legislation has strengthened anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) supervision. Major reforms such as a new bank resolution framework had also considerably improved Denmark’s financial safety net and crisis management frameworks.
Pavol Jurca, Ján Klacso, Eugen Tereanu, Marco Forletta, and Mr. Marco Gross
We develop a semi-structural quantitative framework that combines micro and macroeconomic data to assess the effectiveness of combinations of borrower-based macroprudential measures in Slovakia. We expand on the integrated dynamic household balance sheet model of Gross and Población (2017) by introducing an endogenous loan granting feature, in turn to quantify the potential (ex-ante) impact of macroprudential measures on resilience parameters, compared with a counterfactual no-policy scenario, under adverse macroeconomic conditions. We conclude that (1) borrower-based measures can noticeably improve household and bank resilience to macroeconomic downturns, in particular when multiple measures are applied; (2) those measures tend to complement each other, as the impact of individual instruments is transmitted via different channels; and (3) the resilience benefits are more sizeable if the measures effectively limit the accumulation of risks before an economic downturn occurs, suggesting that an early, preemptive implementation of borrower-based measures is indeed warranted.
This 2019 Article IV Consultation highlights that Finland’s economy has performed well over the past three years, however, has slowed in 2019. There are some vulnerabilities in household finances, and productivity growth remains weak, with trend growth also constrained by adverse demographics. A new coalition government targets greater social support and inclusion, higher employment, carbon neutrality by 2035, and a balanced budget by 2023. A key challenge is to balance plans to increase spending with the need to maintain fiscal buffers. The fiscal expansion is expected to provide useful cyclical support in the short run, but offsetting measures will be required to ensure the structural balance reaches the government’s medium-term target. The government aims for a substantial increase in employment, but the effectiveness of the proposed wage subsidies is unclear. Alternatively, incentives from tax and benefit schedules could be improved, especially for younger women, older workers, and those out of the workforce. Risks in the banking system remain low overall, but some types of lending are increasing household vulnerabilities. The recent recommendation to limit the ratio of household debt to income is both sensible and in line with steps taken in many other countries.