Impact of Asset Allocation on Insurance Companies’ Performance : A study of the European Economic Area

University essay from Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet (USBE); Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet (USBE)

Abstract:

Insurance companies offer business and individuals the possibility to reduce the financial impact of a risk occurring by transferring it away from themselves onto someone. For taking on risk on behalf of someone else the insurance company requires a premium from the policyholder which is pooled and invested in order to meet future obligations towards the policyholder. However, the importance of the European insurance industry goes beyond economic protection of the policyholder as the industry with its EUR8.4 trillion or 58 percent of EU GDP in assets is the largest institutional investor in Europe. As the financial system has undergone dramatic transformation over time, so have the role and function of intermediaries changed. While traditional tasks like reducing transaction costs and asymmetric information became less relevant, facilitating of risk transfer and dealing with the increasing breadth and depth of financial markets are gaining more and more importance. While insurers have been able to hold illiquid asset to a larger extent arguments from the industry are made that the planned introduction of Solvency II will limit insurers and overlook their investment abilities, which is something that can affect the region’s economic development.

The above mention aspect combined with the limited research that has been conducted on insurers’ asset allocation and the performance of it resulted in the following research question:

Does asset allocation impact insurance company's performance?

The question focuses on insurers within the European Union (EU) which is enlarged by the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, where performance is measured as the return on investment (ROI). To answer the research question in the best possible way, relevant theories such as Modern Portfolio Theory or Efficient Market Hypothesis are presented and discussed as well as previous research on asset allocation. Earlier studies about asset allocation policy and its power to explain the investment return came to different conclusions which can be due to variation in the interpretation of the findings or difficulties by distinguishing between asset allocation policy and active asset allocation.

Census is used to investigate in the topic as the population of listed insurance companies within the selected region was rather small which finally came down to 42 firms due to the timeframe of 11 years. Data regarding insurer’s asset class weights in debt securities, equity, real estate, derivatives, cash and equivalent, loans and receivables and the category of others were collected. The return on investment was also collected for each year of the time period and for each insurance company. Benchmarks were constructed in order to replicate what the return of a passive investment of the same proportion would have yielded. The result was inconclusive as it was not possible to determine if asset allocation policy or active management have the greatest impact on the return on investment. This is contradicting previous research of asset allocation and performance as researchers have found that asset allocation policy explains most or all of the return.

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