DP12560 | The Fragility of Market Risk Insurance

Publication Date

01/03/2018

JEL Code(s)

Keyword(s)

Programme Area(s)

Network(s)

Abstract

Insurers sell retail financial products called variable annuities that package mu- tual funds with minimum return guarantees over long horizons. Variable annuities accounted for $1.5 trillion or 34 percent of U.S. life insurer liabilities in 2015. Sales fell and fees increased after the 2008 financial crisis as the higher valuation of existing liabilities stressed risk-based capital. Insurers also made guarantees less generous or stopped offering guarantees entirely to reduce risk exposure. We develop an equilib- rium model of insurance markets in which financial frictions and market power are important determinants of pricing, contract characteristics, and the degree of market incompleteness.