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Analysis of Systemic Risk in the Insurance Industry

Catherine Bobtcheff (), Thomas Chaney () and Christian Gollier ()

The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, 2016, vol. 41, issue 1, 73-106

Abstract: In this paper, we discuss the systemic relevance of the insurance sector. Systemic risk is defined as the propensity of a financial institution to be undercapitalised when the financial system as a whole is undercapitalised. By the law of large numbers, traditional lines of insurance with idiosyncratic non-catastrophic risks cannot be systemic. On the contrary, undiversified insurers specialised in activities whose insured risks are highly correlated with GDP are systemic. In the life insurance sector, some contractual clauses such as unhedged minimum guarantees and free options to surrender raise the chance of systemic relevance. On the contrary, life insurers satisfying the classic solvency capital requirements contribute to the liquidity of financial markets thanks to the long-termist approach of their portfolio management. Finally, using historical data in the U.S. on the contribution of different sectors to the aggregate volatility of the economy, we show that investment banking is almost twice as volatile as aggregate GDP, while insurance is one fifth as volatile as aggregate GDP. The insurance sector thus appears to be a stabilising force of the economy.

Date: 2016
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