Variable Annuity Volatility Management

An era of risk-control

The global Financial Crisis motivated insurers offering guaranteed variable annuity (VA) products to innovate risk management solutions that mitigate risk exposure to sharp spikes in equity market volatility. Asset transfer programs, “risk-control” funds of various forms, and market-linked fees and benefits have become common fixtures within new guaranteed VA products, with risk-control funds gaining prevalence.

The rapid introduction of these solutions left little time for insurers to evaluate the optimal balance of risk management benefits against client perception of value. Subsequent performance highlighted the shortcomings in risk-control fund performance benchmarks and has fueled a client perception that these funds erode the “upside potential” of VAs. As a result, several manufacturers who embraced these solutions are now partially or completely unwinding their solutions with substantial impacts on balance sheet risk and economics.

This paper examines the properties of alternative volatility management solutions from the perspective of both policyholders and guarantee manufacturers, with a focus on the role of volatility-indexed fees in a potential “next generation” solution. Its purpose is to provide a framework for manufacturers to evaluate the trade-offs associated with each solution, as well as the implications of certain features.

Variable Annuity Volatility Management

An Era of Risk-Control