Variable annuities see a resurgence in popularity

This article in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) takes a look at how life insurers have restructured variable annuities in recent years. Here is an excerpt from the story:

In a trend gathering momentum, the life insurers that sell these tax-advantaged vehicles for investing in funds are competing on the basis of investment choices. That’s what they did in the 1980s and 1990s, before launching an arms race of escalating promises of guaranteed-minimum lifetime income, even if underlying funds tanked.

That competition cost the industry dearly when markets slid in 2008 and early 2009, leading to price increases and less-generous features as insurers sought to repair their balance sheets. With the new offerings, insurers are drawing on the past but adding a twist: They are pitching variable annuities as a smart way to load up on alternative investments.

While many insurers did see losses in 2008 and 2009, those with sufficient hedging in place fared better. Milliman research indicates that hedging strategies saved insurers $40 billion in September and October of 2008.

The Milliman Managed Risk Strategy offers similar risk management techniques to pensions through hedging strategies that seek to maximize clients’ asset growth in bull markets while defending against losses in down markets.

For Milliman’s insight into the variable annuity industry, click here.

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