What is best practice for matching annuities in Greece in 2012?

Best practice for matching non-profit annuities in most countries, certainly from a risk perspective, is still to cash flow match (or at the very least, match key durations) using government bonds.

The theory is that the insurer isn’t then exposed to changes in the term structure on interest rates, only exposed to illiqudity/reinvestment risk to the extent of mortality fluctuations, isn’t exposed to currency risk and certainly isn’t exposed to credit risk. Without complex margining requirements like some swaps and without the need to roll cash investments over, government bonds should allow ALM teams to sleep well.

Now, Solvency II is likely to adopt a swap yield curve rather than bond yield curve. There are some good reasons here, including arguably fewer distortions from temporary supply and demand imbalances, improved liquidity and so on. The same yield curve is used for liquid liabilities so the allowance for an illiquidity premium over and above the swap curve at some times, in some ways and for some products is still under debate.

But what should Greek insurers do in the meantime?

Frankly, Greek government bonds don’t remove credit risk and the huge credit spreads on these instruments will create huge funding gaps and variability in earnings unless a Greek govi yield curve is used to value liabilities as well. It’s not clear at all that Greece will stay part of the Euro, so German government bonds don’t remove currency risk. German government bonds in any case are show signs of nervousness as yields creep up.

The swap market is exposed to the same Euro break-up risks as bonds. Which banks will survive, what happens to currencies in the meantime and what does that do to long-term Euro swaps? What about Euro-Sterling swaps issued by Greek banks (I’m not sure if these even exist though).

All in all, it’s good to be involved in ALM in South Africa, and even the Middle East just at the moment.