Category Archives: market risk

The worst insurance policy in the world

Aviva in France is still dealing with having written the worst insurance policy in the world. From the sounds of things, they weren’t alone in this foible. It’s also hard to say as an outsider what the right or reasonable resolution to their current problem is, but here is the policy that they wrote.

  • Buy a policy
  • Choose what funds you want to invest in
  • Unit prices calculated each Friday
  • Allow policyholders to switch funds on old prices until the next week
  • Hope like hell policyholders don’t switch out of poorly performing funds into well performing funds with perfect information based on backwards, stale prices.

Inconceivable – and since I don’t know more than I read on this blog post, maybe the reality and liability is really quite different.

See the post from FT Alphaville on the man who could own Aviva France.

Banking failures in South Africa

South Africa has a pretty rich history of banking failures.  This paper, part of a masters, by Sipho Makhubela, provides an interesting over of banking failures since 1994. I haven’t read the entire paper yet, but Section 4 (starting on page 72) outlines  the background behind banking failures in South Africa and is fascinating reading in its own right.

Credit Suisse annual update on market performance

Credit Suisse has for several years now put out an annual Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook 2013 is out now.

It’s worth reading in its entirety for the insights. I don’t agree with everything there, and I certainly don’t agree with the widely held view (not among the authors) that the universe of countries included in the survey is supposed to be somehow representative of the world.

The countries chosen have an absolutely clear bias in their selection. They are successful economies with successful financial markets. They are included by virtue of their long-term success and capital growth and returns for investors.

The authors know this, but many readers don’t.  The returns per this survey are an overly rosy view of possible future returns.

Different types of predictions

As part of the run-up to my overview of my own predictions for 2012, I thought i should highlight why I bother at all.
Most predictions, most of the time, will be wrong. Crystal balls aside, it is nearly impossible to reliably, accurately predict future complex events. However, the process of rigorously considering what might happen, what could go wrong, what the drivers of change are – all of those are really useful.
But why then bother making ultimate predictions if the “process” is where the value is? As it turns out, making the final prediction is part of the process. Paying poker without money at stake is a pointless exercise; there are no consequences to poor play (be it luck or skill that was lacking).
Making that firm and final prediction is important to ensure the process was rigorous and not an off the cuff guess.
Finally, evaluating part performance can’t suggest whether the predictions are improving, whether they are consistently biased or whether the system is working.
So, most predictions are wrong, but some are useful.

SAM Risk-free Rate Workshop

The Technical Provisions Task Group and KPMG ran a workshop for industry participation on risk-free rates recently. The idea was to see whether we could improve the extent and quality of industry comment on key, controversial areas of the proposed SAM regime.

Turnout was good, but not great, but the discussion and points raised were all fantastic. Plenty more to do from here onwards, but I thought it might be useful to include the presentations somewhere publicly available.

Some of the concepts that were on the agenda

  • Swaps vs Bonds, the theory as well as practical implications for insurers, banks and the capital markets
  • Extrapolation methods and what challenges this creates for practitioners
  • Identifying and measuring illiquidity premiums, credit spreads and the difference between Expected Default Loss and Credit Risk Premiums
  • European developments on Matching Adjustments and Countercyclical Premiums. Should we follow their path? Is bottom-up or top-down more practical?
  • Do we need a methodology for nominal and/or real yield curves?
  • Non-South African countries – what is the practical answer to requiring multiple yield curves?
  • Reducing regulatory arbitrage between banks and insurers for credit and market risk on swaps and bonds

Panel Members:

  • David Kirk
  • Ian Marshall
  • Philip Harrison
  • Brian Kipps
  • Lance Osburn
  • Lindy Schmaman
  • Louis Scheepers

Presentations (reproduced with permission from the authors)

Risk free rate workshop outline November 2012

Position Paper 40 (v 3)

Philip Harrison – Risk Free SAM Workshop

Risk free yield curves Brian Kipps

Risk-free rate workshop_LSchmaman

SAM Risk Free 29 Nov012 Louis Scheepers

SAM Workshop 20121129 Lance Osburn


Up up and away

Ok, up up, down, up, down down down, up up and away.

I’ve been away furiously recruiting staff and working on QIS2 while completing a house move, so not much blogging recently. Should pick up again shortly.

The other news is of course Spanish bond yields, which were heading for the stratosphere before the latest “solutions” were proposed. This had, for me anyway, an unexpectedly long-lived impact towards depressing Spanish bond yields.

That story is over and bond yields are back up testing the highs from a week or two.  Nothing is properly fixed, so default and exit are still too likely to encourage investors to buy bonds at below these yield levels.

Lose a Million

The Make a Million competition, as I’ve mentioned before, is an awful idea. It doesn’t promote investing or even “normal” trading, but rather massive, speculative risk-taking trading because the prize for performing well is nothing and the prize for performing best is significant.

I’m continually disappointed that Moneyweb continues to partner with this distraction.

As I’ve done in the past, I’ve analysed very quickly some of the results of the most recent competition. As background to that, the basic rules are:

  1. Put up R20,000 of your own money
  2. Trade over three months in currencies, commodities single stock futures and some index trackers.
  3. Whoever has the most at the end wins a million rand
  4. Everyone keeps what is left of their initial “investment”

So let’s be clear, there are no long-term investment learnings here.

The winner did return 165.5% over 3 months, which is not an impressive performance even though it might look like it.  The point is, given the volatility of the investment universe available for the competition and the encouragement towards rampant risk-taking, it’s entirely pedestrian performance.  It’s very likely an individual’s performance will be good given the wide range of possible outcomes.

Let’s look at some other statistics

Average performance -18.4%
Annualised average performance -73.4%
Proportion making a profit 26%
Total amount won -R1 020 762
Standard Deviation of performance 48.0%
Annualised standard deviation 96%

These are not performance statistics of which to be proud. They are similar to the losses incurred in prior competitions.

So in short, the competition cost the entrants in total just over a million rand. Losing a million rand is a great way to Make a Million.