Tag Archives: life insurance

New developments in the computation of mortality rates: An actuary’s bread and butter

The computation of mortality rates has traditionally been the bread and butter of actuaries. The first mathematicians to venture into the actuarial field most likely spent their days analysing mortality rates and conducting life valuations. Nowadays, the work of actuaries is much more varied—which is a welcome development for most—but are we sometimes neglecting this core skill?

Milliman researchers in Paris certainly aren’t and their new research, hot off the press, published on 22 February 2017, represents a significant development in mortality and longevity risk modelling. It is vital reading for anyone working in this sphere.

My colleagues have developed a robust statistical methodology to correct the implicit inaccuracies of national mortality tables which are used widely in sophisticated mortality and longevity risk modelling. The results are striking.

Here I take a closer look at the relevance of these national mortality tables, the problems with them, and the corrections available in order to enhance mortality and longevity risk models. I will touch on the key technical points behind these developments from an Irish/UK perspective, leaving the rigorous mathematical explanations to the underlying research publications—the 2017 publication can be found here and the 2016 publication can be found here.

The use of national mortality tables
In Ireland and the UK, to set basic mortality assumptions in our pricing and reserving work, we tend to use insured lives mortality tables, such as the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) tables. However, national mortality tables based on the population as a whole are also used extensively in mortality and longevity risk modelling, where a greater quantity of data is required.

National mortality tables are used to calibrate stochastic mortality models, to derive mortality improvement assumptions, in sophisticated mortality risk management models, in Solvency II internal models, in pricing mortality/longevity securitisations, and in bulk annuity transactions.

Bulk annuity transactions are popular in the UK market, with a number of large deals executed during 2016, including the ICI Pension Fund’s two buy-in deals completed in the wake of Brexit, totalling £1.7 billion. Legal & General completed a £2.5 billion buyout agreement with the TRW Pension Scheme in 2014.

Longevity hedging (in particular, use of longevity swaps) is also an attractive approach to the de-risking of pension schemes, and would equally require the use of national mortality tables. Transactions range from the large-scale £5 billion Aviva longevity swap in 2014 to the recent, more modest, £300 million longevity swap completed between Zurich and SCOR in January 2017.

While the use of internal models to calculate mortality and longevity risk capital requirements under Solvency II is not prevalent in the Irish market, which is due to the size of companies and the amount of risk retained, it is likely that reinsurers are looking at such models. In the UK, larger companies may opt to use internal models if they are retaining large exposures.

Indeed, national mortality tables also typically inform mortality improvement assumptions for all companies, as the analysis of improvements requires large volumes of data. Therefore, even companies that do not use sophisticated mortality and longevity risk modelling techniques are implicitly impacted by the new developments in relation to the construction of national mortality tables.

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At last: Product innovation in the European life insurance market

The Solvency II requirements, combined with the low interest rate environment, have resulted in a trend toward insurers seeking innovative product structures to improve customer return, while minimising capital requirements. In Germany, a number of large insurers have effectively stopped marketing their traditional insurance products to focus on more innovative products, including Constant Proportion Portfolio Insurance (CPPI), index-linked products, static and dynamic hybrids, variable annuities, etc. However, there is often a balancing act between increasing customer return, through the inclusion of investment guarantees, and minimising capital requirements for market risk.

My colleagues in Germany recently published a research report analysing three products in the German market from a capital efficiency perspective. The products include Allianz’s “Perspektive” and “Index Select” and Zurich’s “VorsorgeInvest Premium.” Each product offers attractive investment guarantees to policyholders, with the type of guarantee varying by product. However, the guarantees are structured in such a way as to reduce market risk, compared with traditional insurance products in the German market, resulting in improved capital efficiency.

Asset management techniques need to be considered to fund the investment guarantees offered by these products. In a low interest rate environment with high volatility, the costs associated with hedging investment guarantees can be very high. However, volatility control techniques have emerged as a way to reduce the costs of hedging investment guarantees. Using such techniques, a dynamic investment strategy can be adopted to invest heavily in equities to maximise return when markets are relatively stable, but limit equity exposure during periods of high volatility. The Milliman Managed Risk Strategy (MMRS) is an example of such an investment strategy. The research report discusses this in more detail and compares MMRS to a CPPI investment strategy in terms of policyholder return and capital efficiency.

For more information on this topic, please see the Capital Efficient Products in the European Life Insurance Market research report, authored by Marco Ehlscheid and Dr. Matthias Wolf.

This blog post is part of an ongoing series of blog posts on capital efficiency. To see past posts in this series, please click here.

Top 15 U.S. articles and reports for 2016


In 2016, Milliman consultants wrote articles and worked on studies covering a range of practices and areas. Healthcare was a hot topic again this year, and topics included value-based payments, risk adjustment, and the Medicaid managed care rule. Other articles—about student loan debt and daily fantasy sports—were also popular. Here’s a preview of the top 15 U.S. articles and reports for the year.

15. Financial analysis of ACA health plan issuers, By Daniel J. Perlman and David M. Liner

14. Are you ready for the new world of value-based reimbursement?, By Marla Pantano

13. Encounter data standards: Implications for state Medicaid agencies and managed care entities from final Medicaid managed care rule, By Jeremy Cunningham, Maureen Tressel Lewis, and Paul R. Houchens

12. The elusive nature of private exchanges, By Mike Gaal

11. Money market update for 2016: The rule that you should be aware of, By Jeffrey T. Marzinsky

For a summary and link to all of the articles, click here.

Top 15 global articles and reports for 2016


Milliman’s most viewed articles worldwide in 2016 covered topics including pensions, student loans, value-based payments—and Pokemon Go. There were also pieces on Solvency II, encounter data standards, and managed care regulations. Here is a preview of the top 15 global articles and reports for the year.

15. Financial analysis of ACA health plan issuers, By Daniel J. Perlman and David M. Liner

14. Telemedicine and the long-tail problem in healthcare, By Jeremy Kush and Susan Philip

13. Public Pension Funding Study, By Rebecca A. Sielman

12. Life insurance risks: Observations on Solvency II and the modeling of capital needs, By Stephen H. Conwill

11. Encounter data standards: Implications for state Medicaid agencies and managed care entities from final Medicaid managed care rule, By Jeremy Cunningham, Maureen Tressel Lewis, and Paul R. Houchens

For a summary and link to all of the articles, click here.

An invitation to 20/20 Beyond the Numbers: EV in Asia

Join Milliman consultants for a deeper dive beyond the numbers in an exclusive webinar on the implications of the recently published study, Embedded Values in Asia 2015. The webinar will include a 20-minute presentation led by Milliman Principal and Consulting Actuary Paul Sinnott, followed by a brief Q&A session.

Date: Wednesday, 7 December
Time: 12 noon Hong Kong time

To confirm your participation please RSVP here before 28 November. Registered participants will receive a link to the webinar and local/toll-free numbers for most countries in the Asia-Pacific region a few days prior to the webinar.

PRIIPS may lead to increased competition on a smaller range of products

Financial firms are facing significant technical and resource challenges because of the upcoming European-wide Packaged Retail and Insurance-based Investment Products (PRIIPs) regulations. These regulations are aimed at improving comparability of investment products and reducing the risk of consumers buying products that don’t meet their needs. Embracing these changes could improve customers’ outcomes and their understanding of investment products. Milliman consultant Karl Murray offers some perspective in this Finance Dublin article.