Tim Antonelli, CFA, FRM, SCR, Multi-Asset Strategist, Wellington Management
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Is that light at the proverbial end of the long tunnel that was 2020 – 2021? At least from an investment standpoint, it’s starting to feel that way for many of our insurance clients — not that 2021 has been without major challenges and volatility, or that 2022 doesn’t pose continued risks (including the fast-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19), but there seems to be a sense of cautious optimism heading into the new year that’s been missing since early 2020.
The COVID-19 crisis has galvanized the global insurance industry in many ways and has forced insurers to reassess all aspects of their business. We have observed a noticeable uptick in insurer requests for strategic asset allocation studies, a spike in demand for actionable ideas to advance ESG integration broadly, and a growing desire to address climate-related risks and opportunities specifically. We have also seen insurers focus on all flavors of risk capital, both regulatory and rating agency-driven, with the goal of optimizing their portfolios accordingly. Finally, the industry is dusting off its inflation protection blueprints to prepare for the mounting threat of higher inflation in the period ahead.
Thus, our 2022 outlook for global insurers is framed around the three key themes of: 1) inflation; 2) capital; and 3) ESG, taking into account that these topics do not neatly lend themselves to cookie cutter, “one-size-fits-all” solutions because no two insurers are exactly alike.