CATASTROPHE BONDS – Fortune From The Disaster

Catastrophe Bonds simply were known as the “Cat Bonds” is a financial instrument where the issuer issues bonds for re-insurance against the natural disaster or a catastrophe. The insurance company issues bonds as collateral against the catastrophe insurance. Cat bonds have a high yielding feature with a duration of 2 years to 5 years. Cat bonds transfer the risk of insurance into the capital market.

History for development of cat bonds can be traced back in the 1990s when the claims filed by clients against hurricane Andrew couldn’t be acknowledged and the insurance industry suffered humongous losses. Many insurance companies that earlier provided catastrophe risks decided to leave the insurance sector and about eleven insurance companies filed for bankruptcy. Therefore, there was a need to cover the capital by catastrophe insurance-linked bonds.

Working of the CAT Bond:

As this bond transfers the risk from insurance company to the financial markets. The amount which is pooled out from the investors is transferred to the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). There is a reinsurance agreement between the SPV and the insurance company which dictates the terminology and clauses for the amount to be paid during the catastrophe. The SPV invests it into the capital market and to manage the security. The returns from the financial market are further passed to investors of cat bonds. They are mostly invested in money market instruments with low risk. They are high yield debt instruments. These SPVs fulfill the claims of the risk carrier i.e. insurance company if any catastrophe occurs or as the terms of an agreement are fulfilled.

For instance, a family living in Florida where hurricanes are most likely to happen they approach for Hurricane insurance from the General Insurance Company. The insurance company will provide such insurance since they get good premiums but still hang back because if the hurricane occurs they will have to pay a huge amount as indemnity. The solution to the problem is by issuing cat bonds they won’t incur huge losses. If the event is not triggered at the maturity then the collateral account by SPV will be liquidated and the proceeds will be returned to the investor. But if the event triggers then the collateral is liquidated where some or all the proceeds are passed on to the sponsor.

Figure 1: Process of CAT Bonds
Source

Investor’s Perpective:

A cat bond is a lookalike corporate bond with a pre-determined coupon rate. These bonds are not related in any way to the global markets. A financial crisis has nothing to do with the trigger of a natural disaster or catastrophe. They are built on floating rates notes where the investor benefits the return not only from the risk premium of the cat bond sponsor but also the returns from the money market where the pooled amount is invested. Since these bonds are not linked with capital markets, investors view such bonds to diversify their portfolios to minimize the risk related to markets. Over the years the cat bonds have shown great growth and seemed to be a lucrative investment option. Performance of cat bonds Index, Insurance-Linked Securities-Hedge Fund (ILS-HF), Equities and Bonds Index is shown below. Figure 2 to Figure 4 shows why cat bonds are considered to diversify their portfolio and have been alluring over the years.

Figure 2: Performance of Cat Bond Index versus other Financial Instruments Index
Source


 

CAT BOND

ILS HF

EQUITIES***

BONDS****

INDEX*

INDEX**


 


 

Total Return

166.4%

89.9%

124.3%

55.9%

Volatility

3%

3%

15%

5%

Annualized return

7.9%

5.1%

6.50%

3.5%

Sharpe Ratio

2.39

1.69

0.45

0.69

Figure 3: Comparing Returns and Volatility ( Source )


 

CAT BOND

ILS HF

EQUITIES***

BONDS****

INDEX*

INDEX**

Cat Bond Index*

1


 


 


 

ILS HF Index**

0.87

1


 


 

Equities***

0.18

0.1

1


 

Bonds****

0.17

0.14

0.39

1

Figure 4: Correlations ( Source )

Benefit for the Economy:

It is next to impossible to bear the shock of catastrophe alone by the insurance companies. The financial markets are stronger and capable to bear the economic effect of the catastrophe. So, to benefit the quantum of financial markets for the effect of catastrophe, was when the establishment of catastrophe bonds came into existence after Hurricane Andrew 1992.

The use of cat bonds is mainly to protect and manage risk associated with the disaster. The development of cat bonds is growing rapidly over the years for developing economies as well. Countries and regions in the risk-prone areas are many a time not insured or is backed by government funding for the upliftment of the economy.

This new insurance-linked product has led the World Bank providing a framework for the same known as the “MultiCat Program”. This has given aid to Mexico’s Caribbean islands to issue cat bonds by structuring themselves using the framework provided by the World Bank. The intrinsic value of these bonds is to provide for the recovery of the loss incurred and transfer the risk to those willing to take the risk. Financial investors have turned around to this investment option as an asset class with higher returns and low or no correlation with the financial markets. But today cat bonds are proving themselves as a social-driven investment instrument and new breed for this cat bonds are coming are known as the pandemic bonds which will help to combat the life-threatening diseases.

Indian Scenario about Cat Bonds:

When the world is booming and progressing on different financial products India cannot step back but indeed tries to be in the race. Yes, it is trying to come up with the debutant of its cat bonds in the Indian Economy. General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC), is the country’s foremost reinsurer that has come upon the thought of issuing cat bonds on the wakeup call of the Uttarakhand floods in 2012. GIC had to pay approx. 2000 crores of claims settlement from their treasure chest. E.g. If GIC issued cat bonds worth 1000 crores in 2011 with the maturity of three to five years, on triggering of the event they would have to shed only 1000 crores.

India being a developing economy, many parts of the country are risk-prone areas like aforesaid floods, cyclones, landslides and very rare symptoms of earthquakes in the regions of Rajasthan, etc. Let’s assume India agrees to pay at 12% – 14% coupon on cat bonds in India, it would likely get the subscription of Pension Funds, Hedge funds or high net worth individuals since they are attracted to benefiting from high-interest yields over the short tenure of the bonds. The government should try and come out with such bonds and mitigate the losses for its own.

Thus, Catastrophe Bonds a savior to the economy by passing on the risk to the risk bearing financial investors.

Author
Lorretta Gonsalves
Team Member- Alternate Investments (M.Sc. Finance, NMIMS – Mumbai. Batch 2019-21)

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