Catastrophe bond

Catastrophe bond

Catastrophe bonds (also known as cat bonds) are risk-linked securities that transfer a specified set of risks from a sponsor to investors. They are often structured as floating rate corporate bonds whose principal is forgiven if specified trigger conditions are met. They are typically used by insurers as an alternative to traditional catastrophe reinsurance.

For example, if an insurer has built up a portfolio of risks by insuring properties in Florida, then it might wish to pass some of this risk on so that it can remain solvent after a large hurricane. It could simply purchase traditional catastrophe reinsurance, which would pass the risk on to reinsurers. Or it could sponsor a cat bond, which would pass the risk on to investors. In consultation with an investment bank, it would create a special purpose entity that would issue the cat bond. Investors would buy the bond, which might pay them a coupon of LIBOR plus a spread, generally (but not always) between 3 and 20%. If no hurricane hit Florida, then the investors would make a healthy return on their investment. But if a hurricane were to hit Florida and trigger the cat bond, then the principal initially paid by the investors would be forgiven, and instead used by the sponsor to pay its claims to policyholders. []

Michael Moriarty, Deputy Superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department, has been at the forefront of state regulatory efforts to have U.S. regulators encourage the development of insurance securitizations through cat bonds in the United States instead of off-shore, through encouraging two different methods — protected cells and special purpose reinsurance vehicles. []

In August 2007 Michael Lewis, the author of Liar's Poker and Moneyball, wrote an article about catastrophe bonds that appeared in The New York Times Magazine, entitled "In Nature's Casino." []


The notion of securitizing catastrophe risks became prominent in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, notably in work published by Richard Sandor, Ken Froot, and a group of professors at the Wharton School who were seeking vehicles to bring more risk-bearing capacity to the catastrophe reinsurance market. The first experimental transactions were completed in the mid-1990s by AIG, Hannover Re, St. Paul Re, and USAA. The market grew to $1-2 billion of issuance per year for the 1998-2001 period, and over $2 billion per year following 9-11. Issuance doubled again to a run rate of approximately $4 billion on an annual basis in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina, and was accompanied by the development of Reinsurance Sidecars. Issuance continued to increase through 2007 despite the passing of the post-Katrina "hard market," as a number of insurers sought diversification of coverage through the market, including State Farm, Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Chubb, and Travelers, along with long-time issuer USAA. Total issuance exceeded $4 billion in the second quarter of 2007 alone.


Investors choose to invest in catastrophe bonds because their return is largely uncorrelated with the return on other investments in fixed income or in equities, so cat bonds help investors achieve diversification. Investors also buy these securities because they generally pay higher interest rates (in terms of spreads over funding rates) than comparably rated corporate instruments, as long as they are not triggered.

Key categories of investors who participate in this market include hedge funds, specialized catastrophe-oriented funds, and asset managers. Life insurers, reinsurers, banks, pension funds, and other investors have also participated in offerings.

A number of specialized catastrophe-oriented funds play a significant role in the sector, including Credit Suisse, Nephila, Fermat, Solidum Partners, Clariden Leu, Stark, Securis, Coriolis, AIG, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Secquaero Advisors, and others. Several mutual fund managers also invest in catastrophe bonds, among them OppenheimerFunds, Pioneer Investments, and PIMCO.


Cat bonds are often rated by an agency such as Standard & Poor's, Moody's, or Fitch Ratings. A typical corporate bond is rated based on its probability of default due to the issuer going into bankruptcy. A catastrophe bond is rated based on its probability of default due to an earthquake or hurricane triggering loss of principal. This probability is determined with the use of catastrophe models. Most catastrophe bonds are rated below investment grade (BB and B category ratings), and the various rating agencies have recently moved toward a view that securities must require multiple events before occurrence of a loss in order to be rated investment grade.


Most catastrophe bonds are issued by special purpose reinsurance companies domicilied in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, or Ireland. These companies typically write one or more reinsurance policies to protect buyers (most commonly, insurers or reinsurers) called "cedants." This contract may be structured as a derivative in cases in which it is "triggered" by one or more indices or event parameters (see below), rather than losses of the cedant.

Some bonds cover the risk that multiple losses will occur. The first second event bond (Atlas Re) was issued in 1999. The first third event bond (Atlas II) was issued in 2001. Subsequently, bonds triggered by fourth through ninth losses have been issued, including Avalon, Bay Haven, and Fremantle, each of which apply tranching technology to baskets of underlying events. The first actively managed pool of bonds and other contracts ("Catastrophe CDO") called Gamut was issued in 2007, with Nephila as the asset manager.

Trigger types

The sponsor and investment bank who structure the cat bond must choose how the principal impairment is triggered. Cat bonds can be categorized into four basic trigger types [Cat bonds can be categorized into four basic trigger types:] . The trigger types listed first are more correlated to the actual losses of the insurer sponsoring the cat bond. The trigger types listed farther down the list are not as highly correlated to the insurer's actual losses, so the cat bond has to be structured carefully and properly calibrated, but investors would not have to worry about the insurer's claims adjustment practices.

Indemnity: triggered by the issuer's actual losses, so the sponsor is indemnified, as if they had purchased traditional catastrophe reinsurance. If the layer specified in the cat bond is $100 million excess of $500 million, and the total claims add up to more than $500 million, then the bond is triggered.

Modeled loss: instead of dealing with the company's actual claims, an exposure portfolio is constructed for use with catastrophe modeling software, and then when there is a large event, the event parameters are run against the exposure database in the cat model. If the modeled losses are above a specified threshold, the bond is triggered.

Indexed to industry loss: instead of adding up the insurer's claims, the cat bond is triggered when the insurance industry loss from a certain peril reaches a specified threshold, say $30 billion. The cat bond will specify who determines the industry loss; typically it is a recognized agency like PCS. "Modified index" linked securities customize the index to a company's own book of business by weighting the index results for various territories and lines of business.

Parametric: instead of being based on any claims (the insurer's actual claims, the modeled claims, or the industry's claims), the trigger is indexed to the natural hazard caused by nature. So the parameter would be the windspeed (for a hurricane bond), the ground acceleration (for an earthquake bond), or whatever is appropriate for the peril. Data for this parameter is collected at multiple reporting stations and then entered into specified formulae. For example, if a typhoon generates windspeeds greater than X meters per second at 50 of the 150 weather observation stations of the Japanese Meteorological Agency, the cat bond is triggered.

Market participants

Examples of cat bond sponsors include insurers, reinsurers, corporations, and government agencies. Over time, frequent issuers have included USAA, Hartford, Swiss Re, Munich Re, Liberty Mutual, SCOR, Hannover Re, Allianz, and Tokio Marine & Fire.

To date, all direct catastrophe bond investors have been institutional investors, since all broadly distributed transactions have been distributed in that form. [] These have included specialized catastrophe bond funds, hedge funds, investment advisors (money managers), life insurers, reinsurers, pension funds, and others. Individual investors have generally purchased such securities through specialized funds.

Examples of investment banks and other dealers that are active in the issuance of catastrophe bonds are ABN AMRO, Aon Capital Markets, Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, MMC Securities Corp., Lehman Brothers, Swiss Re Capital Markets, and Willis Capital Markets. Some of these groups also make secondary markets in these bonds.


There are a number of issued US patents and pending US patent applications related to catastrophe bonds. [Examples of US patents and pending applications related to catastrophe bonds.US patent|6321212 "Financial products having a demand-based, adjustable return, and trading exchange therefore" US patent application|20050216386 "Flexible catastrophe bond"] These are examples of insurance patents. Insurance patents are a recent trend since the 1998 State Street Bank decision affirmed that business method patents were allowed by United States patent law. There are approximately 150 new patent applications filed each year on new insurance products and processes. [ [ "Statistics", Insurance IP Bulletin, December 15 2006] ] In addition, in recent times some firms have explored the use of bonds similar to CAT bonds to transfer intangible asset risk, such as the risk that a portfolio of valuable patents will be declared invalid or unenforceable. Such activities fall within the realm of intangible asset finance.


External links

# [ General information website on insurance securitizations (by Okubo)]
# [ Article "Applications of Insurance Securitization" (UChicago Business School), 10/23/00]
# [ Presentation by Diego Rangel]
# [ Mad scramble for capital fuels cat bond market, 7/16/06]
# [ "In Nature's Casino" (by Michael Lewis), New York Times Magazine, 8/26/07]
# [ Insurers Push the Cat Bond Envelope]
# [ Cat Bond Pricing Calculator]
# [ Cat Bond Pricing Using Probability Transforms (by Shaun S. Wang)]
# [ Securitization – new opportunities for insurers and investors (by Swiss Re)]
# [ Financial Innovations in Insurance - Panel Discussion in New York, January 2008]
# [ Discussion of Cat Bonds and Synthetic Cat Risk Transfer on Quantnet]
# [ Article on cat bond market, risk models and activity post-Katrina: Into the tempest, "Risk" Magazine (2006) Navroz Patel]
# [ Article on cat derivatives, ILWs and cat CDOs: For whom cat risk tolls, "Risk" Magazine (2007) Navroz Patel]
# [ Article on rising cat bond and CDO issuance: At a turning point, "Risk" Magazine (2007) Navroz Patel]
# [ Report on regulatory and market changes needed to effectively manage catastrophic risk through cat bonds and other market innovations. Milken Institute, May 2008]
# [ The US Reinsurance Under 40s Group]
# [ International Society of Catastrophe Managers]

ee also

*Catastrophe modeling
*International Society of Catastrophe Managers
*Fixed income
*Risk management
*Reinsurance Sidecar
*Captive insurance
*Alternative Risk Transfer

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