In a great world, the set of indices underlying a set index annuity (FIA) would stay unchanged all through the product’s lifespan. Advisers would do their analysis, make suggestions, and proceed to trace the identical set of indices.
In actuality, nonetheless, carriers generally withdraw an index from additional funding, citing “capability points.” This may trigger frustration and anguish amongst advisers and lift questions from traders, particularly after they have put substantial effort into understanding an index that has been delivering good returns.
How can advisers clarify to their shoppers that, irritating although it might appear, carriers are the truth is behaving responsibly by making such selections?
In a broad sense, capacity refers to the assets under management (AUM) beyond which a strategy cannot achieve performance over time matching its stated return objectives or expectations. Reaching capability is a cause a hedge fund could shut a fund to new traders, so defending the pursuits of present traders. Within the case of the risk-control indices utilized in FIAs, the concerns are comparable, though not similar.
When a service points an FIA, it often engages a number of banks as hedge suppliers to supply the choices on the indices that compose the FIA. The hedge suppliers commerce the parts of those FIA indices within the markets, replicating the indices’ efficiency and “delta hedging” the choices they’ve bought to the service. The determine beneath illustrates the connection.
The Completely different Entities Concerned in an FIA
If this hedging exercise makes up a major fraction of the day by day buying and selling in a specific part of an FIA index — for instance, a inventory or an exchange-traded fund (ETF) — it might have a fabric impact on the part’s value. If, say, a hedger wants to purchase $100 million of a inventory, and the typical day by day quantity traded is $200 million, the hedging would signify 50% of the standard day by day liquidity. This hedging exercise could feed again into the extent of the FIA index itself, doubtlessly to the detriment of the efficiency of the FIA — and the retirees who’ve purchased it.
Each the service and the index sponsor ought to want to keep away from this case — the service for the sake of its finish shoppers, and the index sponsor for the integrity of its index.
The capability of an index just isn’t a hard-and-fast quantity, however moderately a tenet quantity at which the required hedging exercise could have a non-negligible impact on index efficiency. Within the case of an FIA index, capability is estimated by the hedge supplier on the time it agrees to begin promoting the choices to the service.
So how would possibly points happen?
The best case is when an FIA sells very efficiently. That is probably pushed by robust efficiency of a number of of the risk-control indices used within the FIA, attracting inflows. The service should purchase extra choices from the hedge supplier, which in flip should hedge a larger quantity. Everyone seems to be glad, till the required hedge quantity of one of many FIA indices approaches the capability of that index.
And what about altering market circumstances? The danger-control indices utilized in FIAs are usually composed of different indices, ETFs, shares, and futures. Part liquidity can change markedly over time. An underlying ETF may even see lowered volumes if it underperforms and traders withdraw; or an underlying future could turn into thinly traded, with lowered open curiosity. In each circumstances, the drop in liquidity can cut back the capability of the risk-control index.
ICLN: An Illustration
Within the ETF world, the iShares Global Clean Energy ETF (ticker: ICLN) offers a good example of an index capacity issue. The ETF was launched in 2008, however as traders responded to the sustainability narrative and clear vitality grew to become a key initiative of the Joseph Biden administration, the US ETF’s AUM surged from round $700 million to about $5 billion, whereas the corresponding European model monitoring the identical index additionally grew to round $5 billion. The ETF was additionally a preferred underlying for US structured merchandise, making a hidden demand for the shares. The problem was that the underlying index solely had 30 constituents, two of which have been small, illiquid shares listed in New Zealand.
When it got here time to rebalance, the ETF wanted to promote 40 to 50 occasions the day by day liquidity of those two shares. That might have pushed vital value actions. After consultations, the index sponsor, S&P, took a drastic step: It redesigned the index and elevated the variety of shares to a goal of 100.
Whereas this instance applies to an ETF, not an FIA, it demonstrates how altering market circumstances and demand can create critical capability points in index-linked merchandise.
So, if index capability just isn’t a pre-set, hardcoded quantity, how can carriers finest keep away from future capability points when choosing risk-control indices?
Index capability relies upon totally on the liquidity of the underlying devices: often different indices, ETFs, shares, and futures. Cautious choice is due to this fact important. However index capability additionally is determined by the weighting mechanism that allocates to those devices, the rebalancing mechanism that implements these weightings, and the risk-control mechanism that maintains the index’s volatility at its goal degree.
The demand for an index, its efficiency, and market circumstances all change over time, difficult product builders and their hedge suppliers to ensure provision of an index over the annuities’ longer time scales. Carriers must take detailed elements of index design into consideration when performing due diligence on proposed risk-control indices.
With acceptable scrutiny, they’ll maximize the probabilities of avoiding capability points sooner or later.
When you favored this publish, don’t neglect to subscribe to the Enterprising Investor.
All posts are the opinion of the creator. As such, they shouldn’t be construed as funding recommendation, nor do the opinions expressed essentially replicate the views of CFA Institute or the creator’s employer.
Picture credit score: ©Getty Photos / GoodLifeStudio
Skilled Studying for CFA Institute Members
CFA Institute members are empowered to self-determine and self-report skilled studying (PL) credit earned, together with content material on Enterprising Investor. Members can document credit simply utilizing their online PL tracker.