The views of Conning’s investment and insurance professionals have been sought by media reporting on the fallout of investment markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Quotes from Conning’s representatives are featured below, along with links to the full articles where available (some may be subscriber-access only).
COVID-19 Readiness: The safety of our employees and serving the needs of our clients are Conning’s top priorities. Our company has robust processes in place to ensure business continuity, and while we recognize the current COVID-19 pandemic is a dynamic situation, our global offices have responded quickly to put in place best practices to continue to provide a high level of service to our clients. Read Conning Holdings Limited Readiness Statement here.
Gallant Steeds or One-Trick Ponies? The World's Central Banks React to a Pandemic
Conning’s Rich Sega examines the significant steps the world’s central banks have taken to help offset the economic calamities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The banks have historically flooded markets with money in response to a crisis, but will it work this time? And what are the risks?
The Conning Commentary: Insurance Industry Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic
The May Conning Commentary offers an in-depth review of the COVID-19 pandemic business interruption creating challenges for insurance companies, and also reports on how property and casualty, life and annuity, and health insurers are faring during this period, as well as a look at what may be next.
COVID-19 and Poor Countries: The Right Response
The world’s poorest countries affected by COVID-19 are in need of financial assistance, but Conning affiliate Global Evolution, a manager of emerging and frontier markets debt, argues that any solution must be driven by the principle of “crowding in” market-based finance through market confidence-building measures.
By Stephen Bailey-Smith, Senior Economist, Global Evolution, “COVID-19 and Poor Countries: The Right Response,” April 2020
(Global Evolution is an affiliate of Conning Holdings Limited)
Rich Sega Featured in Insurance Asset Risk
“I think one of the things to consider which would be very good for the future, not for now, is the energy market. “There’s no possible way the world’s energy demands can be satisfied with oil price at -$35 a barrel. It’s going back up to the 40s or even 50s.”
Rich Sega, Global Chief Investment Strategist, “Right Now is Best Time to Buy Energy Assets, says Conning,” Insurance Asset Risk, April 30, 2020
Woody Bradford Speaks with AM Best TV
CEO Woody Bradford told AM Best TV that technological advances have been instrumental in enabling asset managers and insurance companies to make the large shift to work from home.Watch Here
Woody Bradford On Crisis Leadership, Investment Opportunities, and How the Future of Work is Changing
CEO Woody Bradford was featured in LinkedIn’s “Human Capital” column, a series focused on influential leaders in the financial services industry. He discussed crisis leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, investment opportunities in a volatile market, how Conning is working from home yet staying close to clients, and how the future of work is changing.
Credit Market Update: Fallen Angels, Fed Liquidity Programs and Conning's Market Outlook
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant downgrades in U.S. corporate credit and a growing number of “fallen angels” – credits that were investment grade but have since fallen to a below-investment-grade rating. In a Q&A, Matt Daly, head of Corporate and Municipal Teams, discusses current credit market dynamics and opportunities for insurers that steer clear of fallen angels.
Matt Daly in CIO Magazine
None of this would be possible without the Fed’s intervention. The Fed surprised everybody with its late-March announcement of a foray into buying corporate bonds, which it had previously eschewed as too risky. “The Fed showed us it wasn’t out of powder. It became more creative.”
Matt Daly, Head of Corporate and Municipal Teams, “Despite Fed Backstop, Junk Bonds Still Face Big Trouble,” CIO Magazine, April 28, 2020
Conning ConnText Podcast: Quarterly Investment Outlook
The economic shutdown may have helped “bend the curve” in limiting greater contagion to COVID-19 but recovering from the shutdown will be another battle. The concerns and potential opportunities are discussed in our quarterly Conning ConnText podcast, hosted by Rich Sega, Global Chief Investment Strategist, and featuring Matt Daly, Head of Corporate and Municipal Teams, and Paul Norris, Head of Structured Products.
Paul Norris Comments on the Demand for Asset-Backed Securities in the Current Market
“I’m so shocked that we’re here so fast,” said Paul Norris, head of structured products at Conning. He attributed the rapid bounceback to the Federal Reserve’s expansive support for markets, saying he bought asset-backed securities recently because the Fed-inspired rally “created an opportunity for a lot of investors.”
Paul Norris, Head of Structured Products, “The Reach for Yield Survives Coronavirus Market Shock,” The Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2020
Illiquidity is insurers' main concern currently, Conning says
“Many of the top companies had their assets in high demand so that their prices were high (and yields were low) relative to where our analysts assessed fair value to be. The repricing during the virus crisis lowered those prices much closer to fair.”
Rich Sega, Global Chief Investment Strategist, “Illiquidity is insurers' main concern currently, Conning says,” Insurance Asset Risk, April 24, 2020
Stress Testing Scenarios for COVID-19
Conning is making available to our colleagues in the insurance and pension industries free of charge a selection from our GEMS® Stress Test Scenarios package, which includes historical scenarios with similarities to the current economic climate and a new scenario file based on 2020 YTD data. Enterprise risk modelers can use these scenarios to gain new insight into how their company might perform in the months and years ahead.
Rich Sega Explores Why the Pandemic Will Continue to Hit the Market
"A lot of companies have gone from nicely cash-flow positive to potentially cash-flow negative. Not only does that change your corporate strategy, but it also changes investment policy and investment strategy. So that's a big change."
Rich Sega, Global Chief Investment Strategist, “Despite recent market rally, pandemic will continue to hit insurers' investments,” S&P Global, April 20, 2020
Rich Sega Featured in Bloomberg
The Fed’s recent asset purchases are “masking” the actual deflationary pressure that’s in the U.S., by putting a floor under everything from government bonds to corporate credit.
“Bond Market Signals Danger on Inflation Amid Rout in Oil Price,” Bloomberg, April 20, 2020
Karel Citroen Weighs in on the Recent Municipal Market Rally
“Fundamentally, California has used its strong economic recovery to build up reserves, which it will now need to offset an expected decline in income and sales tax collections,” he said. “The success of the sale of this deal will also be indicative of the usefulness of the Municipal Liquidity Fund (MLF) the federal government has created.”
Karel Citroen, Head of Municipal Research, “Munis settle into steady after whirlwind weeks,” Bond Buyer Online, April 17, 2020
Karel Citroen Discusses the Muni Investor Demand
"We are seeing the primary market come back this week with investor demand being strong,” said Karel Citroen, head of municipal research at investment advisor Conning. “Deals are many times oversubscribed, and as such, it seems like the [Fed’s Municipal Liquidity Facility] and CARES Act programs are doing what they intended to do."
Karel Citroen, Head of Municipal Research, “California’s upsized $1.4 billion deal seen as bellwether for munis,” Bond Buyer Online, April 16, 2020
DB Plan Sponsors Should Develop a Strategy Now for the New Market Fallout
The COVID-19 market fallout may have lowered the funded status of many DB plans, but a liability-driven investment (LDI) strategy may help plans recover and prepare for the next market dislocation. Learn more in Sean Kurian’s guest column in Plan Sponsor.
COVID-19 Impact on Frontier Market Sovereign Debt
Although Global Evolution’s Frontier Market (FM) sovereign debt portfolio enjoyed some isolation relative to other pure hard currency indices, the financial market risk contagion still aggressively bled into its universe.
By Stephen Bailey-Smith, Senior Economist, Global Evolution, “Thoughts from the Frontier,” April 15, 2020
(Global Evolution is an affiliate of Conning Holdings Limited)
Conning Director: Property/Casualty Insurer M&A Fell 6% Last Year as Firming Rates Fueled Organic Growth
Property/casualty mergers and acquisitions dropped about 6% last year and will likely dip further on coronavirus-related economic uncertainty, according to a Conning report. The volume of announced deals globally fell nearly 61% to $16.1 billion in 2019. Firming rates fed organic growth in 2019 and slowed interest in acquisitions, head of insurance research and Managing Director Steve Webersen told Best’s News Service. The reason for rate hikes — such as rising losses in liability, frequency of severity and legal costs — added uncertainty to balance sheets and slowed deals.
“Conning Director: Property/Casualty Insurer M&A Fell 6% Last Year as Firming Rates Fueled Organic Growth”, Best’s Insurance News & Analysis, April 14, 2020
Sean Kurian Discusses Outsourcing Investment Management
“I think less traditional asset classes are ones in which a lot of insurance companies are putting a lot of interest to be able to reach for additional income or additional returns. And that's definitely an area where we see inflows and more interest.”
Sean Kurian, Head of Institutional Solutions, “Why insurers are increasingly outsourcing their investments,” FundFire, April 13, 2020
Matt Daly Discusses If and When the Fed Will Lend a Hand to Corporate Bond Programs
"There are still a lot of details that need to be worked out, such as the timing and how they are executing the programme. But it has helped with liquidity and helped with the front-end of the curve, where we’re starting to see pockets of normalisation."
Matt Daly, Head of Corporate and Municipal Teams, “Fed's promise lends an invisible hand,” Reuters, April 9, 2020
Don Townswick Discusses Stock Buybacks with CIO
The rough road the market has traveled since late February needs to smooth out considerably, however, for buybacks to stage any comeback. “We need relative normalcy. They’re off the table for the foreseeable future.”
Don Townswick, Director of Equity Strategies, “Why Now-Reviled Stock Buybacks Will Rise Anew,” CIO, April 7, 2020
Stress Testing in the Pandemic Age
Economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic may seem unprecedented, but there are similarities to the 2008 financial crisis and other past market dislocations. Learn more about how stress testing based on historical scenarios can help inform insurers’ financial decision-making today.
Clear Path Analysis Pension Plan De-Risking Q&A
The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder to DB pension plan sponsors of the potential value of a disciplined de-risking strategy. Conning’s Sean Kurian discusses sponsor concerns in this Q&A.
Rich Sega Featured in Reactions
"Companies are slowing the pace of their [development] investment to create adequate short-term positions. We are urging companies not to force the liquidisation of their portfolios - the underlying fundamentals of the U.S. economy are still good."
Rich Sega, Global Chief Investment Strategist, “Surviving the storm,” Reactions, April 2020
Karel Citroen Looks at Possible Solutions for Government Sponsors During Pandemic
"It will have to come down to structural reform. I just don't see how you're going to address pension funding issues you see in this country without addressing the entitlement side of it."
Karel Citroen, Head of Municipal Research, “Underfunded public plans facing a new round of woes,” Pensions & Investments, April 6, 2020
COVID-19 Effect on the Insurance Industry
While the COVID-19 pandemic provides insurers an opportunity to demonstrate their value, the decline in asset values as well as direct and secondary loss exposure will pressure balance sheets for certain insurers. View Conning’s overview of the industry impact, as well as individual reports focusing on the life/annuity, property and casualty, and health segments.
Karel Citroen on the Current Municipal Market Amid Coronavirus Volatility
“The spread widening is causing deals that were set to price, either get repriced or postponed, not showing up as day-to-day.”
Karel Citroen, Head of Municipal Research, “Munis again roiled by coronavirus-led volatility as spread-widening grows,” The Bond Buyer, April 2, 2020
Don Townswick Weighs in on the Current State of Market Volatility
“There was an unbelievable amount of uncertainty when this whole crisis started. There was really no clarity on how this would impact companies’ earnings. As time goes by, we’ve seen an increasing number of infections but there’s been a reduction in a nightmare scenario amid help from fiscal stimulus.”
Don Townswick, Director of Equity Strategies, “Stocks stabilize as investors brace for another volatile week,” USA TODAY, March 30, 2020
Portfolio Income Opportunities Amid Market Distress
Insurers may wish to take advantage of the current market dislocation to potentially enhance portfolio income without having to invest new cash or assume a significant amount of additional risk.
Karel Citroen on the Current Municipal Market and Proposed Action from Washington
“It is very well possible that following the correction we have seen in the equity and fixed income markets, investors are looking more closely at credit and are feeling more comfortable with municipal bonds than they do with other credit products.”
Karel Citroen, Head of Municipal Research, “Munis rally on hope of stimulus, Fed action from Washington,” The Bond Buyer, March 24, 2020
How Conning Adapted its Business for the Time of Coronavirus
“Nobody knows how long we’ll be in these circumstances. I think many things we’re going to learn in the next few weeks and months will profoundly change the way we work.”
Woody Bradford, CEO, “How Conning Adapted its Business for the Time of Coronavirus,” FundFire, March 24, 2020Read More
Coronavirus Slump: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
"The broader indices are down 20% to 25% which is a big hit to any position you have. But our feeling is it is transient. It is not a fundamental problem with companies because they are not overleveraged. They were doing well four weeks ago."
Rich Sega, Global Chief Investment Strategist, “Coronavirus slump: the good, the bad and the ugly,” Insurance Asst Risk, March 2020
Structured Credit is Dislocated and Help is Needed
“The phone literally does not stop ringing. It’s more than a full-time job to triage all the opportunities in front of you, sort them out and pick and choose which ones are the best.”
Paul Norris, Head of Structured Products, “Structured Credit Is Dislocated and Help Is Needed, Conning Says,” Bloomberg News, March 24, 2020
Rich Sega Discusses U.S. Stocks and the Coronavirus Pandemic
“There’s no clarity. We don’t know what the real effects from these monetary and fiscal policies are going to be. We need to see data that shows that the infection rate has peaked."
Rich Sega, Global Chief Investment Strategist, “Coronavirus updates: Donald Trump signs emergency aid package as US death toll hits 150; 2 congressmen test positive; Malls closing,” USA Today, March 19, 2020
Higher Education's Vulnerabilities Exacerbated by Coronavirus Pandemic
“It’s important to look at what you own and which ones don’t have those resources to fall back on, and it’s potentially a big risk. I’m not as concerned by that sector yet, (the trouble is with the) lower-rated issuers we would have avoided at Conning in the first place.”
Karel Citroen, Head of Municipal Research, “Higher education’s vulnerabilities exacerbated by coronavirus pandemic,” Debtwire, March 18, 2020
Do NOT Take a Bunch of Cash Out of the Bank Because of the Coronavirus
"The banking sector is so much better capitalized right now than it was during the 2008 financial crisis. Regulations have only benefited them. Liquidity is there.”
Matt Daly, Head of Corporate & Municipal Teams, “Do NOT take a bunch of cash out of the bank because of coronavirus,” CNN Business, March 18, 2020
Karel Citroen on the Effects the Coronavirus Pandemic May Have on State Budgets
“And looking ahead, states that are already struggling to meet the rising retirement costs for their workforce will face even more trouble, as pension systems fail to meet their investment targets amid volatile markets. ‘That is going to have long-term budget implications,’ ” [Citroen] said.
Karel Citroen, Head of Municipal Research, “States’ Economic Preparedness is Highest Since 2000, Pew Says,” Bloomberg, March 18, 2020Read More
What's the Answer to Low Returns for Pension Programs? Alts
“It’s tough to adjust downward. Now, 10-year Treasuries are below 1%.”
Sean Kurian, Head of Institutional Solutions, “What’s the Answer to Low Returns for Pension Programs? Alts,” CIO.com, March 17, 2020
COVID-19 Update: Contagion and Containment
The COVID-19 virus that started as a China-only issue with ramifications to supply chains has now gone global with adverse implications to consumer behaviour, capital investment and growth. In Europe, government containment initiatives have in some cases been draconian but time will tell if they stop the virus from spreading. Meanwhile, oil and base metals face downward pressure and the narrative of an emerging-market-led global upswing in 2020 seems a distant memory.
By Michael Wainø Hansen, Senior Strategist, Global Evolution, “COVID-19 Update: Contagion and Containment”
(Global Evolution is an affiliate of Conning Holdings Limited)
Don Townswick Discusses the Benefits of Stock Buybacks
“When your stock price is undervalued, buybacks become more attractive. At these levels in the marketplace, smart management is looking at this and thinking, ‘This is the time to actually realize those buybacks. We’re buying our stock 15% below where we thought it was.’ ”
Don Townswick, Director of Equity Strategies, “Stock Buybacks Dry Up Just When the Market Could Use Them Most,” Bloomberg, March 11, 2020Read More
JP Morgan Shrugs Off Volatility to Print US$2.25bn Bond
"Clearly this becomes a more challenging environment for banks to make money when you look at Treasury markets and investment banking fees. [But] if some of the larger money center banks widen out 50bp-60bp that could be an example of a good opportunity to invest in a company with a durable balance sheet."
Matt Daly, Head of Corporate & Municipal Teams, “JP Morgan shrugs off volatility to print US$2.25bn bond,” IFR News, March 10, 2020
A Fed Rate Cut Won't Cure What's Ailing the Stock Market
“Fed monetary will at least provide ‘psychological relief,’ said Rich Sega.”
Rich Sega, Global Chief Investment Strategist, “A Fed rate cut won’t cure what’s ailing the stock market,” Fortune, March 2, 2020
Conning Comments on the Rising Threat of Coronavirus to the Insurance Industry
“A greater exposure for insurers is to pay out for event cancellations, said Steven W. Webersen, head of research at Conning, citing an increasingly common response to the virus. Insurers have yet to advise investors of lower profit and revenue expectations, he said. The industry is taking a ‘risk management approach as it would other risks,’ he said.”
Steven Webersen, Head of Insurance Research, “Businesses see the coronavirus as a new threat, but planning for uncertainty is part of the playbook for Hartford firms,” Hartford Courant, March 3, 2020Read More
COVID-19 and Global Pandemics
“While past pandemics may help insurers prepare for the next one, there will always be uncertainty. Companies should consider stress-testing a range of scenarios as they prepare for not only the financial impact of the next pandemic, but also the possible impact on their own workforce. The insurance industry can play an important role in financing the effects of pandemic outbreaks.”
Dan Erickson, Vice President, Insurance Research, “COVID-19 and global pandemics”, The Conning Commentary, March 3, 2020