Banking giant Goldman Sachs recently released the eleventh edition of its annual insurance survey. Cryptocurrency was included for the first time.
The survey of 328 chief investment officers and chief financial officers, representing nearly half the $26 trillion global insurance industry, indicated that six percent of respondents were invested in crypto or considering doing so.
While the vast majority of insurance companies responded that they weren’t invested in cryptocurrencies and weren’t considering doing so, the six percent or roughly 20 CIO’s who did respond affirmatively is surprising especially given the recent carnage in cryptocurrency markets.
“We had respondents that represented over $13 trillion worth of assets, which is about half of the global industry's assets,” said Goldman Sachs’ global head of insurance asset management and liquidity, Mike Siegel in a podcast hosted by the company. “So, we think that the survey is very representative of what the industry is thinking.”
Cryptocurrency came in fifth behind private equity, commodities, and emerging market equities; while sitting just above middle-market corporate loans, traditionally consisting of loans from banks, finance companies, and debt funds. Notably, just last week, J.P. Morgan replaced real estate with crypto among its preferred alternative assets.
This was the first time Goldman Sachs asked the insurance companies about crypto according to Siegel. A follow-up questionnaire sent by Goldman indicated the interested companies were hoping to better understand the market and infrastructure.
“If this becomes a transactable currency, they want to have the ability down the road to denominate policies in crypto. And also accept premium in crypto, just like they do in, say, dollars or yen or sterling or euro,” said Siegel. If insurance companies started accepting crypto premiums the new asset class would be another way to pay for insurance policies.
While insurers may still be reluctant to invest in cryptocurrencies directly, they have long been big proponents of blockchain technology, which in many ways is perfectly suited to a business that involves significant record-keeping, for collecting premiums, tracking claims and coordinating payments. Notably, in the most recent Forbes Blockchain 50 list, German insurance giant Allianz and Irish giant Aon both used blockchain for various applications but hadn’t yet publicly disclosed any direct use of assets issued on a blockchain.
For the few insurance companies that do invest in cryptocurrencies, the preferred vehicles are those that don’t require direct exposure, according to an S&P Global report.
NYDIG, a subsidiary of $11 billion (assets), Stone Ridge of New York, is a provider of technology and investment solutions for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The firm has helped raise funds for several insurers since 2020 including Starr, Liberty Mutual, New York Life, and MassMutual have formed partnerships with NYDIG.
It turns out it might not be a coincidence that the known insurance companies working with crypto are largely based in the U.S. According to the Goldman report, singling out only U.S.-based insurers would increase the crypto interest level to 11% versus 6% for insurance companies globally. “The vast majority of insurers are not considering investing in cryptocurrencies,” according to the report. “American insurers are slightly more interested.”