Catastrophe (cat) bonds are a form of insurance-linked securities (ILS), also known as insurance securitization, where insurers transfer risk, usually from a catastrophe or natural disaster through a sponsor, typically a reinsurer, to investors. Insurers and reinsurers typically issue cat bonds through a special purpose vehicle, a company set up specifically for this purpose. Cat bonds pay high interest rates and diversify an investor's portfolio because natural disasters occur randomly, and are not correlated with other economic risk. Depending on how a cat bond is structured, if losses reach the threshold specified in the bond offering, the investor may lose all or part of the principal or interest.
Other forms of insurance-linked securities are based on life, longevity and mortality, and are generally used to raise risk capital for life insurers as well as spread risk, according to Artemis. These securities allow investors to diversify their asset portfolios and provide a process for investors to share in the returns of the life insurance business.
According to Artemis, catastrophe bond and other insurance linked-securities issuance fell to $11.1 billion in 2019, down from $13.9 billion in 2018. In 2019, capital outstanding stood at $40.7 billion, compared with $37.6 billion in 2018. By December 2020 issuance was $16.1 billion and capital outstanding stood at $46.0 billion. The breakdown of issuance by type of transaction is $11 billion for property catastrophe bonds (68 percent of total issuance in 2020), $4 billion for mortgage ILS deals (25 percent) and $1.1 billion for other types of ILS including specialty, life, mortality and private deals (7 percent).