Risk exposures

The Group Risk Framework deploys a common risk language, allowing meaningful comparisons to be made between different business units. Risks are broadly categorised as shown below.

The key financial and non-financial risks and uncertainties faced by the Group, and our approaches to managing them, are described below.

1 Financial risks

a Market risk

i Equity risk

In the UK business, most of our equity exposure is incurred in the with-profits fund, which includes a large inherited estate estimated at £6.8 billion as at 31 December 2010 (2009: £6.4 billion), which can absorb market fluctuations and protect the fund's solvency. The inherited estate itself is partially protected against falls in equity markets through an active hedging policy.

In Asia, a hig proportion of our in-force book is made up of unit-linked products with limited shareholder exposure to equities. We have minimal direct shareholder exposure to Asian equity markets outside our unit-linked holdings.

In the US, where we are a leading provider of variable annuities, there are well-understood risks associated with the guarantees embedded in our products. We provide guaranteed minimum death benefits (GMDB) on all policies in this class, guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefits (GMWB) on 64 per cent of the book, and guaranteed minimum income benefits (GMIB) on only six per cent. To protect the shareholders against the volatility introduced by these embedded options, we use both a comprehensive hedging programme and reinsurance. Due to the inability to economically reinsure or hedge the GMIB, Jackson ceased offering this benefit in 2009.

Category Risk type Definition
Financial risks Market risk
  • The risk that arises from adverse changes in the value of, or income from, assets and changes in interest rates or exchange rates.
  Credit risk
  • The risk of loss if another party fails to meet its obligations, or fails to do so in a timely fashion.
  Insurance risk
  • The inherent uncertainty as to the occurrence, amount and timing of insurance liabilities. This includes adverse mortality, morbidity and persistency experience.
  Liquidity risk
  • The risk that a business, though solvent on a balance sheet basis, either does not have the financial resources to meet its obligations as they fall due or can secure them only at excessive cost.
Non-financial risks Operational risk
  • The risk of direct or indirect loss resulting from inadequate or failed internal processes, people or systems, or from external events. This includes legal and regulatory compliance risk.
  Business environment risk
  • Exposure to forces in the external environment that could significantly change the fundamentals that drive the business’s overall objectives and strategy.
  Strategic risk
  • Ineffective, inefficient or inadequate senior management processes for the development and implementation of business strategy in relation to the business environment and the Group’s capabilities.

In our variable annuity sales activities, we focus on meeting the needs of conservative and risk averse customers who are seeking reliable income in retirement, and who display little tendency to arbitrage their guarantees. These customers generally select conservative investment options. We are able to meet the needs of these customers because our unique and market-leading operational platform allows us to tailor more than 3,400 product combinations.

It is our philosophy not to compete on price. Our individual guarantees tend to be more expensive than the market average because we seek to sell at a price capable of funding the cost we incur to hedge or reinsure our risks.

We use a macro approach to hedging that covers the entire risk in the US business. Within this macro approach we make use of the natural offsets that exist between the variable annuity guarantees and the fixed index annuity book, and then use a combination of OTC options and futures to hedge the residual risk, allowing for significant market shocks and limiting the amount of capital we are putting at risk. Internal positions are generally netted before any external hedge positions are considered. The hedging programme also covers the fees on variable annuity guarantees.

Jackson hedges the economics of its products rather than the accounting result. This focus means that we sometimes accept a degree of variability in our accounting results in order to ensure we achieve the appropriate economic result. Accordingly, while its hedges are effective on an economic basis, due to different accounting treatment for the hedges and some of the underlying hedged items on an IFRS basis, the reported income effect is more variable. As previously highlighted, this resulted in a negative net equity hedge accounting effect of £367 million in the period (net of related DAC amortisation) as compared to an equivalent negative effect of £159 million in 2009. During 2010, we reclassified these effects from operating profit based on longer-term investment returns to short-term fluctuations to ensure the Group's operating results better reflect Jackson's continued focus on optimising economic value.

ii Interest rate risk

Interest rate risk arises primarily from Prudential's investments in long-term debt and fixed income securities. Interest rate risk also exists in policies that carry investment guarantees on early surrender or at maturity, where claim values can become higher than the value of backing assets as a result of rises or falls in interest rates.

In the US, there is interest rate risk across the portfolio. The majority of Jackson's fixed annuity and life liabilities allow for an annual reset of the crediting rate, which provides for a greater level of discretion in determining the amount of interest rate risk to assume. The primary concerns with these liabilities relate to potential surrenders when rates increase and, in a low interest environment, the minimum guarantees required by state law. With its large fixed annuity and fixed index annuity books, Jackson has natural offsets for its variable annuity interest-rate related risks. Jackson manages interest rate exposure through a combination of interest rate swaps and interest rate options.

In the UK, the investment policy for the shareholder-backed annuity business is to match the cash flows from investments with the annuity payments. As a result, assets and liabilities are closely matched by duration. The impact on profit of any residual cash flow mismatching can be adversely affected by changes in interest rates; therefore the mismatching position is regularly monitored.

The exposure to interest rate risk arising from Asia is at modest levels.

iii Foreign exchange risk

Prudential principally operates in the UK, the US, and in 13 countries in Asia. The geographical diversity of our businesses means that we are inevitably subject to the risk of exchange rate fluctuations. Prudential's international operations in the US and Asia, which represent a significant proportion of our operating profit and shareholders' funds, generally write policies and invest in assets denominated in local currency. Although this practice limits the effect of exchange rate fluctuations on local operating results, it can lead to significant fluctuations in our consolidated financial statements when results are expressed in pounds sterling.

We do not generally seek to hedge foreign currency revenues, as these are substantially retained locally to support the growth of the Group's business and meet local regulatory and market requirements. However, in cases where a surplus arising in an overseas operation supports Group capital or shareholders' interest, this exposure is hedged if it is economically optimal to do so. Currency borrowings, swaps and other derivatives are used to manage exposures.

b Credit risk

In addition to business unit operational limits on credit risk, we monitor closely our counterparty exposures at Group level, highlighting those that are large or of concern. Where appropriate, we will reduce our exposure, purchase credit protection or make use of collateral arrangements to control our levels of credit risk.

Debt portfolio

Our debt portfolio on an IFRS basis was £116.4 billion at 31 December 2010. £54.0 billion of these assets backed shareholder business, of which 95 per cent were investment grade, compared to 93 per cent at 31 December 2009. Sovereign debt represented 16 per cent of the debt portfolio backing shareholder business, or £8.8 billion, at 31 December 2010. Exposures to sovereign debt have increased since December 2009 due mainly to an enlarged position in US Treasuries. 73 per cent of this was rated AAA and 93 per cent investment grade. Eurozone sovereign exposures backing shareholder business were £3.6 billion at 31 December 2010, of which 99 per cent were AAA rated. Of the remaining one per cent, the highest exposure was in respect of Italy (£52 million) and Spain (less than £1 million) whilst there was no sovereign exposure to Greece, Portugal or Ireland. The total banking exposure to Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (PIIGS) was £363 million at 31 December 2010.

Asia

Asia's debt portfolio totalled £14.1 billion at 31 December 2010. Of this, approximately 69 per cent was in unit-linked and with-profits funds with minimal shareholders' risk. The remaining 31 per cent is shareholder exposure and is invested predominantly (84 per cent) in investment grade bonds. For Asia, the portfolio has performed very well, and did not experience any default losses in 2010.

UK

The UK's debt portfolio on an IFRS basis is £74.3 billion as at 31 December 2010, including £46.5 billion within the UK with-profits fund. Shareholders' risk exposure to the with-profits fund is limited as the solvency is protected by the large inherited estate. Outside the with-profits fund there is £6.0 billion in unit-linked funds where the shareholders' risk is limited, with the remaining £21.8 billion backing the shareholders' annuity business and other non-linked business (of which 80 per cent is rated AAA to A, 18 per cent BBB and two per cent non-investment grade).

On a statutory (Pillar 1) basis at 31 December 2010, we held prudent credit reserves within the UK shareholder annuity funds of £1.8 billion to allow for future credit risk. For Prudential Retirement Income Limited (PRIL) this allowance is set at 68 bps decrease in the valuation discount rate at 31 December 2010 (2009: 71 bps). This now represents 43 per cent of the portfolio spread over swaps compared to 41 per cent as at 31 December 2009. No defaults were reported on the debt portfolio held by the UK shareholder backed annuity business in 2010.

During 2010, we continued to materially reduce our holdings in subordinated financial debt backing our annuity business, improving the overall credit quality of our bond portfolios. This has resulted in gross losses of £104 million on shareholder-backed business and £62 million on policyholder-backed business in the period. On a Pillar I basis these losses have been fully offset by a reduction in long-term default reserves of £98 million shareholder/£39 million policyholder that arose as a result of the improvement in the quality of our remaining bond portfolios and a further release of short-term default reserves of £6 million shareholder and £23 million policyholder, which were allocated to the assets sold. On an IFRS basis, the gross costs less the reduction in long-term and short-term default reserves resulted in a small overall pre-tax loss to operating profit of £4 million to shareholders and £15 million to policyholders.

US

The most significant area of exposure to credit risk for the shareholders is Jackson in the US. At 31 December 2010 Jackson's fixed income portfolio totalling £26.4 billion, comprised £20.2 billion corporate and government debt, £2.8 billion of Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS), £2.4 billion of Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities (CMBS) and £1 billion of other instruments.

The US corporate and government debt portfolio of £20.2 billion is comprised of £17.8 billion of corporate debt and £2.4 billion of government debt. Of the £17.8 billion of corporate debt 95 per cent is investment grade. Concentration risk within the corporate debt portfolio is low, with the top ten holdings accounting for approximately eight per cent of the portfolio. Our largest sector exposures in the investment grade corporate debt portfolio are Utilities and Energy at 16 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. We actively manage the portfolio and will sell exposures as events dictate.

Within the RMBS portfolio of £2.8 billion, the agency guaranteed portion is 55 per cent. Another 22 per cent of the portfolio is non-agency prime and Alt-A investments with pre-2006/2007 vintages, where experience has been much more positive than later vintages. Our exposure to the 2006/2007 vintages totals £424 million of which £413 million is invested in the senior part of the capital structure, thereby significantly reducing the risk of defaults and the magnitude of loss if a shortfall does occur. The actual exposure to non-senior 2006/2007 Prime and Alt-A RMBS is only £11 million. The total RMBS portfolio has an average fair value price of 88 cents on the dollar.

The CMBS portfolio of £2.4 billion is performing strongly, with 36 per cent of the portfolio rated AAA and one per cent rated below investment grade. The entire portfolio has an average credit enhancement level of 30 per cent. This level provides significant protection, since it means the bond has to incur a 30 per cent loss, net of recoveries, before we are at risk.

In Jackson, total amounts charged to profits relating to debt securities were £213 million (2009: £631 million). This is net of recoveries/reversals recognised in the year of £10 million (2009: £5 million).

In 2010, Jackson's total defaults were £nil (2009: less than £1 million). In addition, as part of our active management of the book, we incurred losses net of recoveries and reversals of £89 million (2009: less than £1 million) on credit-related sales of impaired bonds.

IFRS write-downs excluding defaults for the year were £124 million compared to £630 million in 2009. Of this amount £71 million (2009: £509 million) was in respect of RMBS securities.

The impairment process reflects a rigorous review of every bond and security in our portfolio. Our accounting policy requires us to book full mark to market losses on impaired securities through our income statement. However, we would expect only a proportion of these losses eventually to turn into defaults, and some of the impaired securities to recover in price over time.

Unrealised gains and losses on debt securities in the US

Jackson's net unrealised gains from debt securities has steadily improved from negative £2,897 million at 31 December 2008 to positive £4 million at 31 December 2009 to positive £1,210 million at 31 December 2010. The gross unrealised loss position moved from £966 million at 31 December 2009 to £370 million at 31 December 2010. Gross unrealised losses on securities priced at less than 80 per cent of face value totalled £224 million at 31 December 2010 compared to £594 million at 31 December 2009.

Asset management

The debt portfolio of the Group's asset management operations of £1.6 billion as at 31 December 2010 is principally related to Prudential Capital operations. Of this amount £1.5 billion were rated AAA to A– by S&P or Aaa by Moody's.

Loans

Of the total Group loans of £9.3 billion at 31 December 2010, £7.1 billion are held by shareholder-backed operations comprised of £4.7 billion commercial mortgage loans and £2.4 billion of other loans.

Of the £7.1 billion held by shareholder-backed operations, the Asian insurance operations held £0.5 billion of other loans, the majority of which are commercial loans held by the Malaysian operation that are rated investment grade by two local rating agencies. The US insurance operations held £4.2 billion of loans, comprising £3.6 billion of commercial mortgage loans, all of which are collateralised by properties, and £0.5 billion of policy loans. The US commercial mortgage loan portfolio does not include any single-family residential mortgage loans and therefore is not exposed to the risk of defaults associated with residential sub-prime mortgage loans. The UK insurance operations held £1.0 billion of loans, the majority of which are mortgage loans collateralised by properties.

The balance of the total shareholder loans amounts to £1.4 billion and relates to bridging loan finance managed by Prudential Capital.

c Insurance risk

The processes of determining the price of our products and reporting the results of our long-term business operations require us to make a number of assumptions. In common with other industry players, the profitability of our businesses depends on a mix of factors including mortality and morbidity trends, persistency, investment performance, unit cost of administration and new business acquisition expenses.

We continue to conduct rigorous research into longevity risk using data from our substantial annuity portfolio. The assumptions that Prudential makes about future expected levels of mortality are particularly relevant in its UK annuity business. The attractiveness of reinsurance is regularly evaluated. It is used as a risk management tool where it is appropriate and attractive to do so.

Prudential's persistency assumptions reflect recent experience for each relevant line of business, and any expectations of future persistency. Persistency risk is mitigated by appropriate training and sales processes and managed proactively post sale. Where appropriate, allowance is also made for the relationship – either assumed or historically observed – between persistency and investment returns, and for the resulting additional risk.

d Liquidity risk

The holding company has significant internal sources of liquidity which are sufficient to meet all of our expected requirements for the foreseeable future without having to make use of external funding. In aggregate the Group has £2.1 billion of undrawn committed facilities, expiring between 2011 and 2015. In addition, the Group has access to liquidity via the debt capital markets. Recent issues include a £250 million senior three-year MTN in 2010 and the US$550 million perpetual subordinated Tier 1 securities issued in January 2011. Prudential also has in place an unlimited commercial paper programme and has maintained a consistent presence as an issuer in this market for the last 10 years. Liquidity uses and sources have been assessed at a business unit level under base case and stressed assumptions. The liquidity resources available and the subsequent Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) have been assessed to be sufficient under both sets of assumptions.

2 Non-financial risks

Prudential is exposed to operational, business environment and strategic risk in the course of running its businesses.

With regard to operational risk, the Group is dependent on processing a large number of complex transactions across numerous and diverse products, and is subject to a number of different legal and regulatory, including tax, regimes. Prudential also has a significant number of third-party relationships that are important to the distribution and processing of our products, both as market counterparties and as business partners. This results in reliance upon the operational performance of these outsourcing partners.

Prudential's systems and processes incorporate controls that are designed to manage and mitigate the operational risks associated with its activities. The Prudential Group Governance Manual was developed to make a key contribution to the sound system of internal control that the Group is expected to maintain under the Combined Code of Corporate Governance in the UK and the Hong Kong Code on Corporate Governance Practices. Business units confirm that they have implemented the necessary controls to evidence compliance with the Manual.

The Group also has an operational risk management framework in place that facilitates both the qualitative and quantitative analysis of operational risk exposures. The output of this framework, in particular management information on key operational risk components such as risk and control assessments, internal incidents and external incidents, is reported by the business operations and presented to the Group Operational Risk Committee. This information also supports business decision-making and lessons-learned activities; the ongoing improvement of the control environment; the informing of overall levels of capital held; and determination of the adequacy of Prudential's corporate insurance programme.

With regard to business environment risk, the Group has a wide-ranging programme of active and constructive engagement with governments, policymakers and regulators in our key markets and with relevant international institutions. Such engagement is undertaken both directly and indirectly via trade associations. The Group has procedures in place to monitor and track political and regulatory developments. Where appropriate, we provide submissions and technical input to officials and others, either via submissions to formal consultations or through interactions with officials.

With regard to strategic risk, both business operations and the corporate centre are required to adopt a forward-looking approach to risk management by performing risk assessments as part of the annual strategic planning process. This supports the identification of potential threats and the initiatives needed to address them, as well as competitive opportunities. The impact on the underlying businesses and/or Group-wide risk profile is also considered to ensure that strategic initiatives are within the Group's risk appetite.

3 Risk factors and contingencies

Our disclosures covering risk factors can be found at the end of this document. Note H14 of the IFRS basis consolidated financial statements gives an update on the position for contingencies of the Group since those published in the 2009 Annual Report.

 

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