Fink Says Central Bankers ‘Destroying’ Insurers With Low Rates

BlackRock CEO Laurence D. Fink
Laurence D. Fink, chief executive officer of BlackRock Inc., said that policy makers need to think broadly about the impact of their decisions. Photographer: Sam Kang Li/Bloomberg

Low interest rate policies by central banks around the world are threatening insurance companies and pension funds, said Laurence D. Fink, chief executive officer of BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager.

“As we live in a world of persistent low rates and, in the case of Europe, negative rates today, when you put a macro-prudential framework on it, we are destroying the value of pension funds,” Fink said at a conference in Singapore on Tuesday. “We are destroying the viability of insurance companies.”

BlackRock is the biggest investor in insurers including American International Group Inc. and Prudential Financial Inc. His New York-based company also seeks to manage funds for insurers as they weigh bets in infrastructure and real estate to counter low bond yields.

Fink said that policy makers need to think broadly about the impact of their decisions. He joins insurance executives including MetLife Inc. CEO Steve Kandarian and Axa SA’s Henri De Castries in lamenting that low interest rates are punishing savers. Insurers hold trillions of dollars in fixed-income assets to back obligations to policyholders.

“Society has given our central bankers worldwide the responsibility for macro-prudential risk, all the risk in the system, not just the risk in the banking system,” Fink said at the Credit Suisse Global Megatrends conference. “I don’t think there is enough talk about what are the costs of the low rate environment to the other components of our global society -- pension funds, retirees, savers, and insurance companies.”

De Castries in 2013 called central bank policies a form of “financial repression” that forced savers to rescue the banking system.

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