Case | HBS Case Collection | August 2013

Prudential Financial - General Motors Pension Risk Transfer: Back to the Future?

by Luis M. Viceira and Emily A. Chien

Abstract

In November 2012, Prudential Financial and General Motors closed on a $25.1B pension risk transfer (PRT) transaction, the largest of its kind to date by an order of magnitude both in the U.S. market and globally. In exchange for an in-kind transfer of $25.1B in assets, Prudential Financial agreed to irrevocably guarantee the full payment of pension benefits to approximately 110,000 participants of General Motors Retirement Program for Salaried Employees and assume all risks related to investment, interest rate, and longevity as well as all operational and administrative requirements to make those payments for as long as necessary. As they gear to close another significant PRT transaction with Verizon, Dylan Tyson and Phil Waldeck, senior managers of the Pension & Structured Solutions group at Prudential, consider the strategic importance of these deals for Prudential business strategy and the potential growth of the PRT business in light of trends in interest rates and longevity, the regulatory and reporting landscape for defined-benefit pension plans, and the appetite for pension funding risk of plan sponsors.

The case examines the pension fund industry, drivers of pension funding risk including investment risk, interest rate risk, and rising participant longevity, the regulatory and reporting landscape for pension funds, and the strategies available to pension funds to de-risk their plans. It then examines insurance companies and specifically Prudential Financial's competitive advantage in managing pension risk and implementing de-risking strategies for pension funds in the context of Prudential Financial's decision to commit resources to expand its PRT group that resulted in the pension liability buy-out deal with General Motors. Finally, the case examines the development and implementation of a PRT deal of this size and complexity, and explores the implications of such deals for the future of the asset management industry.

Keywords: Risk Management; Asset Management; Insurance; Retirement; Financial Services Industry; Insurance Industry;

Citation:

Viceira, Luis M., and Emily A. Chien. "Prudential Financial - General Motors Pension Risk Transfer: Back to the Future?" Harvard Business School Case 213-126, August 2013.