January 8, 2018 / 10:37 PM / 5 months ago

Blackstone's new insurance unit targets $100 bln in assets

Jan 8 (Reuters) - Blackstone Group wants to quadruple to $100 billion the assets it manages at its new unit for insurers as it seeks to boost returns for firms struggling under low interest rates, the unit's newly appointed chief said on Monday.

Blackstone recruited Chris Blunt, the former president of New York Life's investments group, to run Blackstone Insurance Solutions, a new business formed late last year when Blackstone agreed to oversee $22 billion from Fidelity & Guaranty Life.

"The target (for assets under management) is $100 billion," Blunt told Reuters in a telephone interview. Blackstone declined to give a time frame for the target.

At the end of the third quarter, Blackstone's overall assets totaled $387 billion.

Insurance companies invest the bulk of their premiums in low-risk investments and set aside a smaller portion for higher-return and higher-risk strategies, such as hedge funds and private equity.

Blackstone Insurance Solutions has a dual purpose, firstly giving insurance clients a more dedicated focus to direct their investments across Blackstone's existing businesses, which include leveraged buyouts, real estate, credit and infrastructure.

Secondly, it will offer new investments at lower returns but at a lower risk in areas like high-grade private credit.

The new division underscores the willingness among major private equity firms to tweak their investment offerings in order to attract big investor classes.

Years of low interest rates have created challenges for insurers by reducing the earnings on their investment portfolios, once a key revenue stream for both life and property casualty insurers.

"We're in an environment where insurers are finding it incredibly hard to get quality investments into their portfolio," Blunt said.

"There's very little yield, despite the short-term pickup in short term interest rates." (Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York; additional reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)

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