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Knoller, Christian; Kraut, Gunther; Schoenmaekers, Pascal (2016): On the Propensity to Surrender a Variable Annuity Contract: An Empirical Analysis of Dynamic Policyholder Behavior. In: Journal of Risk and insurance, Vol. 83, No. 4: pp. 979-1006
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Abstract

We empirically analyze surrender behavior for variable annuity contracts using Japanese individual policy data. For traditional life insurance products, surrender behavior is typically explained by the interest rate and the emergency fund hypotheses. For variable annuities, the interest rate hypothesis is not directly applicable. For these products, we expect the value of the financial options and guarantees provided to the policyholder to drive surrender behavior. We define this expectation as the moneyness hypothesis. The statistical analysis confirms our moneyness hypothesis: the value of the embedded financial options and guarantees has the largest explanatory power for the surrender rate. The extent to which this finding holds depends on the single premium paid, which we consider a proxy for the policyholder's financial literacy. Moreover, our data set weakly supports the emergency fund hypothesis for the case of variable annuities.