Finance & Insurance

The finance and insurance industry has undeniably seen a turbulent few years, yet given the underlying conditions, many are surprised at how resilient these institutions have been. With many countries’ economies being challenged by rising inflation rates and market instability, the financial sector saw both money and investment opportunities dry up. Many core elements of the industry have been able to continue as local governments combat instability with fiscal policies. For example, government programs intended to ease financial pressure on people helped keep bank accounts and insurance policies open, while financial support to corporations has ensured at least some investment opportunities remain. The core logic is that, for there to be any form of rapid economic recovery once the current economic instability is over, the existence of a functioning financial system is a necessary condition.

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Finance & Insurance

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  • Share price index in major developed and emerging economies from January 2019 to June 2023
    Jul 5, 2023

    Brazilian and Indian share prices became the highest performing of the major developed and emerging economies as of June 2023, with index values of 235.25 and 230.91 respectively in that month. Conversely, the lowest-performing were China and the Germany, both with index values of 86.98 and 113.04 respectively at this time. The index value is calculated with 2015 values as the baseline (i.e. 2015 = 100).

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  • Leading life and non-life direct premium writing countries globally in 2022, by premiums (in billion U.S. dollars)
    Dec 6, 2023

    In 2022, life insurance premiums written in the United States were valued at 672 billion U.S. dollars. Non-life insurance premiums written in the U.S. amounted to 2.28 trillion U.S. dollars in that year, however unlike most countries this amount includes basic health cover, meaning the U.S. is over 1.95 trillion U.S. dollars higher than second-placed China, who recorded non-life insurance premiums of 333.45 billion U.S. dollars.

    Berkshire Hathaway is the largest global insurer Berkshire Hathaway, which is owned by Warren Buffett and headquartered in the US state of Nebraska, was the largest insurer worldwide in terms of revenue in 2022. However, the next largest insurer was Ping An Insurance, which is based in the rapidly growing Chinese city of Shenzhen.

    Berkshire Hathaway vs Ping An Insurance The revenues of both insurers have been steadily growing over the past decade. However, the growth of Ping An Insurance has been more rapid for Ping An than for Berkshire Hathaway, which may indicate that the former will some day catch up with the latter.

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  • Market capitalization of the 100 largest banks worldwide from 1st quarter 2016 to 1st quarter 2024 (in trillion euros)
    Apr 12, 2024

    The market capitalization of the 100 largest banks fluctuated notably between 2016 and 2024, with an increasing trend in recent quarters. In the first quarter of 2024, the market cap of the largest banks was 6.4 trillion euros, up from 5.8 trillion euros in the previous quarter. This was the highest value in the observed period. Market cap is the number of shares in a company multiplied by the price per share. In this case, the sector market cap is the sum of this metric for the 100 largest banks worldwide. 

    Market cap and banking

    The leading banks worldwide each have a market cap of up to hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars. Naturally, the metric can mostly measure publicly traded companies, as they are obliged to publish financial reports. The major international banks are already publicly traded, as opposed to smaller financial institutions or fintech companies operating in the banking sector.

    Other measures

    Market cap gives an idea of the value of a bank’s size but says little about the size of its balance sheet. For this reason, sometimes analysts prefer alternate measures. Assets under management give an idea of the total value of assets that a bank oversees.

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  • Leading banks worldwide in 2023, by revenue from investment banking (in million U.S. dollars)
    Jan 29, 2024

    JPMorgan was the world's leading bank in terms of investment banking revenue in 2023. In 2023, the bank generated an investment banking revenue of around 5.8 billion U.S. dollars. JPMorgan was also the largest bank in the United States by total assets, followed by Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank.

    Global investment banking is dominated by U.S. banks

    All five of the top ranked investment banks were American multinational investment banking firms. The two leading investment banks worldwide with regards to revenue as of July 2023 included JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs. JP Morgan generated more revenue than Goldman Sachs, but both banks reported revenues exceeding 2.4 billion U.S. dollars. As of the same time period, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley ranked third and fourth with revenues of approximately 2.26 and 1.9 billion U.S. dollars, respectively. These four banks had almost a third of the global investment banking market share in terms of revenue at the end of 2022.

    Investment banking fees

    Not surprisingly, JPMorgan was also the leading investment bank by fees. Investment banking fees are the returns the banks take for providing its investment services, such as facilitating mergers and acquisitions. The largest investment banking fees in 2022 came from services provided within the financial sector.

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  • Value of securities, loans, and leases of all commercial banks in the United States from January 2007 to March 2024 (in billion U.S. dollars)
    Mar 29, 2024

    The outstanding value of the credit by all commercial banks in the United States has increased for several months in a row between December 2023 and March 2024. In 2024, the value of bank securities, loans, and leases is much higher than several years ago. The last time in which the value of credit went through periods of decline was between 2008 and 2010, as well as a brief period between March to November 2023.

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  • Largest stock exchange operators worldwide as of March 2024, by market capitalization of listed companies (in trillion U.S. dollars)
    May 15, 2024

    The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is the largest stock exchange in the world, with an equity market capitalization of over 28 trillion U.S. dollars as of March 2024. The following three exchanges were the NASDAQ, the Euronext, and the Japan Exchange Group. 

    What is a stock exchange?

    A stock exchange is a marketplace where stockbrokers, traders, buyers, and sellers can trade in equities products. The largest exchanges have thousands of listed companies. These companies sell shares of their business, giving the general public the opportunity to invest in them. The oldest stock exchange worldwide is the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, founded in the late sixteenth century. 

    Other functions of a stock exchange

    Since these are publicly traded companies, every firm listed on a stock exchange has had an initial public offering (IPO). The largest IPOs can raise billions of dollars in equity for the firm involved. Related to stock exchanges are derivatives exchanges, where stock options, futures contracts, and other derivatives can be traded.

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  • Euro (EUR) to U.S. dollar (USD) exchange rate from September 16, 2020 to July 17, 2024
    Jul 19, 2024

    The euro-to-dollar exchange rate fluctuated significantly in 2022, reaching its lowest recorded value since 2008 during that time. Figures were different later in the year, however, with a rate of 1.09 USD recorded at the end of July 17, 2024. The average (standardized) measure is based on the calculation of many observations throughout the period in question. It is therefore different than an annual measure at point in time, which reflects concrete values as of end of the year.

    EstablishmentThe euro, which was established in 1992, introduced in non-physical form in 1999 and finally rolled out in 2002, is used by 19 of the 27 member states of the European Union. This group of 19 countries is otherwise known as the eurozone or euro area. By 2018, the total value of euro currency in circulation was almost 1.2 trillion euros, or over 3.4 thousand euros per capita.

    Euro to USDBetween 2001 and 2008, the average annual exchange rate of the euro to the U.S. dollar noted a steep increase. In 2008, the euro to U.S. dollar annual average exchange rate was equal to 1.47, which meant that one euro could buy 1.47 U.S. dollars. By 2019, this value had decreased overall, to a value of 1.12 which meant that one euro could buy 1.12 U.S. dollars. Similar dynamics in the euro to U.S. dollar exchange rate were also reflected in the monthly exchange rate in recent years.

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  • Treasury yield curve in the United States as of June 2024
    Jun 17, 2024

    As of June 14, 2024, the yield for a ten-year U.S. government bond was 4.2 percent, while the yield for a two-year bond was 4.67 percent. This represents an inverted yield curve, whereby bonds of longer maturities provide a lower yield, reflecting investors' expectations for a decline in long-term interest rates. Hence, making long-term debt holders open to more risk under the uncertainty around the condition of financial markets in the future. That markets are uncertain can be seen by considering both the short-term fluctuations, and the long-term downward trend, of the yields of U.S. government bonds from 2006 to 2021, before the treasury yield curve increased again significantly in 2022 and 2023.

    What are government bonds?

    Government bonds, otherwise called ‘sovereign’ or ‘treasury’ bonds, are financial instruments used by governments to raise money for government spending. Investors give the government a certain amount of money (the ‘face value’), to be repaid at a specified time in the future (the ‘maturity date’). In addition, the government makes regular periodic interest payments (called ‘coupon payments’). Once initially issued, government bonds are tradable on financial markets, meaning their value can fluctuate over time (even though the underlying face value and coupon payments remain the same). Investors are attracted to government bonds as, provided the country in question has a stable economy and political system, they are a very safe investment. Accordingly, in periods of economic turmoil, investors may be willing to accept a negative overall return in order to have a safe haven for their money. For example, once the market value is compared to the total received from remaining interest payments and the face value, investors have been willing to accept a negative return on two-year German government bonds between 2014 and 2021. Conversely, if the underlying economy and political structures are weak, investors demand a higher return to compensate for the higher risk they take on. Consequently, the return on bonds in emerging markets like Brazil are consistently higher than that of the United States (and other developed economies).

    Inverted yield curves

    When investors are extremely worried about the financial future, it can lead to what is called an ‘inverted yield curve’. An inverted yield curve is where investors pay more for short term bonds than long term, indicating they do not have confidence in long-term financial conditions. Historically, the yield curve has historically inverted before each of the last five U.S. recessions. The last U.S. yield curve inversion occurred at several brief points in 2019 – a trend which continued until the Federal Reserve cut interest rates several times over that year. However, the ultimate trigger for the next recession was the unpredicted, exogenous shock of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, showing how such informal indicators may be grounded just as much in coincidence as causation.

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  • Personal savings as a percentage of disposable income in the United States from June 2015 to May 2024
    Jun 28, 2024

    In May 2024, the personal saving rate in the United States amounted to 3.9 percent, which is a lower figure than a year earlier. The personal saving rate is calculated as the ratio of personal savings to disposable personal income. Within the topic of personal savings in the U.S., there are different goals and reasons for saving. 

    What are personal savings?

    Saving refers to strategies of accumulating capital for future use by either not spending a part of one’s income or cutting down on certain costs. Saved money may be preserved as cash, put on a deposit account, or invested in various financial instruments. Investing usually incorporates some level of risk which means that part of the invested money can be gone. An example of a relatively safe investment would be saving bonds, such as the debt securities issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

    Saving trends in the U.S. and abroad

    Looking at the personal saving rate in the United States throughout the past decades, it can be observed that savings had been decreasing until the mid-2000s, and they increased after the 2008 financial crisis. Still, the largest savings rates were reached in 2020 and 2021. The reason for that increase in the savings rate that year might be related to the measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The value of personal savings in the United Kingdom has also followed a similar trend. Although events like the COVID-19 pandemic may have affect many countries in a similar way, the ability to save, as well as the average savings as a share of personal income across countries can vary significantly depending on multiple factors affecting each territory.

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  • Portfolio allocation of leading Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) worldwide in 2024, by region
    Jul 1, 2024

    As of 2024, Chinese-based investment assets comprised the smallest portion of many  Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) portfolios. Temasek was an outlier, however, allocating over 20 percent of its portfolio to Chinese assets. Abu Dhabi based ADIA held that largest portion of U.S. based assets, with over half of its portfolio being managed in U.S. securities.

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Industry Definition

At its broadest level, the financial sector includes a wide range of firms and institutions who provide financial services to commercial and retail customers. These can range from companies who provide specific services such as insurance and banking, to the general trading of financial assets and currencies, to regulatory institutions designed to structure financial transactions. Often the providers of financial services are involved with many aspects of the sector – for example, with how insurance companies and banks derive revenue from investing customers’ money. Ultimately, the aim of the financial services sector is to ensure people with excess money can invest it in a way that efficiently allocates it to businesses and individuals in need of resources. Necessary for this to occur is a degree of transparency over the risk associated with these investments, hence the need for insurance products and regulatory frameworks.

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