What Is a Loss Portfolio Transfer (LPT)?

A loss portfolio transfer (LPT) is a reinsurance contract or agreement in which an insurer cedes policies, often ones that have already incurred losses, to a reinsurer. In a loss portfolio transfer, a reinsurer assumes and accepts an insurer’s existing open and future claim liabilities through the transfer of the insurer’s loss reserves. It is a type of alternative risk financing.

key takeaways

  • A loss portfolio transfer (LPT) is a reinsurance treaty in which an insurer cedes policies and the loss reserves to pay them to a reinsurer.
  • LPTs allow insurers to remove liabilities from their balance sheets, thus strengthening them, and to transfer risk.
  • Reinsurers gain the chance to generate investment income from the transferred reserves, often at a significant profit.

Understanding a Loss Portfolio Transfer (LPT)

Insurers use loss portfolio transfers to remove liabilities from their balance sheets, with the most common reasons being to transfer risk from a parent to a captive or to exit a line of business. The liabilities may already exist (such as claims that have been processed but not yet paid) or may soon appear (such as incurred but not reported (IBNR) claims).

The insurer, who is also known as the cedent, effectively is selling the policies to the reinsurer. In determining the amount paid by the reinsurer, the time value of money is considered, and so the insurer receives less than the dollar amount than of the reserves—and the overall ultimate amount that could be paid out.

However, when an insurer uses a loss portfolio transfer, it is also transferring timing risk and investment risk. The latter involves the risk that the reinsurer will generate less investment income when losses from claims are paid faster than expected. If the reinsurer becomes insolvent or is unable to fulfill its obligations, the insurer will still be responsible for payments made to its policyholders.

LPT reinsurers will often take control of handing claims because the profit they can make will largely be dictated by their ability to runoff claims for less than book value. If an LPT reinsurer is willing to assume loss reserve assets for less than book value, it enables the ceding entity to realize an immediate profit at the inception of cover. This means that by entering into an LPT, the ceding company has some possibility of increasing its capital resources as well as reducing its regulatory capital requirement.

The transferred liabilities in an LPT may belong to a single class of business, a territory, a policyholder, or an accident year.

Example of a Loss Portfolio Transfer (LPT)

For example, say that an insurance company has set aside reserves to cover liabilities from the workers’ compensation policies that it has underwritten. The present value of those reserves is $5 million. Currently, the $5 million is likely to cover all of the losses it may experience, but the insurer may ultimately have claims in excess of the reserves. So it enters into a loss portfolio transfer with a reinsurer, who takes over the reserves. The reinsurer is now responsible for paying claims. But it can use the reserves to generate a return greater than the claims it may have to pay.

Why Insurers Use Loss Portfolio Transfers (LPT)

Insurers use loss portfolio transfers to immediately monetize any reserves that they have set aside to pay out claims. This can be a significant draw if the insurer has over-reserved, which can happen if its actuarial models have led it to establish premiums and reserves for future losses that wind up being greater than its loss experience.

Reinsurers like assuming loss portfolio transfers because they don't take on underwriting risk, and can use the reserves to generate an investment income greater than the losses they are obligated to pay.