December 2021 / STABLE VALUE
Stable Value Guidelines Evolved Over Recent Decades
Wrap contracts need to keep pace with plan sponsor demands.
Wrap contracts are the lifeblood of any product offering in the stable value investment option. And as stable value becomes more widely available and usage increases among defined contribution (DC) plans, it is incumbent upon wrap providers to keep pace with DC product growth and innovation.
After the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC), the stable value industry witnessed some of the most significant product and wrap contract development and innovation since the advent of synthetic investment contracts more than 30 years ago. In addition, stable value assets grew strongly in the period following the GFC, and the asset class continued to see significant growth following the broad money market reforms in 2016 and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
Wrap Contract Terms Evolution
(Fig. 1) Providers have adapted markedly since the GFC
From our perspective, the post-GFC era, along with regulatory changes from the Dodd-Frank Act, brought welcome updates for both wrap providers and wrap contracts. We would argue that regulatory changes put wrap providers in a stronger financial position in the runup to the 2020 coronavirus crisis. Interestingly enough, wrap capacity expanded during the pandemic and wrap providers remained open to new deposits during the crisis in stark contrast to the 2008 GFC, when wrap providers restricted wrap capacity, and stopped taking deposits and a handful of bank wrap providers exited the wrap industry.
Insurance companies now dominate the wrap industry, with only a few large banks remaining in the wrap business. More importantly, there is ample and growing wrap capacity across a broader group of high-quality insurance companies and bank wrap providers. Wrap fees have retreated significantly since the GFC, from around 25 to 30 basis points immediately following the 2008 crisis to about 15 to 17 basis points currently.1
Wrap contract terms have also evolved in the post-GFC time period. While some contract changes can be attributed to regulatory changes, we believe many of the changes highlighted in Figure 1 were brought about by market forces and the ability of stable value managers to negotiate greater contract term flexibility. In the immediate aftermath of the GFC, wrap providers took a more risk-averse approach and generally offered revised contracts with more conservative investment guidelines.
Investment Guideline Evolution
(Fig. 2) Managers and wrap providers have settled on more conservative parameters
Today, we are seeing more flexible contract terms regarding equity wash provisions, competing fund definitions, and put provisions as wrap providers become more comfortable in the current market environment. Investment guidelines are also typically more flexible as wrap providers have upgraded their manager selection and risk management systems. Finally, ample wrap capacity and increased competition from new market entrants has been a catalyst for change and increased flexibility in terms of investment guidelines.
Figure 2 highlights key contract changes that have evolved since 2008; however, to be sure, not all contract terms are available across the industry. Investment guidelines have also evolved in the post-2008 GFC time period as managers and wrap providers settled on a more conservative set of investment guidelines.
The 2008 GFC resulted in a number of investment guidelines changes and exclusions of a number of specific sectors and asset classes, like subprime mortgages, high yield, and emerging markets debt.
As we have seen tremendous asset growth, availability, and increased usage of stable value products since the GFC, we believe it is imperative that the stable value industry ensures wrap contracts keep pace with DC product development and innovation.
Over the past decade, we have also witnessed significant changes to contract terms and investment guidelines that we believe have made stable value easier to use and a more attractive investment for plan sponsors and investment professionals.
In the coming years, stable value products should continue to evolve and innovate as potential markets expand beyond 401(k) plans and likely include multi-asset and retirement income product offerings.
This material is being furnished for general informational purposes only. The material does not constitute or undertake to give advice of any nature, including fiduciary investment advice, and prospective investors are recommended to seek independent legal, financial and tax advice before making any investment decision. T. Rowe Price group of companies including T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. and/or its affiliates receive revenue from T. Rowe Price investment products and services. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The value of an investment and any income from it can go down as well as up. Investors may get back less than the amount invested.
The material does not constitute a distribution, an offer, an invitation, a personal or general recommendation or solicitation to sell or buy any securities in any jurisdiction or to conduct any particular investment activity. The material has not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in any jurisdiction.
Information and opinions presented have been obtained or derived from sources believed to be reliable and current; however, we cannot guarantee the sources' accuracy or completeness. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. The views contained herein are as of the date noted on the material and are subject to change without notice; these views may differ from those of other T. Rowe Price group companies and/or associates. Under no circumstances should the material, in whole or in part, be copied or redistributed without consent from T. Rowe Price.
The material is not intended for use by persons in jurisdictions which prohibit or restrict the distribution of the material and in certain countries the material is provided upon specific request.
It is not intended for distribution to retail investors in any jurisdiction.
USA—Issued in the USA by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., 100 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD, 21202, which is regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. For Institutional Investors only.
© 2021 T. Rowe Price. All rights reserved. T. ROWE PRICE, INVEST WITH CONFIDENCE, and the bighorn sheep design are, collectively and/or apart, trademarks or registered trademarks of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.