In this paper, we use a novel data-set of UK public and non-public insurance companies for the period 1985-2014 in order to investigate the empirical relationship between firms’ specific characteristics and default risk. We employ a portfolio approach, and after splitting firms’ returns into underwriting and investment returns, we find evidence that default risk is closely related to size and reinsurance activities, especially for small size firms, and that such firms are much less risky than large firms and earn the highest return when their default risk is low. Some policy implications are also provided.
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