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Blackstone Makes Major Push for Life Insurers' Assets

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Blackstone Group L.P. has hired a New York Life Insurance Company veteran to help it attract money from yield-starved issuers of life insurance and annuity products.

The New York-based company has named Chris Blunt to be a senior managing director and chief executive officer of Blackstone Insurance Solutions.

Blackstone already manages about $385 billion in assets for clients of all kinds, and $22 billion for Fidelity & Guaranty Life, a major player in the U.S. individual annuity market.

(Related: U.S. Firm Agrees to Acquire Fidelity & Guaranty Life)

Blackstone Insurance Solutions is a new unit that will manage insurers’ investment portfolios.

The unit will also offer life insurers’ alternatives to publicly traded corporate bonds.

Traditionally, life insurers have invested a majority of their assets in bonds from companies with high ratings from Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch. Today, life insurers are looking for other types of investments, such as mortgages, mortgage-backed securities and securities backed by assets other than mortgages, because rates on high-grade, publicly traded corporate bonds are so low.

Tony James, Blackstone’s president, said in a statement about the Blunt hire that Blunt has the insurance industry experience to help insurers cope with a “perfect storm of significant policyholder obligations and declining investment returns in the public markets.”

Blunt said Blackstone is well-positioned to design investment products that can help insurers better manage their obligations to policyholders.

Blunt previously was president of New York Life’s investments group.

He has also been co-president of New York Life’s Insurance & Agency group, the unit that oversees the company’s insurance agency operation, and he has been a manager in the annuities unit.

He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in business from the University of Pennsylvania.

Before he began working for New York Life, in 2004, he was running GivingCapital Inc., a wealth management firm. Earlier, he held jobs at Merrill Lynch & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

—Read 5 Big Questions About Life Insurance for 2018 on ThinkAdvisor.

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