Although many insurers are turning toward similar opportunities, not all insurance companies are the same.
"Some, like annuity writers, depend on yield. Our liabilities are not like that," said Eric M. Kirsch, executive vice president, global CIO and president of Aflac Global Investments in New York. "Our underwriting is where we make the majority of our profit. We don't need yield to make those products profitable. We don't have that pressure."
Of Aflac Inc.'s $126 billion in assets, about $113 billion is managed internally while $13 billion is managed by external managers.
Sara L. Hakim, a senior vice president and consultant in Callan LLC's Summit, N.J., office, echoed this sentiment.
"It depends on the type of insurer," Ms. Hakim said. "Each have different liability durations. But in general, it's really how much risk they're willing to take on and how much in alternatives they want to invest in the portfolio."
Ms. Hakim added that what makes insurance companies unique as asset owners "is that their investments get rated by the ratings agencies, so they need to be mindful of the capital charges" they incur with their investments. This is in large part why "the lion's share of assets" for insurance companies "are in fixed income."
While most insurance companies already have in-house staffs that handle investments, many of them are increasingly turning to external managers as they go further outside their areas of expertise.
"Insurers are realizing in order to find yield and find value in this market they need to deploy a broader set of capabilities and rely on more sophisticated tools," BlackRock's Mr. Dunay said. "They need to just do more. They need to rely on more external help, bring in more external managers where they don't have the expertise."
Christopher Blunt, president and CEO of F&G Annuities & Life, said Blackstone Group Inc. manages roughly 90% of the insurer's assets, which gives the firm access to the private debt market.
"Our partnership with Blackstone paid off in dividends," Mr. Blunt added.
Over at Voya Investment Management, Mr. Simone said the pace at which the manager's insurance asset management business has grown has doubled over the course of 2020.
Meanwhile, according to Matthew Armas, global head of insurance fixed-income portfolio management at Goldman Sachs Asset Management in New York, the manager is "certainly seeing an increase in overall activity" from insurance clients, particularly in niche assets such as private credit, real estate and infrastructure.
"Our insurance company clients focus on where they have core expertise," Mr. Armas said.