Pandemic-related factors dampened VA policyholder behavior in 2020. Extreme market activity in the first half of the year, disruption to policyholders’ usual communication patterns with advisors and agents by COVID-related social distancing, and the suspension of required minimum distributions under the CARES Act all served to depress surrender and income commencement behavior; however, the effects were not uniform, instead manifesting in specific market sectors as described below.
In the first half of 2020, declines in account values made guarantees relatively more valuable, leading to greater persistency.
As annuity sales volumes fell in 2020, VA surrender rates fell as well. However, the declines in surrender rates were concentrated among ultimate contract durations, where rates fell 1-2 percentage points independent of rider type or benefit value. Evidence suggests producers focused their attention on contracts at the shock duration (immediately following the expiration of surrender charges), leading to less turnover among the longest-dated contracts. The decline in surrenders is suggestive of a new, unique surrender regime, distinct from the regimes we observe before and after the 2008 financial crisis.
Author(s): Eric Halpern
Publication Date: 25 June 2021
Publication Site: Ruark Consulting