American Equity Investment Life last week rebuffed an unsolicited $4bn offer from a rival controlled by Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, capping a tumultuous year during which Bhalla also antagonised his company’s largest shareholder, Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management.
Underpinning the boardroom drama is Bhalla’s determination to keep AEL, one of the few independent annuities operators left, out of the wave of consolidation sweeping through the industry as private equity groups hoover up insurance assets.
The bad blood between Bhalla and Brookfield is a product of a deal that AEL entered into in November with start-up fund manager 26North, founded by the former longtime Apollo Global executive Josh Harris.
Bhalla had first turned to Brookfield in 2020 as it sought a white knight to fend off an earlier hostile bid from Apollo, where Harris worked at the time. Now with the Elliott bid out in the open, AEL and its $70bn of assets are in the crosshairs as a clutch of Wall Street investment titans circle the company.
Apollo, Brookfield, KKR, Carlyle Group, Ares and Sixth Street are among the many groups that could be bidders in a potentially frenzied auction next year.
The Committee on Life Insurance Mortality and Underwriting Surveys of the Society of Actuaries sent companies a survey in May of 2019 on mortality improvement practices as of year-end 2018. The survey results were released in January 2022. The survey was completed by respondents prior to the onset of COVID-19. The present report provides an opportunity to update the results for pandemic-based changes and compare the before and after surveys. The 2022 survey was opened in March 2022 and closed by the end of April. Thirty-five respondent companies participated in this survey, with 29 from the U.S. and six from Canada. This group was further divided between direct writers (26) and reinsurers (nine). This survey focused on the use of mortality improvement and how it has changed for financial projection and pricing modeling following the initial stages of COVID-19. Details regarding assumptions and opinions on mortality improvement in general were asked of the respondents. National Association of Insurance Commissioners discussions on mortality improvement factors due to COVID-19 for reserving purposes have taken place, but this survey was conducted before any adjustments reacting to them. Seventy-four percent (26 of 35) of respondents indicated using durational mortality improvement assumptions in their life and annuity pricing and/or financial projections. Moreover, of those that used durational mortality improvement assumptions, attained age and gender were the top two characteristics in which assumptions varied. Respondents were asked to indicate the different limitations when applying durational mortality improvement assumptions. The Survey found that the most common lowest and highest attained age to which durational mortality improvement was applied were 0 and about 100, respectively. The lowest and highest durational mortality improvement rate ranged from -1.50% (deterioration) to 2.80% (improvement). The time period in which the mortality improvement rates were applied ranged from 10 to 120 years, but this varied between life (10/120) and annuities (30/120). The most common time period was 20 to 30 years for life; less consensus was seen for annuities. Analysis is provided in Appendix C for instances when highlights are shared in the body of the report.
Milliman Variable Annuity Mortality Study shows mortality increases of 11% as a result of COVID-19 pandemic
Life insurers and annuity writers are now beginning to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lines of business, as mortality data for the year 2020 is reported and analyzed. While the pandemic has affected different carriers in different ways, future mortality rates are a key assumption for annuity writers.
With Milliman’s acquisition of Ruark Consulting in December 2021, the industry’s leading variable annuity mortality study has been rebranded as the Milliman Variable Annuity Mortality Study. The study is based on data from 2008 through 2020, totaling $674 billion in account value as of the end of the study period, with over 1 million deaths across 19 companies.
1. Clients could swarm on life and annuity products with benefits guarantees like ants on a candy bar that fell under the picnic table.
Sales of products such as non-variable indexed annuities and non-variable indexed universal life insurance policies soar, as clients flocks to arrangements that can protect them against further drops in stock prices but help them share in gains if and when prices go back up.
We review the history of life insurance in Bermuda, reflect on how we have gotten to where we are today, and look forward to what may be ahead. We present a hypothetical—yet realistic—case study to illustrate some of the factors that can lead to a strategic decision do business Bermuda. From an embedded-value perspective, we highlight potentially considerable benefits from a move from a U.S. statutory basis to a Bermudian economic balance sheet.
Author(s): Tony Dardis, William C. Hines, and Su Meng Lee
Permanent capital—investment funds that do not have to be returned to investors on a timetable, or at all—is, according to some, the “holy grail” of private investing.1 Permanent capital owes its exalted status to the time and effort that managers can save on fundraising, and the flexibility it provides to invest at times, like a crisis, when other forms of capital can become scarce.
The trend is not new: private investing in insurance dates back more than 50 years to Berkshire Hathaway’s acquisition of National Indemnity in 1967. As that example shows, many forms of insurance beyond life and annuities can serve as permanent capital, including specialty and property and casualty (P&C). In this article, however, we’ll focus on the reasons why many PE firms have concluded that life insurance and annuities represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We’ll also look at the requirements for PE firms on the sidelines that want to enter the market, discuss some overlooked ways that PE owners can create value, and highlight some implications for life insurers as they consider either selling a portion of their book of business or emulating and competing with this potent new industry force.
Author(s): Ramnath Balasubramanian, Alex D’Amico, Rajiv Dattani, and Diego Mattone
Martello Re Limited (“Martello Re”), a licensed Class E Bermuda-based life and annuity reinsurance company with initial equity of $1.65 billion, has been launched with the financial support of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (“MassMutual”), Centerbridge Partners, Brown Brothers Harriman, and a pre-eminent group of institutional investors and family offices, including Hudson Structured Capital Management Ltd. (doing its re/insurance business as HSCM Bermuda). Barings and Centerbridge will act as asset managers for Martello Re.
Through a commitment to long-term financial strength, creative solutions, and unique investment capabilities, Martello Re plans to offer a differentiated value proposition to its counterparties. The company will initially focus on providing MassMutual and its subsidiaries with reinsurance capacity on current product offerings, after which it will offer its services selectively to other top insurers in the life and annuity space.
MassMutual and its subsidiaries will initially reinsure approximately $14 billion of general account liabilities to Martello Re and also enter into a flow arrangement to reinsure new business. Both transactions are expected to close in February 2022 and have received regulatory approval.
Pacific Life Insurance Co. has agreed to pay a $3 million fine after a New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) investigation found that the firm had conducted pension risk transfer (PRT) business in the state without a license.
It is the third enforcement action by the DFS against a major insurance company for unlicensed PRT business. In April 2020, the regulator fined Athene $45 million, and in February it fined AIG $12 million, both for conducting unauthorized pension risk transfer transactions in New York.
Life and disability insurance, as well as annuities, traditionally have been analyzed as products providing protection against random losses. This article proposed that these products can be viewed as derivative instruments created to address the uncertainties and inadequacies of an individual’s human capital, if human capital is viewed as a financial instrument. In short, life insurance (including disability insurance and annuities) is the business of human capital securitization.
Author(s): Krzysztof M. Ostaszewski, PhD, MAAA, FSA, CFA
Here’s some good news: using the costs of actual annuities available for consumers to purchase in June 2020, and comparing them to bond rates which were similar to the investment portfolios those insurance companies hold, the authors calculated “money’s worth ratios” that show that, for annuities purchased immediately at retirement, the value of the annuities was between 92% – 94% (give-or-take, depending on type) of its cost. That means that the value of the insurance protection is a comparatively modest 6 – 8% of the total investment.
But there’s a catch — or, rather, two of them.
In the first place, the authors calculate their ratios based on a standard mortality table for annuity purchasers — which makes sense if the goal is to judge the “fairness” of an annuity for the healthy retirees most likely to purchase one. But this doesn’t tell us whether an annuity is a smart purchase for someone who thinks of themselves as being in comparatively poorer health, or with a spottier family health history, and folks in these categories would benefit considerably from analysis that’s targeted at them, that evaluates, realistically, whether annuities are the right call and whether their prediction of their life expectancy is likely to be right or wrong.
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.
A National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ task force today created a subgroup to focus solely on the index-linked annuity products.
“These products are exclusively filed in the states as variable annuities and are funded through non-unitized separate accounts,” read a notice to the task force from Pete Weber, chief life actuary at the Ohio Department of Insurance. “The task force has discussed developing a draft standard for minimum interim values for these products and providing direction for implementing the standard.”
Regulators gave the Index-Linked Variable Annuity Subgroup a 2021 charge to: Provide recommendations and changes, as appropriate, to nonforfeiture, or interim value requirements related to Index-Linked Variable Annuities.