2004 financial statements show significant growth and strength
Life insurance companies passed their annual financial physical in 2004 with flying colors.
Results drawn from the 2004 financial statements bear witness to the renewed vigor of the industry.
Choose your measuring stick: net gains after dividends; admitted assets; premium income or total in-force business. The numbers collected from the NAIC annual statement database via National Underwriter Insurance Data Services/Highline Data all point in the same direction: up.
Take, for instance, net gains after dividends, which jumped 26% to $40.3 billion in 2004 from $31.9 billion in 2003 for the top 200 life insurers. Of that group, 21 companies experienced a 0-10% increase; 19, an 11%-25% increase; 20, a 26%-50% increase; and, 58, an increase of greater than 50%.
Declines in this category of up to 10% were posted by 18 companies; declines of 11%-25% by 20 companies; of 25%-50% by 18 companies; and, declines of over 50% by 26 companies.
The results of the top 20 insurers in this category are largely explained by increases in premium and net investment income. In the few instances among the top 20 where there was a decline in net admitted assets, the reasons for it ranged from a falloff in considerations for supplementary contracts to an increase in benefits paid out and an increase in reserving.
Kevin Ahern, a director with Standard & Poor’s Corp., N.Y., says the outlook for the industry is “stable” and that life insurers have “rebounded strongly” although there are “still pockets of concern.”
Those pockets, he continues, include the perceived aggressiveness of pricing on some products as well as compliance and regulatory issues such as the impact on companies of the C-3, Phase II risk-based capital project.
The growth in life insurance premiums is being bolstered by the growth in universal life products, he says, but some carriers are very aggressively pricing UL products for older age bands such as the 65-70 age class. With the advancement of Actuarial Guideline 38 at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, it is more likely that there will be greater rationality, Ahern adds.
Another pocket that bears watching, according to Ahern, is the impact of any regional housing bubbles on the mortgage and real estate portfolios of life insurers’ asset portfolios.
The strength of real estate is an important factor to insurers. In fact, an increase in mortgage loans was a significant factor in the overall growth of admitted assets.