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Wisconsin Regulators Eye Annuity Suitability

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The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has asked three life insurers to change procedures and guidelines for determining product suitability.

The office has included that recommendation and others in reports on market conduct examinations of American Investors Life Insurance Company, Topeka, Kan.; Aviva Life and Annuity Company, Des Moines, Iowa; and Jackson National Life Company, Denver.

American Investors and Aviva are units of Aviva P.L.C., Norwich, United Kingdom.

Jackson National is a unit of Prudential P.L.C., London, which has no affiliation with Prudential Financial Inc., Newark, N.J.

Suitability standards govern the processes insurers and other financial services companies use when deciding whether the products being offered to consumers suit the needs of those consumers.

The Wisconsin office has advised American Investors and Aviva Life to modify existing guidelines to provide “criteria to be considered” when determining whether an agent has “reasonable grounds for believing that the recommendation was suitable for the consumer.”

The office also recommends that the two companies implement procedures to ensure that all agents are provided with their respective company’s “position on suitability” to ensure compliance with Wisconsin state law.

The office has asked Jackson National to develop written procedures about consumers’ financial situation and investment orientation, to ensure that agents have “reasonable grounds to believe that the recommendation to purchase or exchange an annuity is suitable.”

The office also has advised Jackson National to develop procedures to “monitor and supervise” the fixed and fixed annuity recommendations of its agents.

In recommendations concerning underwriting and new business activity, the Wisconsin office urges Aviva Life to implement a process to monitor agents’ annuity sales when “a high percentage of an agent’s new business…is identified as involving a replacement. The office adds that Aviva Life should, as part of the monitoring program, consider “the percentage of withdrawals or surrenders from an agent’s existing annuity business.”

The office also calls for Jackson and American Investors to implement processes to insure compliance with company procedures with respect to policy replacements.

In Jackson National’s case, the Wisconsin office urges the company to obtain “statements as to whether the policy will replace an existing life insurance policy or annuity in accordance” with company procedures.

“Jackson National acknowledges the recommendations made by the Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance, Jackson National says in a statement. “The company is taking steps to comply with these recommendations in a timely and efficient manner. We will be filing a formal reply to the Commissioner’s office shortly. And, as a result, we have no additional comment on the matter.”

“From time to time, market conduct exams are conducted by state insurance departments as part of their normal course of business,” Aviva Life says in a statement. “This was the case when the State of Wisconsin conducted their exam with our company in 2008.

“We have cooperated fully with the Department and intend to adopt the recommendations set forth in the exam report. In fact, many of the recommendations have been successfully implemented prior to the conclusion of the exam.

“The State of Wisconsin’s recommendations are consistent with the new Suitability Model adopted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that protects consumers and provides consistency across the country.”

Representatives for American Investors could not immediately be reached for comment.


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