The NAIC is forming a working group to study the new market of contingent annuities and similarly designed products from an actuarial and policy standpoint, as various parties in the industry diverge on how the product should be classified and if, indeed, they should be sold under existing statute or model law.
At the NAIC fall national meeting outside of Washington this week, regulators heard the American Academy of Actuaries and Prudential Financial argue that contingent annuities should be treated as annuities, while MetLife and a key actuary from the NAIC life actuarial workforce revealed deep reservations.
The issue “cries out for a deeper look,” said Tom Considine, the New Jersey Insurance Commissioner who will be heading the subgroup, apparently of the Life Insurance and Annuities Committee.
“We believe [the NAIC] should classify a contingent annuity as an annuity and not as a financial risk product,” said Cande Olsen, representing the AAA, before the Life Insurance Committee of the NAIC on Nov. 4.
Her AAA contingent annuities working group basically compared key risks and benefits of a contingent annuity to those of the widely accepted variable annuities with guaranteed living withdrawal benefits.
A contingent annuity is essentially a stand-alone guaranteed living withdrawal benefit, Olsen presented a letter written the week before with actuarial analysis backing the association’s claim. The working group also looked at tax treatment, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) treatment, nonforfeiture treatment, and state guaranty fund coverage to reach its conclusions.
“The product had a material longevity component, and the life industry has the experience to manage these risks,” Olsen said.
Despite this, MetLife will not be selling the product, according to Eric DuPont of the New York-domiciled company. In fact, MetLife does not think the product is even an annuity, and that it could lead to reserve problems. And New York does not take lightly to reserve issues generated from a financial product.
“Among MetLife’s concerns is that we believe it is very difficult to measure and manage the risk associated with the guaranty on a contingent annuity. Therefore, it is difficult to determine adequate reserving needed to support the product,” Dupont stated.
Dupont spoke before the NAIC and also provided a statement to reflect the company’s opinion. “These difficulties contributed to MetLife’s decision not to offer contingent annuities,” he said.
Moreover, DuPont noted that the then- New York Insurance Department (now the combined Department of Financial Services) asserted in 2009 that contingent annuities are financial guaranty insurance under New York law.
The New York law the Department referenced, MetLife said, follows the NAIC’s Financial Guaranty Insurance Model Law. That October 2008 contains a lengthy definition of financial guarantee insurance.
DuPont beleives the matter should not only be taken up by the Life Committee but by with representation from the Financial Condition Committee.
Six other states also maintain laws or regulations that follow the sections of the NAIC model relevant to New York’s opinion: Alaska; California; Connecticut; Florida; Iowa; and Maryland.
However, the AAA took another tack, stating that the “basic regulatory framework in place for other products can be applied to contingent annuities with little or no modification.”
The AAA also stressed the public policy benefits of contingent annuities to the NAIC, noting that “contingent annuities can be a beneficial annuity product for many consumers.”