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Fitch: New York Life's IFS 'AAA'

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Fitch Ratings has affirmed New York Life Insurance Company’s (New York Life) Insurer Financial Strength (IFS) as ‘AAA.’ All other ratings by Fitch encompassing New York Life and its wholly owned subsidiaries are Stable.

Fitch feels that across the board the company is healthy. It maintains strong capital and operating earnings that reflect its expansive book of traditional life insurance reserves as well as its diversified liquid investment portfolio.

One of their greatest strengths, according to Fitch, is the success of their career agency channel in propelling individual life insurance and annuity sales. The implementation and execution of the company’s strategy to deliver products chiefly through their career distribution channel yielded substantial quantitative changes in individual life and income annuity sales: nine month sale comparisons in 2011 against 2010 showed growth in protection and wealth management products. Annual individual life sales were up 5%. Income annuity sales were up 23%. Mutual funds sales increased 80% and New York Life Investments sales were up 60%.

Fitch feels that the company’s product profile is prudent and predictable sighting individual participating whole life insurance, low amounts of universal life insurance with secondary guarantees and immediate annuities and variable annuities that do not have aggressive living benefit guarantees.

There are, however, concerns. The company maintains an above-average exposure to commercial and residential real estate oriented investments. Fitch sights RMBS and CMBS, and commercial mortgage loans as particularly disturbing. They feel that these could have a detrimental impact on the company especially if the country experiences prolonged economic weakness.

Fitch does view New York Life’s financial leverage as low and their debt service capacity as strong. Fitch believes that the low interest rate environment is manageable for the company due to their capital position and liability profile.