So far this quarter, the news in earnings reports about U.S. disability insurance operations has been … lumpy.
StanCorp Financial Group Inc., Portland, Ore. (NYSE:SFG), the parent of Standard Insurance, has said its group disability claims have remained stubbornly high.
Assurant Inc., New York (NYSE:AIZ), says the loss experience at its own group disability operations has been particularly favorable.
Symetra Financial Corp., Bellevue, Wash. (NYSE:SYA), has justed started building its disability insurance business, but it made a point of saying in its earnings release that it’s rolling out “advanced group life and disability claims capabilities.” The companies says it is hoping to use the distribution force for its well-established line of stop-loss insurance — insurance for self-insured employer health plans — to make group life and group disability sales grow quickly.
StanCorp is reporting $20 million in net income for the latest quarter on $725 million in revenue, up from $18 million in net income on $706 million in revenue for the second quarter of 2011.
Although it increased both net income and revenue, it earned less than some securities analysts had hoped, and they put it in the financial woodshed because of a belief that the company might not be increasing premiums enough to make up for a jump in claims.
Group insurance sales fell to $22 million, from $33 million “primarily due to pricing competition,” StanCorp says.
The ratio of group policy benefits to premiums increased to 88.5%, from 84.8%, “primarily due to higher claims severity and continued elevated claims incidence in the group long-term disability insurance business,” and also because Federal Reserve Board efforts to keep interest rates low have forced the company to reduce the discount rate it uses for LTD claim reserves 1.25 percent points, to 4%.
The high benefits ratio is probably a result of the weak economy, StanCorp says.