(Washington) – The Department of Labor’s new market conduct rule will have a long-term impact on insurers and agents in the life insurance business, according to a new report by Standard & Poor’s.
It specifically eyed variable and fixed index annuities, which S&P analysts project is a $190 billion annual business for insurers, because the new rule focuses on business as conducted in the U.S. when it comes to “qualified money” or retirement assets.
S&P said it believes the new rules “could meaningfully affect sales of variable annuities and fixed index annuities in the near term.”
The financial services company also said it will not change any ratings for insurers immediately, since the rule starts to come into effect in April 2017, but it will be eyeing potential solvency implications for insurers depending on how they “respond and adapt” to this new regulatory landscape.
“We will assess the ‘new normal’ sales levels on absolute and relative bases,” S&P said. “If companies are unable to adapt quickly and their relative market positions deteriorate, we could view their overall competitive position negatively,” the analysts said.
Multiple channels currently distribute annuities, including career agents, banks, independent marketing organizations, and large brokers, among others, according to the report.
However, some insurance companies sell nearly exclusively through a single channel, the report said. “We believe that insurers with access to multiple distribution channels may be better positioned to adapt more quickly if the rule changes affect only certain channels,” the S&P analysts mention in the report.
“We believe that insurers with access to multiple distribution channels may be better positioned to adapt more quickly if the rule changes affect only certain channels.”
S&P also said that those firms with positions in the robo-advising distribution channel, which costs less to administer from an advisor’s standpoint, is likely to become more prevalent.
“In addition, simpler products (with lower fees) are likely to increase in popularity,” the S&P analysts said.