Prudential Financial Inc. wants to shed much of the benefits-guarantee-based annuity business now on its books, in addition to ending sales of annuities that come with significant benefit guarantees.
Charles Lowrey, the Newark, New Jersey-based insurer’s CEO, and other Prudential executives talked about the company’s new attitude toward annuities last week during an earnings call with securities analysts.
Prudential did well: it reported $1 billion in net income for the fourth quarter of 2020 on $15 billion in revenue, despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on life and disability insurance operations.
The U.S. individual annuities unit reported $440 million in operating income before income taxes on $1.2 billion in revenue.
But Prudential said in November 2020 that it was discontinuing the sale of individual variable annuities with guaranteed living benefits, because of concerns about the company’s exposure to the effects of low interest rates and investment market risk.
Lowrey said in December 2020 at a Goldman Sachs virtual conference that Prudential would try to keep some annuity business, while reducing exposure to interest rate risk and stock market price fluctuation risk. It would do this by emphasizing the company’s new FlexGuard annuity, which is an indexed annuity that’s filed as a variable-rate product.
Lowrey also said during the conference that Prudential would be reducing costs with a voluntary employee separation program. The company conducted the first part of that program in 2019 and completed three more parts in 2020, he said.
The New Earnings Call
Lowrey told analysts during the call for the company’s fourth-quarter earnings that Prudential is working to become a higher-growth, less market-sensitive business.
“We expect to double our growth businesses to more than 30% of earnings and halve our individual annuities business to 10% or less of earnings,” Lowrey said.
Lowrey said Prudential sees its PGIM asset management arm and joint ventures and subsidiaries in places like Asia, Latin America and Africa as growth businesses.