What You Need to Know
- The deal includes $16 billion in retail fixed annuity business.
- It also includes a $9 billion block of universal life policies with secondary guarantees.
- Executives say that blocks were volatile and generated low returns.
Principal Financial Group today announced that it has picked an affiliate of Talcott Resolution Life to help it shed the risk associated with its retail fixed annuity business and part of its life insurance business.
The Des Moines, Iowa-based life insurer has named the Talcott arm, Sutton Cayman, to reinsure a retail fixed annuity block backed by $16 billion in reserves and a block of universal life policies with secondary guarantees backed by $9 billion in reserves.
Principal will continue to administer and service the annuity contracts and life insurance policies involved, and it will have responsibility for managing $4 billion of commercial mortgage loans and private credit assets in the investment portfolios backing the products, the company said.
Principal and Sutton Cayman need regulatory approves to complete the transaction. They hope to close on the deal by June 30.
Company executives announced plans for the realignment in June 2021. Executives then estimated the realignment would involve business backed by $18 billion in reserves.
Talcott said in December that it was overseeing $91 billion in liabilities and surplus as of Sept. 30, 2021. Sixth Street, an investment firm that acquired Talcott in July 2021, said Talcott will emerge from the consummation of the Principal deal with responsibility for $140 billion of liabilities and surplus.
What the Announcement Means
Life insurers use huge portfolios of corporate bonds and other fixed-income instruments to support long-term life and annuity obligations. Interest rates on bonds have been low for years and fell even further in the wake of the turmoil resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federal Reserve may be predicting that interest rates will rise soon, but, for now, many publicly traded life insurers are continuing to base their product strategies on the assumption that rates could stay very low for a long time.
Dan Houston, Principal’s chairman, president and CEO, said during a conference call with securities analysts, which was streamed online, that the company negotiated the reinsurance deal because the blocks exposed the company to a high level of credit risk and market volatility risk, and because low interest rates had hurt the blocks’ ongoing earnings.
Ken McCullum, the company’s chief risk officer, said the company found that the behavior of the life policy owners and annuity contract owners was changing, and requiring frequent actuarial review adjustments.