ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from ______________ to ______________
Commission File Number: 033-23376
Voya Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(IRS Employer Identification No.)
One Orange Way
(Address of principal executive offices)
(Registrant's telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act: None
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes oNo x
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act Yes oNo x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports) and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§ 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein and will not be contained, to the best of registrant's knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. Yes xNo o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer", "accelerated filer" and "smaller reporting company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Large accelerated filer o
Accelerated filer o
Non-accelerated filer x
(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)
Smaller reporting company o
Emerging growth company o
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes o No x
State the aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates: N/A
As of March 11, 2019, 55,000 shares of Common Stock, $50 par value were outstanding, all of which were directly owned by Voya Holdings Inc.
NOTE: WHEREAS VOYA RETIREMENT INSURANCE AND ANNUITY COMPANY MEETS THE CONDITIONS SET FORTH IN GENERAL INSTRUCTION I(1)(a) AND (b) OF FORM 10-K, THIS FORM IS BEING FILED WITH THE REDUCED DISCLOSURE FORMAT PURSUANT TO GENERAL INSTRUCTION I(2).
Voya Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company and Subsidiaries
As used in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, "VRIAC" refers to Voya Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company and the "Company," "we," "our" and "us" refer to VRIAC and its wholly owned subsidiaries.
NOTE CONCERNING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K, including "Risk Factors," "Management's Narrative Analysis of the Results of Operations and Financial Condition" and "Business" contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements include statements relating to future developments in our business or expectations for our future financial performance and any statement not involving a historical fact. Forward-looking statements use words such as "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "expect," "intend," "plan," and other words and terms of similar meaning in connection with a discussion of future operating or financial performance. Actual results, performance or events may differ materially from those projected in any forward-looking statement due to, among other things, (i) general economic conditions, particularly economic conditions in our core markets, (ii) performance of financial markets, including emerging markets, (iii) the frequency and severity of insured loss events, (iv) mortality and morbidity levels, (v) persistency and lapse levels, (vi) interest rates, (vii) currency exchange rates, (viii) general competitive factors, (ix) changes in laws and regulations; (x) changes in the policies of governments and/or regulatory authorities; and (xi) our parent company, Voya Financial, Inc.'s ability to successfully manage the separation of the fixed and variable annuities business that it sold to VA Capital LLC on June 1, 2018, including the transition services on the expected timeline and economic terms or at all, and (xii) other factors described in the section "Item 1A. Risk Factors."
The risks included here are not exhaustive. Current reports on Form 8-K and other documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") include additional factors that could affect our businesses and financial performance. Moreover, we operate in a rapidly changing and competitive environment. New risk factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all such risk factors.
(Dollar amounts in millions, unless otherwise stated)
Organization of Business
Voya Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company ("VRIAC") is a stock life insurance company domiciled in the State of Connecticut. VRIAC and its wholly owned subsidiaries (collectively, "the Company") provide financial products and services in the United States. VRIAC is authorized to conduct its insurance business in all states and in the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Prior to May 2013, Voya Financial, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, including the Company was an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of ING Groep N.V. ("ING Group" or "ING"), a global financial services holding company based in The Netherlands. In May 2013, Voya Financial, Inc. completed its initial public offering of common stock, including the issuance and sale of common stock by Voya Financial, Inc. and the sale of shares of common stock owned indirectly by ING Group. ING Group completely divested its ownership of Voya Financial, Inc. common stock between 2013 and 2015.
VRIAC is a direct, wholly owned subsidiary of Voya Holdings Inc. ("Parent"), which is a direct, wholly owned subsidiary of Voya Financial, Inc. ("Voya Financial").
As of June 1, 2018, Directed Services LLC ("DSL") was divested pursuant to the transaction described below. Subsequent to the transaction, VRIAC has one wholly owned non-insurance subsidiary, Voya Financial Partners, LLC ("VFP").
On June 1, 2018, VRIAC's ultimate parent, Voya Financial, consummated a series of transactions (collectively, the "Transaction'') pursuant to a Master Transaction Agreement dated December 20, 2017 (the "MTA") with VA Capital Company LLC ("VA Capital") and Athene Holding Ltd ("Athene"). As part of the Transaction, VA Capital's wholly owned subsidiary Venerable Holdings Inc. ("Venerable") acquired certain of Voya Financial's assets, including all of the shares of capital stock of Voya Insurance and Annuity Company ("VIAC"), the Company's Iowa-domiciled insurance affiliate, as well as the membership interests of DSL, the Company's broker-dealer subsidiary. Following the closing of the Transaction, VRIAC acquired a 9.99% equity interest in VA Capital.
Description of Business
We offer qualified and nonqualified annuity contracts that include a variety of funding and payout options for employer-sponsored retirement plans as well as some individual plans qualified under Internal Revenue Code Sections 401, 403, 408, 457 and 501, as well as nonqualified deferred compensation plans and related services. Our products are offered primarily to employer-sponsored groups in the health care, government and education markets (collectively "tax exempt markets"), small to mid-sized corporations and individuals. We also provide stable value investment options, including separate account guaranteed investment contracts (e.g., GICs) and synthetic GICs, to institutional clients. Pension risk transfer group annuity solutions were previously offered to institutional plan sponsors who needed to transfer their defined benefit plan obligations to us. We discontinued sales of these solutions in late 2016 to better align business activities to our priorities. Our products are generally distributed through pension professionals, independent brokers and advisors, third-party administrators, consultants, dedicated financial guidance, planning and advisory representatives associated with Voya Financial's retail broker-dealer, Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. ("VFA").
We have one operating segment, which offers the products described below.
Products and Services
Our products include deferred and immediate (i.e., payout) annuity contracts. Our products also include programs offered to qualified plans and nonqualified deferred compensation plans that package administrative and record-keeping services, participant education, and a broad suite of financial wellness offerings including retirement and financial planning guidance and advisory products, tools and services along with a variety of investment options, including proprietary and non-proprietary mutual funds and variable and fixed investment options. In addition, we offer wrapper agreements entered into with retirement plans, which contain certain benefit responsive guarantees (i.e., guarantees of principal and previously accrued interest for benefits paid under the terms of the plan) with respect to portfolios of plan-owned assets not invested with us. Stable value products are also provided to institutional plan sponsors where we may or may not be providing other employer sponsored products and services.
Annuity contracts offered by us contain variable and fixed investment options. Variable options generally provide for assumption by the customer of investment risks. Assets supporting variable annuity options are held in separate accounts that invest in mutual funds distributed by VRIAC and managed and/or distributed by its affiliates, or unaffiliated entities. Variable separate account investment income and realized capital gains and losses are not reflected in the Consolidated Statements of Operations.
Fixed options are either "fully-guaranteed" or "experience-rated." Fully-guaranteed fixed options provide guarantees on investment returns and maturity values. Experience-rated fixed options require the contract owner to assume certain investment risks, including realized capital gains and losses on the sale of invested assets and other risks subject to, among other things, principal and interest guarantees.
Fixed Indexed Annuities ("FIA") credit interest based on allocations selected by a customer in one or more of the strategies we offer and upon policy parameters that we set. The FIA strategies include a fixed interest option as well as options based on performance of various external financial market indices. Each FIA also offers a minimum value available to the client based on non-forfeiture regulations. The crediting mechanism for FIA exposes us to changes in equity indices such as the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ("S&P 500"), the Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50, the Standard & Poor's 400 Index ("S&P 400") Midcap and the Russell 2000 indices. For accounting purposes, the index return component of a FIA is considered an embedded derivative. See further discussion under "Reserves for Future Policy Benefits" below.
Our variable annuities may offer one or more of the following guaranteed minimum death benefits:
Guaranteed Minimum Death Benefits ("GMDBs"):
Standard - Guarantees that, upon death of the individual specified in the policy, the death benefit will be no less than the premiums paid by the customer, adjusted for withdrawals.
Ratchet - Guarantees that, upon death of the individual specified in the policy, the death benefit will be no less than the greater of (1) Standard or (2) the maximum policy anniversary (or quarterly) value of the variable annuity, adjusted for withdrawals.
Rollup - Guarantees that, upon death of the individual specified in the policy, the death benefit will be no less than the aggregate premiums paid by the contract owner, with interest at the contractual rate per annum, adjusted for withdrawals. The rollup may be subject to a maximum cap on the total benefit.
Combo - Guarantees that, upon death of the individual specified in the policy, the death benefit will be no less than the greater of (1) Ratchet or (2) Rollup.
Variable annuities with a death benefit equal to the product's account value, or the greater of the product's account value and the Standard Death Benefit are currently being offered. All other versions have been discontinued.
Variable annuity contracts containing GMDBs expose us to equity risk. A decrease in the equity markets may cause a decrease in the account values, thereby increasing the possibility that we may be required to pay amounts to customers due to guaranteed death benefits. An increase in the value of the equity markets may increase account values for these contracts, thereby decreasing our risk associated with the GMDBs. Most contracts with GMDBs are reinsured to third party reinsurers to mitigate the risk produced by such guaranteed minimum death benefits.
Other Minimum Guarantees
Other variable annuity contracts contain minimum interest rate guarantees and allow the contract holder to select either the market value of the account or the book value of the account at termination. The book value of the account is equal to deposits plus interest, less any withdrawals. Under the terms of the contract, the book value settlement is paid out over time. These guarantees are offered in our Stabilizer and managed custody guarantee products ("MCG").
Fees and Margins
Insurance and expense charges, investment management fees and other fees earned by us vary by product and depend on, among other factors, the funding option selected by the customer under the product. For annuity products where assets are allocated to variable funding options through a separate account, we may charge the separate account asset-based insurance and expense fees.
In addition, where the customer selects a variable funding option, we may receive compensation from the fund's adviser, administrator, or other affiliated entity, for the performance of certain administrative, recordkeeping or other services. This compensation, which may be deducted from fund assets, may include a share of the management fee, service fees, 12b-1 distribution
fees or other revenues based on a percentage of average net assets held in the fund by us. For funds managed by an affiliate, additional compensation may be received in the form of intercompany payments from the fund's investment advisor or the investment advisor's parent in order to allocate revenue and profits across the organization.
For fixed funding options, we earn a margin that is based on the difference between income earned on the investments supporting the liability and interest credited to customers.
In connection with programs offered to qualified plans and nonqualified deferred compensation plans that package administrative and recordkeeping services along with a menu of investment options, we may receive 12b-1 and service plan fees, as well as compensation from the affiliated or nonaffiliated fund's advisor, administrator, or other affiliated entity for the performance of certain shareholder services.
We may also receive other fees or charges depending on the nature of the products.
Strategy, Method of Distribution and Principal Markets
Our products are offered primarily to employer-sponsored groups in the health care, government and education markets (collectively "tax exempt markets"), small to mid-sized corporations and individuals. Our products are generally distributed through pension professionals, independent brokers and advisors, third-party administrators, consultants, dedicated financial guidance, planning and advisory representatives associated with Voya Financial's retail broker-dealer, VFA.
We are not dependent upon any single customer and no single customer accounted for more than 10% of consolidated revenue in 2018. In addition, the loss of business from any one, or a few, independent brokers or agents would not have a material adverse effect on us.
Assets Under Management and Administration
A substantial portion of our fees, other charges and margins, are based on assets under management ("AUM"). AUM represents on-balance sheet assets supporting customer account values/liabilities and surplus as well as off-balance sheet institutional/mutual funds. Customer account values reflect the amount of policyholder equity that has accumulated within retirement and annuity products. AUM includes general account assets in which we bear the investment risk, separate account assets in which the contract owner bears the investment risk and institutional/mutual funds, which are excluded from our balance sheets. AUM-based revenues increase or decrease with a rise or fall in the amount of AUM, whether caused by changes in capital markets or by net flows.
AUM is principally affected by net deposits (i.e., new deposits, less surrenders and other outflows) and investment performance (i.e., interest credited to contract owner accounts for assets that earn a fixed return or market performance for assets that earn a variable return). Assets under administration ("AUA") represent accumulated assets on contracts pursuant to which we either provide administrative services or product guarantees for assets managed by third parties. Fees earned on AUA are generally based on the number of participants, asset levels and/or the level of services or product guarantees that are provided. The AUM, AUA and deposits, were as follows as of and for the periods indicated:
Assets under management:
Total assets under management
Assets under administration
Total assets under management and administration
AUM are generally available for contract owner withdrawal and are generally subject to market value adjustments and/or deferred surrender charges. To encourage customer retention and recover acquisition expenses, contracts typically impose a surrender charge on contract owner balances withdrawn within a period of time after the contract's inception. The period of time and level of the charge vary by product. In addition, an approach incorporated into certain recent variable annuity contracts with fixed funding options allows contract owners to receive an incremental interest rate if withdrawals from the fixed account are spread over a period of five years. Further, more favorable credited rates may be offered after policies have been in force for a period of time. Existing tax penalties on annuity and certain custodial account distributions prior to age 59 1/2 provide further disincentive to customers for premature surrenders of account balances, but generally do not impede transfers of those balances to products of competitors.
Within the retirement business, competition from traditional insurance carriers, 403(b) and 457 plan providers, as well as banks, mutual fund companies and other investment managers, offers consumers many choices. Principal competitive factors are reputation for investment performance, product features, service, cost and the perceived financial strength of the investment manager. Competition may affect, among other matters, both business growth and the pricing of our products and services.
We utilize indemnity reinsurance agreements to reduce our exposure to losses from our annuity insurance business. Reinsurance permits recovery of a portion of losses from reinsurers, although it does not discharge our primary liability as the direct insurer of the risks. Reinsurance treaties are structured as monthly or yearly renewable term, coinsurance, or modified coinsurance. All agreements that we currently have relate to specifically-identified blocks of business or contracts; therefore the agreements do not cover new contracts written, if any.
See Management's Narrative Analysis of the Results of Operations and Financial Condition-Liquidity and Capital Resources-Reinsurance Agreements in Part II, Item 7. of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further discussion of our reinsurance arrangements.
Our investment strategy seeks to achieve sustainable risk-adjusted returns by focusing on principal preservation, disciplined matching of asset characteristics with liability requirements and the diversification of risks. Investment activities are undertaken according to investment policy statements that contain internally established guidelines and risk tolerances and in all cases are required to comply with applicable laws and insurance regulations. Risk tolerances are established for credit risk, credit spread risk, market risk, liquidity risk and concentration risk across issuers, sectors and asset types that seek to mitigate the impact of cash flow variability arising from these risks.
Investments are managed by Voya Investment Management LLC, our affiliate, pursuant to an investment advisory agreement. Portfolios are established for groups of products with similar liability characteristics within us. Our investment portfolio consists largely of high quality fixed maturity securities and short-term investments, investments in commercial mortgage loans, limited partnerships and other instruments, including a small amount of equity holdings. Fixed maturity securities include publicly issued corporate bonds, government bonds, privately placed notes and bonds, mortgage-backed securities and asset-backed securities. We use derivatives for hedging purposes and to replicate exposure to other assets as a more efficient means of assuming credit exposure similar to bonds of the underlying issuer(s).
Employees and Other Shared Services
VRIAC had 1,510 employees as of December 31, 2018, primarily focused on managing new business processing, product distribution, marketing, customer service and product management for us and certain of our affiliates, as well as providing product development, actuarial and finance services to us and certain of our affiliates. We also utilize services provided by Voya Services Company and other affiliates. These services include risk management, human resources, investment management, information technology, legal and compliance services, as well as other new business processing, actuarial and finance related services. The affiliated companies are reimbursed for our use of various services and facilities under a variety of intercompany agreements.
Our operations and businesses are subject to a significant number of Federal and state laws, regulations, administrative determinations.
Following is a description of certain legal and regulatory frameworks to which we are or may be subject.
Our operations are subject to comprehensive regulation and supervision under U.S. state and federal laws. Each U.S. state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories and possessions have insurance laws that apply to companies licensed to carry on an insurance business in the jurisdiction. We are subject to the insurance laws of the State of Connecticut, where we are domiciled and other jurisdictions in which we transact business. The primary regulators of our insurance operations are the insurance departments of Connecticut and New York.
State insurance regulators have broad administrative powers with respect to all aspects of the insurance business including: licensing to transact business, licensing agents, admittance of assets to statutory surplus, regulating premium rates for certain insurance products, approving policy forms, regulating unfair trade and claims practices, establishing reserve requirements and solvency standards, establishing credit for reinsurance requirements, fixing maximum interest rates on life insurance policy loans and minimum accumulation or surrender values and other matters. State insurance laws and regulations include numerous provisions governing the marketplace conduct of insurers, including provisions governing the form and content of disclosures to consumers, product illustrations, advertising, product replacement, suitability, sales and underwriting practices, complaint handling and claims handling. State regulators enforce these provisions through periodic market conduct examinations. State insurance laws and regulations regulating affiliate transactions, the payment of dividends and change of control transactions are discussed in greater detail below.
State insurance laws and regulations require us to file financial statements with state insurance regulators everywhere we are licensed and our operations and accounts are subject to examination by those regulators at any time. We prepare statutory financial statements in accordance with accounting practices and procedures developed by regulators to monitor and regulate the solvency of insurance companies and their ability to pay current and future policyholder obligations. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (the "NAIC") has approved these uniform statutory accounting principles ("SAP") which have in turn been adopted, in some cases with minor modifications, by all state insurance regulators.
State insurance regulators, the NAIC and other regulatory bodies have been investigating the use of affiliated captive reinsurers or off-shore entities to reinsure insurance risks and the NAIC has made recent advances in captive reform.
In 2014, the NAIC considered a proposal to require states to apply NAIC accreditation standards, applicable to traditional insurers, to captive reinsurers. In 2015, the NAIC adopted such a proposal, in the form of a revised preamble to the NAIC accreditation standards (the "Standard"), with an effective date of January 1, 2016 for application of the Standard to captives that assume XXX or AXXX business. Under the Standard, a state will be deemed in compliance as it relates to XXX or AXXX captives if the applicable reinsurance transaction satisfies the NAIC's Actuarial Guideline 48 ("AG48"), which limits the type of assets that may be used as collateral to cover the XXX and AG 38 statutory reserves. The Standard applies prospectively, so that XXX or AXXX captives will not be subject to the Standard if reinsured policies were issued prior to January 1, 2015 and ceded so that they were part of a reinsurance arrangement as of December 31, 2014. The NAIC left for future action application of the Standard to captives that assume variable annuity business.
Insurance Holding Company Regulation
Because we are part of an affiliated group of companies, we are subject to the insurance holding company law of the State of Connecticut, our state of domicile. State insurance holding company law generally requires each insurance company directly or indirectly owned by the holding company to register with the insurance regulator in the insurance company’s state of domicile and to furnish annually financial and other information about the operations of companies within the holding company system. Generally, all transactions affecting the insurers in the holding company system must be fair and reasonable and, if material, require prior notice and approval or non-disapproval by the state’s insurance regulator.
Change of Control. State insurance holding company regulations, including those of Connecticut, generally provide that no person, corporation or other entity may acquire control of an insurance company, or a controlling interest in any parent company of an insurance company, without the prior approval of such insurance company’s domiciliary state insurance regulator. Under Connecticut law, any person acquiring, directly or indirectly, 10% or more of the voting securities of an insurance company is presumed to have acquired "control" of the company. This statutory presumption of control may be rebutted by a showing that control does not exist in fact. Our Connecticut insurance regulators, however, may find that "control" exists in circumstances in which a person owns or controls less than 10% of voting securities.
To obtain approval of any change in control, any proposed acquirer must file with the Connecticut Insurance Department an application disclosing, among other information, its background, financial condition, the financial condition of its affiliates, the source and amount of funds by which it will effect the acquisition, the criteria used in determining the nature and amount of consideration to be paid for the acquisition, proposed changes in the management and operations of the insurance company and other related matters.
Any purchaser of shares of common stock representing 10% or more of the voting power of our capital stock or that of Voya Financial, Inc. will be presumed to have acquired control of our Company unless, following application by that purchaser with the Connecticut Insurance Department, the Insurance Commissioner determines otherwise.
NAIC Regulations. The current insurance holding company model act and regulations (the "NAIC Regulations"), a version of which has been adopted by our insurance subsidiaries' domicile states, include a requirement that an insurance holding company system's ultimate controlling person submit annually to its lead state insurance regulator an "enterprise risk report" that identifies activities, circumstances or events involving one or more affiliates of an insurer that, if not remedied properly, are likely to have a material adverse effect upon the financial condition or liquidity of the insurer or its insurance holding company system as a whole. The NAIC Regulations also include a provision requiring a controlling person to submit prior notice to its domiciliary insurance regulator of a divestiture of control. Connecticut adopted its version of the NAIC Amendments.
The NAIC "Solvency Modernization Initiative" focuses on: (1) capital requirements; (2) corporate governance and risk management; (3) group supervision; (4) statutory accounting and financial reporting; and (5) reinsurance. This initiative has resulted in the adoption by the NAIC, and our insurance subsidiaries' domiciliary states, of the Risk Management and Own Risk and Solvency Assessment Model Act ("ORSA"). ORSA requires that insurers maintain a risk management framework and conduct an internal own risk and solvency assessment of the insurer's material risks in normal and stressed environments. The assessment must be documented in a confidential annual summary report, a copy of which must be made available to regulators as required or upon request. In accordance with statutory requirements, Voya Financial, Inc. regularly prepares and submits ORSA summary reports on behalf of the consolidated enterprise to the Connecticut Insurance Department, the legal insurance regulator of Voya Financial, Inc.'s consolidated enterprise. This initiative also resulted in the adoption by the NAIC and several of our insurance
subsidiary domiciliary regulators of the Corporate Governance Annual Filing Model Act, which requires insurers, including Voya, to make an annual confidential filing regarding their corporate governance policies.
Dividend Payment Restrictions. The insurance law of an insurance company's state of domicile imposes certain restrictions on a domiciliary insurance company's ability to pay dividends to its parent. These restrictions are based in part on the prior year’s statutory income and surplus. In general, dividends up to specified levels are considered ordinary and may be paid without prior approval. Dividends in larger amounts, or extraordinary dividends, are subject to approval by the insurance commissioner of the state of domicile of the insurance subsidiary proposing to pay the dividend. In addition, under Connecticut insurance law, no dividend or other distribution exceeding an amount equal to an insurance company's earned surplus may be paid without the domiciliary insurance regulator's prior approval.
Policy and Contract Reserve Sufficiency Analysis. Under the laws and regulations of Connecticut, we are required to conduct annual analyses of the sufficiency of our statutory reserves. Other jurisdictions in which we are licensed may have certain reserve requirements that differ from our state of domicile. In each case, a qualified actuary must submit an opinion that states that the aggregate statutory reserves, when considered in light of the assets held with respect to such reserves, are sufficient to meet the insurer's contractual obligations and related expenses. If such an opinion cannot be rendered, the affected insurer must set up additional statutory reserves by moving funds from available statutory surplus. We submit these opinions annually to applicable insurance regulatory authorities.
Surplus and Capital Requirements. Insurance regulators have the discretionary authority, in connection with the ongoing licensing of insurance companies, to limit or prohibit the ability of an insurer to issue new policies if, in the regulators' judgment, the insurer is not maintaining a minimum amount of surplus or is in hazardous financial condition. Insurance regulators may also limit the ability of an insurer to issue new life insurance policies and annuity contracts above an amount based upon the face amount and premiums of policies of a similar type issued in the prior year. We do not currently believe that the current or anticipated levels of our statutory surplus present a material risk that any such regulator would limit the amount of new policies that we may issue.
Risk-Based Capital. The NAIC has adopted risk-based capital ("RBC") requirements for life, health and property and casualty insurance companies. The requirements provide a method for analyzing the minimum amount of adjusted capital (statutory capital and surplus plus other adjustments) appropriate for an insurance company to support its overall business operations, taking into account the risk characteristics of the company's assets, liabilities and certain off-balance sheet items. State insurance regulators use the RBC requirements as an early warning tool to identify possibly inadequately capitalized insurers. An insurance company found to have insufficient statutory capital based on its RBC ratio may be subject to varying levels of additional regulatory oversight depending on the level of capital inadequacy. As of December 31, 2018, our RBC exceeded statutory minimum RBC levels that would require any regulatory or corrective action.
As a result of the federal tax legislation signed into law on December 22, 2017 (“Tax Reform”), the NAIC updated the factors affecting RBC requirements, including ours, to reflect the lowering of the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. Adjusting these factors in light of Tax Reform resulted in an increase in the amount of capital we are required to maintain to satisfy our RBC requirements.
The NAIC is currently working with the American Academy of Actuaries as they consider possible updates to the asset factors that are used to calculate the RBC requirements for the investment portfolio assets. The NAIC review may lead to an expansion in the number of NAIC asset class categories for factor-based RBC requirements and the adoption of new factors, which could increase capital requirements on some securities and decrease capital requirements on others. We cannot predict what, if any, changes may result from this review or their potential impact on our RBC ratios. We will continue to monitor developments in this area.
IRIS Tests. The NAIC has developed a set of financial relationships or tests known as the Insurance Regulatory Information System ("IRIS") to assist state regulators in monitoring the financial condition of U.S. insurance companies and identifying companies requiring special attention or action. For IRIS ratio purposes, we submit data to the NAIC on an annual basis. The NAIC analyzes this data using prescribed financial data ratios. A ratio falling outside the prescribed "usual range" is not considered a failing result. Rather, unusual values are viewed as part of the regulatory early monitoring system. In many cases, it is not unusual for financially sound companies to have one or more ratios that fall outside the usual range.
Regulators typically investigate or monitor an insurance company if its IRIS ratios fall outside the prescribed usual range for four or more of the ratios, but each state has the right to inquire about any ratios falling outside the usual range. The inquiries made by state insurance regulators into an insurance company's IRIS ratios can take various forms.
We do not anticipate regulatory action as a result of the 2018 IRIS ratio results. In all instances in prior years, regulators have been satisfied upon follow-up that no regulatory action was required.
Insurance Guaranty Associations. Each state has insurance guaranty association laws that require insurance companies doing business in the state to participate in various types of guaranty associations or other similar arrangements. The laws are designed to protect policyholders from losses under insurance policies issued by insurance companies that become impaired or insolvent. Typically, these associations levy assessments, up to prescribed limits, on member insurers on the basis of the member insurer’s proportionate share of the business in the relevant jurisdiction in the lines of business in which the impaired or insolvent insurer is engaged. Some jurisdictions permit member insurers to recover assessments that they paid through full or partial premium tax offsets, usually over a period of years.
We accrue the cost of future guaranty fund assessments based on estimates of insurance company insolvencies provided by the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Associations and the amount of premiums written in each state. We have estimated this undiscounted liability to be minimal as of December 31, 2018 and 2017. We have also recorded an asset of $9 million as of December 31, 2018 and 2017, for future credits to premium taxes. We estimate our liabilities for future assessments under state insurance guaranty association laws. We believe the reserves established are adequate for future assessments relating to insurance companies that are currently subject to insolvency proceedings.
Cybersecurity Regulatory Activity
The NAIC, numerous state and federal regulatory bodies and self-regulatory organizations like FINRA are focused on cybersecurity standards both for the financial services industry and for all companies that collect personal information, and have proposed legislation, regulations and issued guidance regarding cybersecurity standards and protocols. For example, in February, 2017, the New York Department of Financial Services ("NYDFS") issued final Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies that will require banks, insurance companies, and other financial services institutions regulated by the NYDFS, including us, to establish and maintain a cybersecurity program "designed to protect consumers and ensure the safety and soundness of New York State's financial services industry." In 2018, South Carolina, Ohio and Michigan adopted versions of the NAIC Insurance Data Security Model Law. These laws, with effective dates ranging from January 1, 2019 to January 20, 2021, ensure that licensees of the Department of Insurance in these states have strong and aggressive cybersecurity programs to protect the personal data of their customers. During 2019, we expect cybersecurity risk management, prioritization and reporting to continue to be an area of significant focus by governments, regulatory bodies and self-regulatory organizations at all levels.
We sell group variable annuities that are registered with the SEC as securities under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Securities Act") and are subject to regulation by the SEC and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA"). In addition, certain fixed and indexed annuities we may offer are registered as securities under the Securities Act. The variable annuity products are issued through separate accounts and some of the separate accounts are registered as investment companies under the Investment Company Act, and are regulated by state law. Each separate account is generally divided into sub-accounts, each of which invests in an underlying mutual fund which is itself a registered investment company under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the "Investment Company Act"). Such mutual funds, and in certain states, our variable annuity products, are subject to filing and other requirements under state securities laws. Federal and state securities laws and regulations are primarily intended to protect investors and generally grant broad rulemaking and enforcement powers to regulatory agencies.
In addition, distribution of our annuity products registered as securities is affected by federal and state securities laws and laws and regulations applicable to broker-dealers.
In April 2018, the SEC published a proposed rule that would, among other things, apply a heightened "best interest" standard to broker-dealers and their associated persons when they make securities investment recommendations to retail customers. If the SEC finalizes this rule, other federal regulators and state regulators may follow with their own rules applicable to investment recommendations relating to other separate or overlapping investment products and accounts, such as insurance products and retirement accounts.
Federal Initiatives Affecting Insurance Operations
The U.S. federal government generally does not directly regulate the insurance business. Federal legislation and administrative policies in several areas can significantly affect insurance companies, however. These areas include federal pension regulation, financial services regulation, federal tax laws relating to life insurance companies and their products and the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (the "Patriot Act") requiring, among other things, the establishment of anti-money laundering monitoring programs.
Regulation of Retirement Products and Services
Our retirement products and services are subject to federal and state tax, securities, fiduciary (including the Employment Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA")), insurance and other laws and regulations. The SEC, FINRA, state securities commissions, state insurance departments and the Department of Labor ("DOL") and the Treasury Department are the principal regulators that regulate these products and services.
Federal and state securities laws and regulations are primarily intended to protect investors in the securities markets and generally grant regulatory agencies broad enforcement and rulemaking powers, including the power to limit or restrict the conduct of business in the event of non-compliance with such laws and regulations. Federal and state securities regulatory authorities and FINRA from time to time make inquiries and conduct examinations regarding compliance by us, our subsidiaries and affiliates with securities and other laws and regulations.
ERISA is a comprehensive federal statute that applies to U.S. employee benefit plans sponsored by private employers and labor unions. Plans subject to ERISA include pension and profit sharing plans and welfare plans, including health, life and disability plans. Among other things, ERISA imposes reporting and disclosure obligations, prescribes standards of conduct that apply to plan fiduciaries and prohibits transactions known as "prohibited transactions," such as conflict-of-interest transactions, self-dealing and certain transactions between a benefit plan and a party in interest. ERISA also provides for a scheme of civil and criminal penalties and enforcement. Our insurance, investment management and retirement businesses provide services to employee benefit plans subject to ERISA, including limited services under specific contracts where we may act as an ERISA fiduciary. We are also subject to ERISA’s prohibited transaction rules for transactions with ERISA plans, which may affect our ability to, or the terms upon which we may, enter into transactions with those plans, even in businesses unrelated to those giving rise to party in interest status. The applicable provisions of ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code are subject to enforcement by the DOL, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") and the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation ("PBGC").
Financial Reform Legislation and Initiatives
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
The Dodd-Frank Act creates a new framework for regulating over-the-counter ("OTC") derivatives, which has transformed derivatives markets and trading in significant ways. Under the new regulatory regime and subject to certain exceptions, certain standardized OTC interest rate and credit derivatives must now be cleared through a centralized clearinghouse and executed on a centralized exchange or execution facility, and the CFTC and the SEC may designate additional types of OTC derivatives for mandatory clearing and trade execution requirements in the future. In addition to mandatory central clearing of certain derivatives products, non-centrally cleared OTC derivatives which have been excluded from the clearing mandate and which are used by market participants like us are now subject to additional regulatory reporting and and margin requirements. Specifically, both the CFTC and federal banking regulators issued final rules in 2015, which became effective in 2017, establishing minimum margin requirements for OTC derivatives traded by either (non-bank) swap dealers or banks which qualify as swaps entities. Nearly all of the counterparties we trade with are either swap dealers or swap entities subject to these rules. Both the CFTC and prudential regulator margin rules require mandatory exchange of variation margin for OTC derivatives transacted by us and will require exchange of initial margin commencing in 2020. As a result of the transition to central clearing and the new margin requirements for OTC derivatives), we will be required to hold more cash and highly liquid securities resulting in lower yields in order to satisfy the projected increase in margin required. In addition, increased capital charges imposed by regulators on non-cash collateral held by bank counterparties and central clearinghouses is expected to result in higher hedging costs, causing a reduction in income from investments. We are also observing an increasing reluctance from counterparties to accept certain non-cash collateral from us due to higher capital or operational costs associated with such asset classes that we typically hold in abundance. These developments present potentially significant business, liquidity and operational risk for us which could materially and adversely impact both the cost and our ability to effectively hedge various risks, including equity, interest rate, currency and duration risks within many of our insurance and annuity products and investment portfolios. In addition, inconsistencies between the Dodd-Frank Act regime and parallel regimes in other jurisdictions, such as the EU, may further increase costs of hedging or inhibit our ability to access market liquidity in those other jurisdictions.
The Patriot Act contains anti-money laundering and financial transparency laws applicable to broker-dealers and other financial services companies, including insurance companies. The Patriot Act seeks to promote cooperation among financial institutions, regulators and law enforcement entities in identifying parties that may be involved in terrorism or money laundering. Anti-money laundering laws outside of the United States contain provisions that may be different, conflicting or more rigorous. Internal practices, procedures and controls are required to meet the increased obligations of financial institutions to identify their customers, watch for and report suspicious transactions, respond to requests for information by regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies and share information with other financial institutions.
We are also required to follow certain economic and trade sanctions programs administered by the Office of Foreign Asset Control that prohibit or restrict transactions with suspected countries, their governments and, in certain circumstances, their nationals. We are also subject to regulations governing bribery and other anti-corruption measures.
Privacy Laws and Regulation
U.S. federal and state laws and regulations require all companies generally, and financial institutions, including insurance companies in particular, to protect the security and confidentiality of personal information and to notify consumers about their policies and practices relating to their collection, use, and disclosure of consumer information and the protection of the security and confidentiality of that information. The collection, use, disclosure and security of protected health information is also governed by federal and state laws. Federal and state laws require notice to affected individuals, law enforcement, regulators and others if there is a breach of the security of certain personal information, including social security numbers, and require holders of certain personal information to protect the security of the data. Federal regulations require financial institutions to implement effective programs to detect, prevent and mitigate identity theft. Federal and state laws and regulations regulate the ability of financial institutions to make telemarketing calls and to send unsolicited e-mail or fax messages to consumers and customers. Federal laws and regulations also regulate the permissible uses of certain types of personal information, including consumer report information. Federal and state governments and regulatory bodies may consider additional or more detailed regulation regarding these subjects. Numerous state regulatory bodies are focused on privacy requirements for all companies that collect personal information and have proposed legislation and regulations regarding privacy standards and protocols. For example, on June 28, 2018, California enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act, which will take effect on January 1,2020. We continue to evaluate this legislation and its potential impact on our operations, but depending on its implementation, we and other covered businesses may be required to incur significant expense in order to meet its requirements.
Our ownership and operation of real property and properties within our commercial mortgage loan portfolio is subject to federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations. Risks of hidden environmental liabilities and the costs of any required clean-up are inherent in owning and operating real property. Under the laws of certain states, contamination of a property may give rise to a lien on the property to secure recovery of the costs of clean-up, which could adversely affect the valuation of, and increase the liabilities associated with, the commercial mortgage loans we hold. In several states, this lien has priority over the lien of an existing mortgage against such property. In addition, we may be liable, in certain circumstances, as an "owner" or "operator," for costs of cleaning-up releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances at a property mortgaged to us under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 and the laws of certain states. Application of various other federal and state environmental laws could also result in the imposition of liability on us for costs associated with environmental hazards.
We routinely conduct environmental assessments prior to closing any new commercial mortgage loans or to taking title to real estate. Although unexpected environmental liabilities can always arise, we seek to minimize this risk by undertaking these environmental assessments and complying with our internal environmental policies and procedures.
(Dollar amounts in millions, unless otherwise stated)
We face a variety of risks that are substantial and inherent in our business, including market, liquidity, credit, operational, legal, regulatory and reputational risks. The following are some of the more important factors that could affect our business.
Risks Related to Our Business - General
Conditions in the global capital markets and the economy generally have affected and may continue to affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our business and results of operations are materially affected by conditions in the global capital markets and the economy generally. Ongoing changes in monetary policies among the world's large central banks and fiscal policies enacted by various governments could create economic disruption, decrease asset prices, increase market volatility and potentially affect the availability and cost of credit.
Although we carry out business almost exclusively in the United States, we are affected by both domestic and international macroeconomic developments. Volatility and disruptions in financial markets, including global capital markets, can have an adverse effect on our investment portfolio, and our liabilities are sensitive to changing market factors. Factors including interest rates, credit spreads, equity prices, derivative prices and availability, real estate markets, exchange rates, the volatility and strength of the capital markets, and deflation and inflation, all affect our financial condition. Disruptions in one market or asset class can also spread to other markets or asset classes. Upheavals in the financial markets can also affect our financial condition (including our liquidity and capital levels) as a result of impacts, including diverging impacts, on the value of our assets and our liabilities.
In recent years, political events have had significant effects on global financial markets. These events include confrontations over trade between the United States and its traditional allies in North America and Europe, and between the United States and China, and the pending withdrawal by the United Kingdom from its membership in the European Union, commonly referred to as “Brexit”, Adverse consequences from these or other events could include deterioration in global economic conditions, instability in global financial markets, political uncertainty, volatility in credit, equity, foreign exchange and derivatives markets, or other adverse changes.
More generally, the international system has in recent years faced heightened geopolitical risk, most notably in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, but also in Africa and Southeast Asia, and events in any one of these regions could give rise to an increase in market volatility or a decrease in global economic output.
Even in the absence of a market downturn, our retirement products, as well as our investment returns and our access to and cost of financing, are sensitive to equity, fixed income, real estate and other market fluctuations and general economic and political conditions. These fluctuations and conditions could materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity, including in the following respects:
We provide a number of retirement products that expose us to risks associated with fluctuations in interest rates, market indices, securities prices, default rates, the value of real estate assets, currency exchange rates and credit spreads. The profitability of many of our retirement products depends in part on the value of the general accounts and separate accounts supporting them, which may fluctuate substantially depending on the foregoing conditions.
Volatility or downturns in the equity markets can cause a reduction in fee income on retirement and certain annuity products. Because these products and services generate fees related primarily to the value of AUM, a decline in the equity markets could reduce our revenues.
A change in market conditions, including prolonged periods of high or low inflation or interest rates, could cause a change in consumer sentiment and adversely affect sales and could cause the actual persistency of our products to vary from their anticipated persistency (the probability that a product will remain in force from one period to the next) to vary from their anticipated persistency and adversely affect profitability. Changing economic conditions or adverse public perception of financial institutions can influence customer behavior, which can result in, among other things, an increase or decrease in claims, lapses, withdrawals, deposits or surrenders in certain products, any of which could adversely affect profitability.
An equity market decline, decreases in prevailing interest rates or a prolonged period of low interest rates could result in the value of guaranteed minimum benefits contained in certain of our retirement products being higher than current account values or higher than anticipated in our pricing assumptions, requiring us to materially increase reserves for such products, and may result in a decrease in customer lapses, thereby increasing the cost to us. In addition, such a scenario could lead to increased amortization and/or unfavorable unlocking of our deferred acquisition costs ("DAC") and value of business acquired ("VOBA").
Reductions in employment levels of our existing employer customers may result in a reduction in underlying employee participation levels, contributions, deposits and premium income for certain of our retirement products. Participants within the retirement plans for which we provide certain services may elect to make withdrawals from these plans, or reduce or stop their payroll deferrals to these plans, which would reduce assets under management or administration and our revenues.
We have significant investment and derivative portfolios that include, among other investments, corporate securities, asset-backed securities ("ABS"), equities and commercial mortgages. Economic conditions as well as adverse capital market and credit conditions, interest rate changes, changes in mortgage prepayment behavior or declines in the value of underlying collateral will impact the credit quality, liquidity and value of our investment and derivative portfolios, potentially resulting in higher capital charges and unrealized or realized losses and decreased investment income. The value of our investments and derivative portfolios may also be impacted by reductions in price transparency, changes in the assumptions or methodology we use to estimate fair value and changes in investor confidence or preferences, which could potentially result in higher realized or unrealized losses and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition. Market volatility may also make it difficult to value certain of our securities if trading becomes less frequent.
Market conditions determine the availability and cost of the reinsurance protection we purchase and may result in additional expenses for reinsurance or an inability to obtain sufficient reinsurance on acceptable terms, which could adversely affect the profitability of our business and the availability of capital.
Hedging instruments we use to manage product and other risks might not perform as intended or expected, which could result in higher realized losses and unanticipated cash needs to collateralize or settle such transactions. Adverse market conditions can limit the availability and increase the costs of hedging instruments, and such costs may not be recovered in the pricing of the underlying products being hedged. In addition, hedging counterparties may fail to perform their obligations resulting in unhedged exposures and losses on positions that are not collateralized.
Regardless of market conditions, certain investments we hold, including privately placed fixed income investments, investments in private equity funds and commercial mortgages, are relatively illiquid. If we need to sell these investments, we may have difficulty selling them in a timely manner or at a price equal to what we could otherwise realize by holding the investment to maturity.
We are exposed to interest rate and equity risk based upon the discount rate and expected long-term rate of return assumptions associated with our pension and other retirement benefit obligations. Sustained declines in long-term interest rates or equity returns could have a negative effect on the funded status of these plans and/or increase our future funding costs.
Fluctuations in our results of operations and realized and unrealized gains and losses on our investment and derivative portfolio may impact our tax profile, our ability to optimally utilize tax attributes and our deferred income tax assets. See "Our ability to use beneficial U.S. tax attributes is subject to limitations."
A default by any financial institution or by a sovereign could lead to additional defaults by other market participants. The failure of a sufficiently large and influential institution could disrupt securities markets or clearance and settlement systems and lead to a chain of defaults, because the commercial and financial soundness of many financial institutions may be closely related as a result of credit, trading, clearing or other relationships. Even the perceived lack of creditworthiness of a counterparty may lead to market-wide liquidity problems and losses or defaults by us or by other institutions. This risk is sometimes referred to as "systemic risk" and may adversely affect financial intermediaries, such as clearing agencies, clearing houses, banks, securities firms and exchanges with which we interact on a daily basis. Systemic risk could have a material adverse effect on our ability to raise new funding and on our business, results of operations, financial condition, liquidity and/or business prospects. In addition, such a failure could impact future product sales as a potential result of reduced confidence in the financial services industry. Regulatory changes implemented to address systemic risk could also cause market participants to curtail their participation in certain market activities, which could decrease market liquidity and increase trading and other costs.
Widening credit spreads, if not offset by equal or greater declines in the risk-free interest rate, would also cause the total interest rate payable on newly issued securities to increase, and thus would have the same effect as an increase in underlying interest rates with respect to the valuation of our current portfolio.
To the extent that any of the foregoing risks were to emerge in a manner that adversely affected general economic conditions, financial markets, or the markets for our products and services, our financial condition, liquidity, and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Adverse capital and credit market conditions may impact our ability to access liquidity and capital, as well as the cost of credit and capital.
Adverse capital market conditions may affect the availability and cost of borrowed funds, thereby impacting our ability to support or grow our businesses. We need liquidity to pay our operating expenses, interest on our debt and dividends to our parent, to maintain our securities lending activities and to replace certain maturing liabilities. Without sufficient liquidity, we will be forced to curtail
our operations and our business will suffer. Our principal sources of liquidity are fees, annuity deposits and cash flow from investments and assets.
In the event current resources do not satisfy our needs, we may have to seek additional financing. The availability of additional financing will depend on a variety of factors such as market conditions, the general availability of credit, the volume of trading activities, the overall availability of credit to the financial services industry and our credit ratings and credit capacity, as well as the possibility that customers or lenders could develop a negative perception of our long- or short-term financial prospects. Similarly, our access to funds may be limited if regulatory authorities or rating agencies take negative actions against us. If our internal sources of liquidity prove to be insufficient, there is a risk that we may not be able to successfully obtain additional financing on favorable terms, or at all. Any actions we might take to access financing may cause rating agencies to reevaluate our ratings. Any impairment of our ability to access credit markets or other forms of liquidity could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
The level of interest rates may adversely affect our profitability, particularly in the event of a continuation of the current low interest rate environment or a period of rapidly increasing interest rates.
The Federal Reserve has actively sought to normalize interest rates over the past few years. However, interest rates remain below historic averages. Supportive monetary policy continues in developed markets globally, but the extent of accommodation has receded. The unwind of extraordinary monetary accommodation by global central banks may lead to increased interest rate volatility.
During a period of decreasing interest rates or a prolonged period of low interest rates, our investment earnings may decrease because the interest earnings on our recently purchased fixed income investments will likely have declined in tandem with market interest rates. In addition, a prolonged low interest rate period may result in higher costs for certain derivative instruments that may be used to hedge certain of our product risks. RMBS and callable fixed income securities in our investment portfolios will be more likely to be prepaid or redeemed as borrowers seek to borrow at lower interest rates. Consequently, we may be required to reinvest the proceeds in securities bearing lower interest rates. Accordingly, during periods of declining interest rates, our profitability may suffer as the result of a decrease in the spread between interest rates credited to policyholders and contract owners and returns on our investment portfolios. An extended period of declining or prolonged low interest rates or a prolonged period of low interest rates may also coincide with a change to our long-term view of the interest rates. Such a change in our view would cause us to change the long-term interest rate assumptions in our calculation of insurance assets and liabilities under U.S. GAAP. Any future revision would result in increased reserves, accelerated amortization of DAC and other unfavorable consequences, which would be incremental to those consequences recorded in connection with the most recent revision. In addition, certain statutory capital and reserve requirements are based on formulas or models that consider interest rates, and an extended period of low interest rates may increase the statutory capital we are required to hold and the amount of assets we must maintain to support statutory reserves.
We believe a continuation of the low interest rate environment would negatively affect our financial performance.
Conversely, in periods of rapidly increasing interest rates, policy loans, withdrawals from, and/or surrenders of, annuity contracts and certain guaranteed investment contracts may increase as policyholders choose to seek higher investment returns. Obtaining cash to satisfy these obligations may require us to liquidate fixed income investments at a time when market prices for those assets are lower because of increases in interest rates. This may result in realized investment losses. Regardless of whether we realize an investment loss, such cash payments would result in a decrease in total invested assets and may decrease our net income and capitalization levels. Premature withdrawals may also cause us to accelerate amortization of DAC, which would also reduce our net income. An increase in market interest rates could also have a material adverse effect on the value of our investment portfolio by, for example, decreasing the estimated fair values of the fixed income securities within our investment portfolio. An increase in market interest rates could also create increased collateral posting requirements associated with our interest rate hedge programs and Federal Home Loan Bank ("FHLB") funding agreements, which could materially and adversely affect liquidity. In addition, an increase in market interest rates could require us to pay higher interest rates on debt securities we may issue in the financial markets from time to time to finance our operations, which would increase our interest expense and reduce our results of operations. Lastly, certain statutory reserve requirements are based on formulas or models that consider forward interest rates and an increase in forward interest rates may increase the statutory reserves we are required to hold thereby reducing statutory capital.
Changes in prevailing interest rates may negatively affect our business including the level of net interest margin we earn. In a period of changing interest rates, interest expense may increase and interest credited to policyholders may change at different rates than the interest earned on assets. Accordingly, changes in interest rates could decrease net interest margin. Changes in interest rates may negatively affect the value of our assets and our ability to realize gains or avoid losses from the sale of those assets, all of which also ultimately affect earnings. In addition, our insurance and annuity products and certain of our retirement and investment products are sensitive to inflation rate fluctuations. A sustained increase in the inflation rate in our principal markets may also negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operation. For example, a sustained increase in the inflation rate
may result in an increase in nominal market interest rates. A failure to accurately anticipate higher inflation and factor it into our product pricing assumptions may result in mispricing of our products, which could materially and adversely impact our results of operations.
A downgrade or a potential downgrade in our financial strength or credit ratings could result in a loss of business and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Ratings are important to our business. Credit ratings represent the opinions of rating agencies regarding an entity's ability to repay its indebtedness. Our credit ratings are important to our ability to raise capital through the issuance of debt and to the cost of such financing. Financial strength ratings, which are sometimes referred to as "claims-paying" ratings, represent the opinions of rating agencies regarding the financial ability of an insurance company to meet its obligations under an insurance policy. Financial strength ratings are important factors affecting public confidence in insurers. Our financial strength ratings are important to our ability to sell our products and services to our customers. Ratings are not recommendations to buy our securities. Each of the rating agencies reviews its ratings periodically, and our current ratings may not be maintained in the future.
Our ratings could be downgraded at any time and without notice by any rating agency. In addition, we could take actions that could cause one or more rating agencies to cease providing financial strength ratings. For a description of material rating actions that have occurred from the end of 2017 through the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K see "Item 7. Management's Narrative Analysis of the Results of Operations and Financial Condition-Liquidity and Capital Resources-Ratings."
A downgrade or discontinuation of our financial strength rating could affect our competitive position by making it more difficult for us to market our products as potential customers may select companies with higher financial strength ratings and by leading to increased withdrawals by current customers seeking companies with higher financial strength ratings. This could lead to a decrease in AUM and result in lower fee income. Furthermore, sales of assets to meet customer withdrawal demands could also result in losses, depending on market conditions. In addition, a downgrade or discontinuation in either our financial strength or credit ratings could potentially, among other things, increase our borrowing costs and make it more difficult to access financing; adversely affect the availability of LOCs and other financial guarantees; result in additional collateral requirements, or other required payments or termination rights under derivative contracts or other agreements; and/or impair, or cause the termination of, our relationships with creditors, broker-dealers, distributors, reinsurers or trading counterparties, which could potentially negatively affect our profitability, liquidity and/or capital. In addition, we use assumptions of market participants in estimating the fair value of our liabilities, including insurance liabilities that are classified as embedded derivatives under U.S. GAAP. These assumptions include our nonperformance risk (i.e., the risk that the obligations will not be fulfilled). Therefore, changes in our credit or financial strength ratings or the credit or financial strength ratings of Voya Financial, Inc. may affect the fair value of our liabilities.
As rating agencies continue to evaluate the financial services industry, it is possible that rating agencies will heighten the level of scrutiny that they apply to financial institutions, increase the frequency and scope of their credit reviews, request additional information from the companies that they rate and potentially adjust upward the capital and other requirements employed in the rating agency models for maintenance of certain ratings levels. It is possible that the outcome of any such review of us would have additional adverse ratings consequences, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity. We may need to take actions in response to changing standards or capital requirements set by any of the rating agencies which could cause our business and operations to suffer. We cannot predict what additional actions rating agencies may take, or what actions we may take in response to the actions of rating agencies.
Because we operate in highly competitive markets, we may not be able to increase or maintain our market share, which may have an adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
In each of our businesses we face intense competition, including from domestic and foreign insurance companies, broker-dealers, financial advisors, asset managers and diversified financial institutions, banks, technology companies and start-up financial services providers, both for the ultimate customers for our products and for distribution through independent distribution channels. We compete based on a number of factors including brand recognition, reputation, quality of service, quality of investment advice, investment performance of our products, product features, scope of distribution, price, perceived financial strength and credit ratings, scale and level of customer service. A decline in our competitive position as to one or more of these factors could adversely affect our profitability. Many of our competitors are large and well-established and some have greater market share or breadth of distribution, offer a broader range of products, services or features, assume a greater level of risk, or have higher claims-paying or credit ratings than we do. Furthermore, the preferences of the end consumers for our products and services may shift, including as a result of technological innovations affecting the marketplaces in which we operate. To the extent our competitors are more successful than we are at adopting new technology and adapting to the changing preferences of the marketplace, our competitiveness may decline.
In recent years, there has been substantial consolidation among companies in the financial services industry resulting in increased competition from large, well-capitalized financial services firms. Many of our competitors also have been able to increase their distribution systems through mergers, acquisitions, partnerships or other contractual arrangements. Furthermore, larger competitors may have lower operating costs and have an ability to absorb greater risk, while maintaining financial strength ratings, allowing them to price products more competitively. These competitive pressures could result in increased pressure on the pricing of certain of our products and services, and could harm our ability to maintain or increase profitability. In addition, if our financial strength and credit ratings are lower than our competitors, we may experience increased surrenders and/or a significant decline in sales. Due to the competitive nature of the financial services industry, there can be no assurance that we will continue to effectively compete within the industry or that competition will not have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our risk management policies and procedures, including hedge programs, may prove inadequate for the risks we face, which could negatively affect our business and financial condition or result in losses.
We have developed risk management policies and procedures, including hedging programs that utilize derivative financial instruments, and expect to continue to do so in the future. Nonetheless, our policies and procedures to identify, monitor and manage risks may not be fully effective, particularly during turbulent economic conditions. Many of our methods of managing risk and exposures are based upon observed historical market behavior or statistics based on historical models. As a result, these methods may not predict future exposures, which could be significantly greater than historical measures indicate. Other risk management methods depend on the evaluation of information regarding markets, customers, catastrophe occurrence or other matters that is publicly available or otherwise accessible to us. This information may not always be accurate, complete, up-to-date or properly evaluated. Management of operational, legal and regulatory risks requires, among other things, policies and procedures to record and verify large numbers of transactions and events. These policies and procedures may not be fully effective.
We employ various strategies, including hedging and reinsurance, with the objective of mitigating risks inherent in our business and operations. These risks include current or future changes in the fair value of our assets and liabilities, current or future changes in cash flows, the effect of interest rates, equity markets and credit spread changes, the occurrence of credit defaults, currency fluctuations and changes in mortality and longevity. We seek to control these risks by, among other things, entering into reinsurance contracts and derivative instruments, such as swaps, options, futures and forward contracts. See "Reinsurance subjects us to the credit risk of reinsurers and may not be available, affordable or adequate to protect us against losses" for a description of risks associated with our use of reinsurance. Developing an effective strategy for dealing with these risks is complex, and no strategy can completely insulate us from such risks. Our hedging strategies also rely on assumptions and projections regarding our assets, liabilities, general market factors and the creditworthiness of our counterparties that may prove to be incorrect or prove to be inadequate. Our hedging strategies and the derivatives that we use, or may use in the future, may not adequately mitigate or offset the hedged risk and our hedging transactions may result in losses.
Past or future misconduct by our employees, agents, intermediaries, registered representatives of our broker-dealer affiliates or employees of our vendors could result in violations of law by us or our subsidiaries, regulatory sanctions and/or serious reputational or financial harm, and the precautions we take to prevent and detect this activity may not be effective in all cases. Although we employ controls and procedures designed to monitor associates' business decisions and to prevent us from taking excessive or inappropriate risks, associates may take such risks regardless of such controls and procedures. Our compensation policies and practices are reviewed by us as part of our overall risk management program, but it is possible that such compensation policies and practices could inadvertently incentivize excessive or inappropriate risk taking. If our associates take excessive or inappropriate risks, those risks could harm our reputation and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
The inability of counterparties to meet their financial obligations could have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
Third parties that owe us money, securities or other assets may not pay or perform under their obligations. These parties include the issuers or guarantors of securities we hold, customers, reinsurers, trading counterparties, securities lending and repurchase counterparties, counterparties under swaps, credit default and other derivative contracts, clearing agents, exchanges, clearing houses and other financial intermediaries. Defaults by one or more of these parties on their obligations to us due to bankruptcy, lack of liquidity, downturns in the economy or real estate values, operational failure or other factors, or even rumors about potential defaults by one or more of these parties, could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity.
We routinely execute a high volume of transactions such as unsecured debt instruments, derivative transactions and equity investments with counterparties and customers in the financial services industry, including broker-dealers, commercial and investment banks, mutual and hedge funds, institutional clients, futures clearing merchants, swap dealers, insurance companies and other institutions, resulting in large periodic settlement amounts which may result in our having significant credit exposure to one or more of such counterparties or customers. Many of these transactions comprise derivative instruments with a number of
counterparties in order to hedge various risks, including equity and interest rate market risk features within many of our insurance and annuity products. Our obligations under our products are not changed by our hedging activities and we are liable for our obligations even if our derivative counterparties do not pay us. As a result, we face concentration risk with respect to liabilities or amounts we expect to collect from specific counterparties and customers. A default by, or even concerns about the creditworthiness of, one or more of these counterparties or customers could have an adverse effect on our results of operations or liquidity. There is no assurance that losses on, or impairments to the carrying value of, these assets due to counterparty credit risk would not materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations or financial condition.
We are also subject to the risk that our rights against third parties may not be enforceable in all circumstances. The deterioration or perceived deterioration in the credit quality of third parties whose securities or obligations we hold could result in losses and/or adversely affect our ability to rehypothecate or otherwise use those securities or obligations for liquidity purposes. While in many cases we are permitted to require additional collateral from counterparties that experience financial difficulty, disputes may arise as to the amount of collateral we are entitled to receive and the value of pledged assets. Our credit risk may also be exacerbated when the collateral we hold cannot be realized or is liquidated at prices not sufficient to recover the full amount of the loan or derivative exposure that is due to us, which is most likely to occur during periods of illiquidity and depressed asset valuations, such as those experienced during the financial crisis of 2008-09. The termination of contracts and the foreclosure on collateral may subject us to claims for the improper exercise of rights under the contracts. Bankruptcies, downgrades and disputes with counterparties as to the valuation of collateral tend to increase in times of market stress and illiquidity.
Requirements to post collateral or make payments related to changes in market value of specified assets may adversely affect liquidity.
The amount of collateral we may be required to post under short-term financing agreements, FHLB funding agreements and derivative transactions may increase under certain circumstances. Pursuant to the terms of some transactions, we could be required to make payment to our counterparties related to any change in the market value of the specified collateral assets. Such requirements could have an adverse effect on liquidity. Furthermore, with respect to any such payments, we may have unsecured risk to the counterparty as these amounts may not be required to be segregated from the counterparty's other funds, may not be held in a third-party custodial account and may not be required to be paid to us by the counterparty until the termination of the transaction.
Our investment portfolio is subject to several risks that may diminish the value of our invested assets and the investment returns credited to customers, which could reduce our sales, revenues, AUM, results of operations and financial condition.
Fixed income securities represent a significant portion of our investment portfolio. We are subject to the risk that the issuers, or guarantors, of fixed income securities we own may default on principal and interest payments they owe us. We are also subject to the risk that the underlying collateral within asset-backed securities, including mortgage-backed securities, may default on principal and interest payments causing an adverse change in cash flows. The occurrence of a major economic downturn, acts of corporate malfeasance, widening mortgage or credit spreads, or other events that adversely affect the issuers, guarantors or underlying collateral of these securities could cause the estimated fair value of our fixed income securities portfolio and our earnings to decline and the default rate of the fixed income securities in our investment portfolio to increase. A ratings downgrade affecting issuers or guarantors of securities in our investment portfolio, or similar trends that could worsen the credit quality of such issuers, or guarantors could also have a similar effect. Similarly, a ratings downgrade affecting a security we hold could indicate the credit quality of that security has deteriorated and could increase the capital we must hold to support that security to maintain our RBC ratio. See "A decrease in our RBC ratio (as a result of a reduction in statutory surplus and/or increase in RBC requirements) could result in increased scrutiny by insurance regulators and rating agencies and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition." We are also subject to the risk that cash flows resulting from the payments on pools of mortgages or other obligations that serve as collateral underlying the mortgage-or asset-backed securities we own may differ from our expectations in timing or size. Cash flow variability arising from an unexpected acceleration in mortgage prepayment behavior can be significant, and could cause a decline in the estimated fair value of certain "interest-only" securities within our mortgage-backed securities portfolio. Any event reducing the estimated fair value of these securities, other than on a temporary basis, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
From time to time we invest our capital to seed a particular investment strategy or investment portfolio. We may also co-invest in funds or take an equity ownership interest in certain structured finance/investment vehicles that are managed by our affiliates. Any decrease in the value of such investments could negatively affect our revenues and income.
Some of our investments are relatively illiquid and in some cases are in asset classes that have been experiencing significant market valuation fluctuations.
We hold certain assets that may lack liquidity, such as privately placed fixed income securities, commercial mortgage loans, policy loans and limited partnership interests. These asset classes represented 39.5% of the carrying value of our total Cash and cash equivalents and Total investments as of December 31, 2018. If we require significant amounts of cash on short notice in excess of normal cash requirements or are required to post or return collateral in connection with our investment portfolio, derivatives transactions or securities lending activities, we may have difficulty selling these investments in a timely manner, be forced to sell them for less than we otherwise would have been able to realize, or both.
The reported values of our relatively illiquid types of investments do not necessarily reflect the current market price for the asset. If we were forced to sell certain of our assets in the current market, there can be no assurance that we would be able to sell them for the prices at which we have recorded them and we might be forced to sell them at significantly lower prices.
We invest a portion of our invested assets in investment funds, many of which make private equity investments. The amount and timing of income from such investment funds tends to be uneven as a result of the performance of the underlying investments, including private equity investments. The timing of distributions from the funds, which depends on particular events relating to the underlying investments, as well as the funds' schedules for making distributions and their needs for cash, can be difficult to predict. As a result, the amount of income that we record from these investments can vary substantially from quarter to quarter. Recent equity and credit market volatility may reduce investment income for these types of investments.
Our operations are complex and a failure to properly perform services could have an adverse effect on our revenues and income.
Our operations include, among other things, retirement plan administration, annuity contract administration, portfolio management, investment advice, wholesale broker dealer distribution services, shareholder services, benefits processing and servicing, contract and sales and servicing, underwriting, distribution, and other services. In order to be competitive, we must properly perform our administrative and related responsibilities, including recordkeeping and accounting, regulatory compliance, security pricing, corporate actions, compliance with investment restrictions, daily net asset value computations, account reconciliations and required distributions. If we fail to properly perform and monitor our operations, our business could suffer and our revenues and income could be adversely affected.
Our products and services are complex and are frequently sold through intermediaries, and a failure to properly perform services or the misrepresentation of our products or services could have an adverse effect on our revenues, income and financial condition.
Many of our products and services are complex and are frequently sold through intermediaries. In particular, we are reliant on intermediaries to describe and explain our products to potential customers. The intentional or unintentional misrepresentation of our products and services in advertising materials or other external communications, or inappropriate activities by our personnel or an intermediary, could adversely affect our reputation and business prospects, as well as lead to potential regulatory actions or litigation.
The valuation of many of our financial instruments includes methodologies, estimations and assumptions that are subject to differing interpretations and could result in changes to investment valuations that may materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
The following financial instruments are carried at fair value in our financial statements: fixed income securities, equity securities, derivatives, embedded derivatives and separate account assets. We have categorized these instruments into a three-level hierarchy, based on the priority of the inputs to the respective valuation technique. The fair value hierarchy gives the highest priority to quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities (Level 1) and the lowest priority to unobservable inputs (Level 3), while quoted prices in markets that are not active or valuation techniques requiring inputs that are observable for substantially the full term of the asset or liability are Level 2.
Factors considered in estimating fair values of securities, and derivatives and embedded derivatives related to our securities include coupon rate, maturity, principal paydown including prepayments, estimated duration, call provisions, sinking fund requirements, credit rating, industry sector of the issuer and quoted market prices of comparable securities. Factors considered in estimating the fair values of embedded derivatives and derivatives related to product guarantees and index-crediting features (collectively, "guaranteed benefit derivatives") include risk-free interest rates, interest rate implied volatility, and actuarial assumptions such as lapse rates as well as the amount and timing of policyholder deposits and partial withdrawals. The impact of our risk of nonperformance is also reflected in the estimated fair value of guaranteed benefit derivatives. In many situations, inputs used to measure the fair value of an asset or liability may fall into different levels of the fair value hierarchy. In these situations, we will
determine the level in which the fair value falls based upon the lowest level input that is significant to the determination of the fair value.
The determinations of fair values are made at a specific point in time, based on available market information and judgments about financial instruments, including estimates of the timing and amounts of expected future cash flows and the credit standing of the issuer or counterparty. The use of different methodologies and assumptions may have a material effect on the estimated fair value amounts.
During periods of market disruption, including periods of rapidly changing credit spreads or illiquidity, it has been in the past and would likely be in the future difficult to value certain of our securities, such as certain mortgage-backed securities, if trading becomes less frequent and/or market data becomes less observable. There may be certain asset classes that, although currently in active markets with significant observable data, could become illiquid in a difficult financial environment. In such cases, more securities may fall to Level 3 and thus require more subjectivity and management judgment in determining fair value. As such, valuations may include inputs and assumptions that are less observable or require greater estimation, thereby resulting in values that may differ materially from the value at which the investments may be ultimately sold. Further, rapidly changing and unprecedented credit and equity market conditions could materially impact the valuation of securities as reported within the financial statements, and the period-to-period changes in value could vary significantly. Decreases in value could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
The determination of the amount of allowances and impairments taken on our investments is subjective and could materially and adversely impact our results of operations or financial condition. Gross unrealized losses may be realized or result in future impairments, resulting in a reduction in our net income (loss).
We evaluate investment securities held by us for impairment on a quarterly basis. This review is subjective and requires a high degree of judgment. For fixed income securities held, an impairment loss is recognized if the fair value of the debt security is less than the carrying value and we no longer have the intent to hold the debt security; if it is more likely than not that we will be required to sell the debt security before recovery of the amortized cost basis; or if a credit loss has occurred.
When we do not intend to sell a security in an unrealized loss position, potential credit related other-than-temporary impairments ("OTTI") are considered using a variety of factors, including the length of time and extent to which the fair value has been less than cost, adverse conditions specifically related to the industry, geographic area in which the issuer conducts business, financial condition of the issuer or underlying collateral of a security, payment structure of the security, changes in credit rating of the security by the rating agencies, volatility of the fair value changes and other events that adversely affect the issuer. In addition, we take into account relevant broad market and economic data in making impairment decisions.
As part of the impairment review process, we utilize a variety of assumptions and estimates to make a judgment on how fixed income securities will perform in the future. It is possible that securities in our fixed income portfolio will perform worse than our expectations. There is an ongoing risk that further declines in fair value may occur and additional OTTI may be recorded in future periods, which could materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. Furthermore, historical trends may not be indicative of future impairments or allowances.
Fixed maturity securities classified as available-for-sale are reported at their estimated fair value. Unrealized gains or losses on available-for-sale securities are recognized as a component of other comprehensive income (loss) and are therefore excluded from net income (loss). The accumulated change in estimated fair value of these available-for-sale securities is recognized in net income (loss) when the gain or loss is realized upon the sale of the security or in the event that the decline in estimated fair value is determined to be other-than-temporary and an impairment charge to earnings is taken. Such realized losses or impairments may have a material adverse effect on our net income (loss) in a particular quarterly or annual period.
Our participation in a securities lending program and a repurchase program subjects us to potential liquidity and other risks.
We engage in a securities lending program whereby certain securities from our portfolio are loaned to other institutions for short periods of time. Initial collateral, primarily cash, is required at a rate of 102% of the market value of the loaned securities. For certain transactions, a lending agent may be used and the agent may retain some or all of the collateral deposited by the borrower and transfer the remaining collateral to us. Collateral retained by the agent is invested in liquid assets on our behalf. The market value of the loaned securities is monitored on a daily basis with additional collateral obtained or refunded as the market value of the loaned securities fluctuates.
We also participate in a repurchase agreement program whereby we sell fixed income securities to a third-party, primarily major brokerage firms or commercial banks, with a concurrent agreement to repurchase those same securities at a determined future date.
During the term of the repurchase agreements, cash or other types of permitted collateral provided to us is sufficient to allow us to fund substantially all of the cost of purchasing replacement assets in the event of counterparty default (i.e., the sold securities are not returned to us on the scheduled repurchase date). Cash proceeds received by us under the repurchase program are typically invested in fixed income securities but may in certain circumstances be available to us for liquidity or other purposes prior to the scheduled repurchase date. The repurchase of securities or our inability to enter into new repurchase agreements would reduce the amount of such cash collateral available to us. Market conditions on or after the repurchase date may limit our ability to enter into new agreements at a time when we need access to additional cash collateral for investment or liquidity purposes.
For both securities lending and repurchase transactions, in some cases, the maturity of the securities held as invested collateral (i.e., securities that we have purchased with cash collateral received) may exceed the term of the related securities on loan and the estimated fair value may fall below the amount of cash received as collateral and invested. If we are required to return significant amounts of cash collateral on short notice and we are forced to sell securities to meet the return obligation, we may have difficulty selling such collateral that is invested in securities in a timely manner, be forced to sell securities in a volatile or illiquid market for less than we otherwise would have been able to realize under normal market conditions, or both. In addition, under adverse capital market and economic conditions, liquidity may broadly deteriorate, which would further restrict our ability to sell securities. If we decrease the amount of our securities lending and repurchase activities over time, the amount of net investment income generated by these activities will also likely decline. See "Item 7. Management's Narrative Analysis of the Results of Operations and Financial Condition-Liquidity and Capital Resources-Securities Lending."
Differences between actual claims experience and reserving assumptions may adversely affect our results of operations or financial condition.
We establish and hold reserves to pay future policy benefits and claims. Our reserves do not represent an exact calculation of liability, but rather are actuarial or statistical estimates based on data and models that include many assumptions and projections, which are inherently uncertain and involve the exercise of significant judgment, including assumptions as to the levels and/or timing of receipt or payment of premiums, benefits, claims, expenses, interest credits, investment results (including equity market returns), retirement, mortality, morbidity and persistency. We periodically review the adequacy of reserves and the underlying assumptions. We cannot, however, determine with precision the amounts that we will pay for, or the timing of payment of, actual benefits, claims and expenses or whether the assets supporting our policy liabilities, together with future premiums, will grow to the level assumed prior to payment of benefits or claims. If actual experience differs significantly from assumptions or estimates, reserves may not be adequate. If we conclude that our reserves, together with future premiums, are insufficient to cover future policy benefits and claims, we would be required to increase our reserves and incur income statement charges for the period in which we make the determination, which could materially and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Unfavorable developments in interest rates, credit spreads and policyholder behavior can result in adverse financial consequences related to our stable value products, and our hedge program and risk mitigation features may not successfully offset these consequences.
We offer stable value products primarily as a fixed rate, liquid asset allocation option for employees of our plan sponsor customers within the defined contribution funding plans offered by our Retirement business. These products are designed to provide guaranteed annual credited rate (currently between zero and three percent) on the invested assets in addition to enabling participants the right to withdraw and transfer funds at book value.
The sensitivity of our statutory reserves and surplus established for the stable value products to changes in interest rates, credit spreads and policyholder behavior will vary depending on the magnitude of these changes, as well as on the book value of assets, the market value of assets, the guaranteed credited rates available to customers and other product features. Realization or re-measurement of these risks may result in an increase in the reserves for stable value products, and could materially and adversely affect our financial position or results of operations. In particular, in extended low interest rate environments, we bear exposure to the risk that reserves must be added to fund book value withdrawals and transfers when guaranteed annual credited rates exceed the earned rate on invested assets. In a rising interest rate environment, we are exposed to the risk of financial disintermediation through a potential increase in the level of book value withdrawals.
Although we maintain a hedge program and other risk mitigating features to offset these risks, such program and features may not operate as intended or may not be fully effective, and we may remain exposed to such risks.
We may be required to accelerate the amortization of DAC, deferred sales inducements (“DSI”) and/or VOBA, any of which could adversely affect our results of operations or financial condition.
DAC represents policy acquisition costs that have been capitalized. DSI represents benefits paid to contract owners for a specified period that are incremental to the amounts we credit on similar contracts without sales inducements and are higher than the contract's expected ongoing crediting rates for periods after the inducement. VOBA represents outstanding value of in-force business acquired. Capitalized costs associated with DAC, DSI and VOBA are amortized in proportion to actual and estimated gross profits or gross premiums depending on the type of contract. On an ongoing basis, we test the DAC, DSI and VOBA recorded on our balance sheets to determine if these amounts are recoverable under current assumptions. In addition, we regularly review the estimates and assumptions underlying DAC, DSI and VOBA. The projection of estimated gross profits or gross premiums requires the use of certain assumptions, principally related to separate account fund returns in excess of amounts credited to policyholders, policyholder behavior such as surrender, lapse and annuitization rates, interest margin, expense margin, mortality, future impairments and hedging costs. Estimating future gross profits or gross premiums is a complex process requiring considerable judgment and the forecasting of events well into the future. If these assumptions prove to be inaccurate, if an estimation technique used to estimate future gross profits or gross premiums is changed, or if significant or sustained equity market declines occur and/or persist, we could be required to accelerate the amortization of DAC, DSI and VOBA, which would result in a charge to earnings. Such adjustments could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
Our financial results are affected by actuarial assumptions that may not be accurate and that may change in the future.
Our financial results are subject to risks around actuarial assumptions, including those related to mortality and the future behavior of policyholders, such as lapse rates and future claims payment patterns. These assumptions, which we use to determine our liabilities for future policy benefits, may not reflect future experience. Changes to these actuarial assumptions in the future could require increases to our reserves or result in decreases in the carrying value of DAC and VOBA, in each case in amounts that could be material. Any adverse changes to reserves or DAC and VOBA could be material and adverse to the results of operations or financial condition of the Company. We generally update these actuarial assumptions in the third quarter of each year. For further information, see Results of Operations and Critical Accounting Judgments and Estimates of Part II. Item 7. of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Reinsurance subjects us to the credit risk of reinsurers and may not be available, affordable or adequate to protect us against losses.
We cede life insurance policies and annuity contracts or certain risks related to life insurance policies and annuity contracts to other insurance companies using various forms of reinsurance including coinsurance, modified coinsurance, funds withheld, monthly renewable term and yearly renewable term. However, we remain liable to the underlying policyholders, even if the reinsurer defaults on its obligations with respect to the ceded business. If a reinsurer fails to meet its obligations under the reinsurance contract, we will be forced to bear the entire liability for claims on the reinsured policies. In addition, a reinsurer insolvency may cause us to lose our reserve credits on the ceded business, in which case we would be required to establish additional statutory reserves.
In addition, if a reinsurer does not have accredited reinsurer status or if a currently accredited reinsurer loses that status, in any state where we are licensed to do business, we are not entitled to take credit for reinsurance in that state if the reinsurer does not post sufficient qualifying collateral (either qualifying assets in a qualifying trust or qualifying LOCs). In this event, we would be required to establish additional statutory reserves. Similarly, the credit for reinsurance taken by us under reinsurance agreements with affiliated and unaffiliated non-accredited reinsurers is, under certain conditions, dependent upon the non-accredited reinsurer's ability to obtain and provide sufficient qualifying assets in a qualifying trust or qualifying LOCs issued by qualifying lending banks. In order to control expenses associated with LOCs, some of our affiliated reinsurers have established and will continue to pursue alternative sources for qualifying reinsurance collateral. If these steps are unsuccessful, or if unaffiliated non-accredited reinsurers that have reinsured business with us are unsuccessful in obtaining sources of qualifying reinsurance collateral, we might not be able to obtain full statutory reserve credit. Loss of reserve credit would require us to establish additional statutory reserves and would result in a decrease in the level of our capital, which could have a material adverse effect on our profitability, results of operations and financial condition.
Our reinsurance recoverable balances are periodically assessed for uncollectability and there were no significant allowances for uncollectible reinsurance as of December 31, 2018 and December 31, 2017. The collectability of reinsurance recoverables is subject to uncertainty arising from a number of factors, including whether the insured losses meet the qualifying conditions of the reinsurance contract, whether reinsurers or their affiliates have the financial capacity and willingness to make payments under the terms of the reinsurance contract, and the degree to which our reinsurance balances are secured by sufficient qualifying assets in qualifying trusts or qualifying LOCs issued by qualifying lender banks. Although a substantial portion of our reinsurance exposure is with
accredited reinsurers or is secured by assets held in trusts or LOCs, the inability to collect a material recovery from a reinsurer could have a material adverse effect on our profitability, results of operations and financial condition.
The premium rates and other fees that we charge are based, in part, on the assumption that reinsurance will be available at a certain cost. Some of our reinsurance contracts contain provisions that limit the reinsurer's ability to increase rates on in-force business; however, some do not. If a reinsurer raises the rates that it charges on a block of in-force business, in some instances, we will not be able to pass the increased costs onto our customers and our profitability will be negatively impacted. Additionally, such a rate increase could result in our recapturing of the business, which may result in a need to maintain additional reserves, reduce reinsurance receivables and expose us to greater risks. If reinsurers raise the rates that they charge on new business, we may be forced to raise the premiums that we charge, which could have a negative impact on our competitive position.
A decrease in our RBC ratio (as a result of a reduction in statutory surplus and/or increase in RBC requirements) could result in increased scrutiny by insurance regulators and rating agencies and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
The NAIC has established regulations that provide minimum capitalization requirements based on RBC formulas for insurance companies. The RBC formula for life insurance companies establishes capital requirements relating to asset, insurance, interest rate and business risks, including equity, interest rate and expense recovery risks associated with variable annuities and group annuities that contain guaranteed minimum death and living benefits. We are subject to RBC standards and/or other minimum statutory capital and surplus requirements imposed under the laws of the state of Connecticut, our state of domicile. (For additional discussion of how the NAIC calculates RBC ratios, see “Item 1. Business-Regulation-Insurance Regulation -Financial Regulation-Risk -Based Capital.”)
In any particular year, statutory surplus amounts and RBC ratios may increase or decrease depending on a variety of factors, including the amount of statutory income or losses (which are sensitive to equity market and credit market conditions), the amount of additional capital we must hold to support business growth, changes in equity market levels, the value and credit ratings of certain fixed-income and equity securities in our investment portfolio, the value of certain derivative instruments that do not receive hedge accounting and changes in interest rates, as well as changes to the RBC formulas and the interpretation of the NAIC's instructions with respect to RBC calculation methodologies. As a result of Tax Reform, the NAIC updated the factors affecting RBC requirements, including ours, to reflect the lowering of the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. Adjusting these factors in light of Tax Reform has resulted in an increase in the amount of capital we are required to maintain to satisfy our RBC requirements. Many of these factors are outside of our control. Our financial strength and credit ratings are significantly influenced by statutory surplus amounts and RBC ratios. In addition, rating agencies may implement changes to their own internal models, which differ from the RBC capital model that have the effect of increasing or decreasing the amount of statutory capital we should hold relative to the rating agencies' expectations. To the extent that our RBC ratios are deemed to be insufficient, we may seek to take actions either to increase our capitalization or to reduce our capitalization requirements. If we were unable to accomplish such actions, the rating agencies may view this as a reason for a ratings downgrade.
Our failure to meet RBC requirements or minimum capital and surplus requirements could subject us to further examination or corrective action imposed by insurance regulators, including limitations on our ability to write additional business, supervision by regulators or seizure or liquidation. Any corrective action imposed could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. A decline in RBC ratios limits our ability to make dividends or distributions to our Parent, could result in a loss of customers or new business, and could be a factor in causing ratings agencies to downgrade our financial strength ratings, each of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
The CBVA and Annuity Transaction, including the transition services on the terms or timing currently contemplated could have negative impacts on us.
As further described in the Overview in the Management’s Discussion and Analysis section in Part II, Item 7. of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, on June 1, 2018, Voya Financial, Inc. completed the Transaction with VA Capital and Athene, pursuant to which VA Capital acquired certain of Voya’s assets, including all of the shares of the capital stock of VIAC, its Iowa-domiciled insurance subsidiary, and all of the membership interest of DSL, a broker-dealer subsidiary, and which resulted in the disposition of substantially all of Voya’s variable annuity and fixed and fixed indexed annuity businesses and related assets.
Although we believe the Transaction to have been successful to date, it is possible that we may not achieve certain of the benefits that we expect to obtain in connection with the Transaction. The Transaction also requires Voya to provide certain transition services to Venerable, and has created the need to eliminate certain stranded costs, each of which creates additional operational complexity for our business. Should the Transaction ultimately prove to be less beneficial than we anticipated, or should the transition services,
stranded cost elimination or other Transaction effects create difficulties for our business, our results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected, possibly in a material way.
A significant portion of our institutional funding originates from a Federal Home Loan Bank, which subjects us to liquidity risks associated with sourcing a large concentration of our funding from one counterparty.
A significant portion of our institutional funding originates from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston ("FHLB of Boston"). We have issued non-putable funding agreements in exchange for eligible collateral in the form of cash, mortgage-backed securities and U.S. Treasury securities. Should the FHLB choose to change its definition of eligible collateral, or if the market value of the pledged collateral decreases in value due to changes in interest rates or credit ratings, we may be required to post additional amounts of collateral in the form of cash or other eligible collateral. Additionally, we may be required to find other sources to replace this funding if we lose access to FHLB funding. This could occur if our creditworthiness falls below either of the FHLB's requirements or if legislative or other political actions cause changes to the FHLBs' mandate or to the eligibility of life insurance companies to be members of the FHLB system.
Any failure to protect the confidentiality of customer information could adversely affect our reputation and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operation.
Our businesses and relationships with customers are dependent upon our ability to maintain the security and confidentiality of our and our customers' personal information, trade secrets, and other confidential information (including customer transactional data and personal information about our customers, the employees and customers of our customers, and our own employees). We are also subject to numerous federal and state laws regarding the privacy and security of personal information, which laws vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Many of our employees and contractors and the representatives of our broker-dealer subsidiaries and affiliates have access to and routinely process personal information in computerized, paper and other forms. We rely on various internal policies, procedures and controls to protect the security and confidentiality of personal and confidential information that is accessible to, or in the possession of, us, our employees, contractors and representatives. It is possible that an employee, contractor or representative could, intentionally or unintentionally, disclose or misappropriate personal information or other confidential information. In 2018, Voya Financial entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) in which the SEC alleged that Voya Financial Advisors (“VFA”), our broker-dealer affiliate, failed to maintain adequate policies and procedures to protect certain customer information that was the subject of an April 2016 intrusion into VFA’s systems. Although we did not admit or deny wrongdoing, we agreed to pay the SEC a $1 million fine and consented to an independent review of VFA’s compliance with SEC rules concerning protection of customer information and identity theft. If we fail in the future to maintain adequate internal controls, including any failure to implement newly-required additional controls, or if our employees, contractors or representatives fail to comply with our policies and procedures, misappropriation or intentional or unintentional inappropriate disclosure or misuse of personal information or confidential customer information could occur. Such internal control inadequacies or non-compliance could materially damage our reputation, result in regulatory action or lead to civil or criminal penalties, which, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, results of operations and financial condition. For additional risks related to our potential failure to protect confidential information, see “-Interruption or other operational failures in telecommunication, information technology, and other operational systems, including as a result of human error, could harm our business,” and "-A failure to maintain the security, integrity, confidentiality or privacy of our telecommunication, information technology or other operational systems, or the sensitive data residing on such systems, could harm our business.”
Interruption or other operational failures in telecommunication, information technology and other operational systems, including as a result of human error, could harm our business.
We are highly dependent on automated and information technology systems to record and process both our internal transactions and transactions involving our customers, as well as to calculate reserves, value invested assets and complete certain other components of our U.S. GAAP and statutory financial statements. Despite the implementation of security and back-up measures, our information technology systems may remain vulnerable to disruptions. We may also be subject to disruptions of any of these systems arising from events that are wholly or partially beyond our control (for example, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, epidemics, computer viruses and electrical/telecommunications outages). All of these risks are also applicable where we rely on outside vendors to provide services to us and our customers and third party service providers, including those to whom we outsource certain of our functions. The failure of any one of these systems for any reason, or errors made by our employees or agents, could in each case cause significant interruptions to our operations, which could harm our reputation, adversely affect our internal control over financial reporting, or have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
A failure to maintain the security, integrity, confidentiality or privacy of our telecommunication, information technology and other operational systems, or the sensitive data residing on such systems, could harm our business.
We are highly dependent on automated telecommunications, information technology and other operational systems to record and process our internal transactions and transactions involving our customers. Despite the implementation of security and back-up measures, our information technology systems may be vulnerable to physical or electronic intrusions, viruses or other attacks, programming errors, and similar disruptions. Businesses in the United States and in other countries have increasingly become the targets of "cyberattacks", "hacking" or similar illegal or unauthorized intrusions into computer systems and networks. Such events are often highly publicized, can result in the theft of significant amounts of information, and can cause extensive damage to the reputation of the targeted business, in addition to leading to significant expenses associated with investigation, remediation and customer protection measures. Like others in our industry, we are subject to cyber incidents in the ordinary course of our business. Although we seek to limit our vulnerability to such events through technological and other means, it is not possible to anticipate or prevent all potential forms of cyberattack or to guarantee our ability to fully defend against all such attacks. In addition, due to the sensitive nature of much of the financial and other personal information we maintain, we may be at particular risk for targeting. In 2018, Voya Financial entered into a consent decree with the SEC in which the SEC alleged that VFA, our broker-dealer affiliate, failed to maintain adequate policies and procedures to protect certain customer information that was the subject of an April 2016 intrusion into VFA’s systems. Although we did not admit or deny wrongdoing, we agreed to pay the SEC a $1 million fine and consented to an independent review of VFA’s compliance with SEC rules concerning protection of customer information and identity theft.
We retain personal and confidential information and financial accounts in our information technology systems, and we rely on industry standard commercial technologies to maintain the security of those systems. Anyone who is able to circumvent our security measures and penetrate our information technology systems could access, view, misappropriate, alter, or delete information in the systems, including personal information and proprietary business information and misappropriate funds from online finance account. Information security risks also exist with respect to the use of portable electronic devices, such as laptops, which are particularly vulnerable to loss and theft. The laws of most states require that individuals be notified if a security breach compromises the security or confidentiality of their personal information. Any attack or other breach of the security of our information technology systems that compromises personal information, or that otherwise results in unauthorized disclosure or use of personal information could damage our reputation in the marketplace, deter purchases of our products, subject us to heightened regulatory scrutiny, sanctions, significant civil and criminal liability or other adverse legal consequences and require us to incur significant technical, legal and other expenses. Numerous state regulatory bodies are focused on privacy requirements for all companies that collect personal information and have proposed and enacted legislation and regulations regarding privacy standards and protocols. For example, on June 28, 2018, California enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act, which will take effect on January 1, 2020. We continue to evaluate this legislation and its potential impact on our operations, but depending on its implementation, we and other covered businesses may be required to incur significant expense in order to meet its requirements.
Our third party service providers, including third parties to whom we outsource certain of our functions are also subject to the risks outlined above, any one of which could result in our incurring substantial costs and other negative consequences, including a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
The NAIC, numerous state and federal regulatory bodies and self-regulatory organizations like FINRA are focused on cybersecurity standards both for the financial services industry and for all companies that collect personal information, and have proposed and enacted legislation and regulations, and issued guidance regarding cybersecurity standards and protocols. For example, in February 2017, the NYDFS issued final Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies that required banks, insurance companies, and other financial services institutions regulated by the NYDFS, including us, to establish and maintain a cybersecurity program “designed to protect consumers and ensure the safety and soundness of New York State’s financial services industry.” In 2018, South Carolina, Ohio and Michigan adopted versions of the NAIC Insurance Data Security Model Law. These laws, with effective dates ranging from January 1, 2019 to January 20, 2021, ensure that licensees of the Departments of Insurance in these states have strong and aggressive cybersecurity programs to protect the personal data of their customers. During 2019, we expect cybersecurity risk management, prioritization and reporting to continue to be an area of significant focus by governments, regulatory bodies and self-regulatory organizations at all levels.
Changes in accounting standards could adversely impact our reported results of operations and our reported financial condition.
Our financial statements are subject to the application of U.S. GAAP, which is periodically revised or expanded. Accordingly, from time to time we are required to adopt new or revised accounting standards issued by recognized authoritative bodies, including the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB"). It is possible that future accounting standards we are required to adopt could change the current accounting treatment that we apply to our consolidated financial statements and that such changes could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
For example, during 2018 FASB issued ASU 2018-12, which will require significant changes to the manner in which we account for our insurance contracts once adopted. This, and other changes to U.S. GAAP could not only affect the way we account for and report significant areas of our business, but could impose special demands on us in the areas of governance, employee training, internal controls and disclosure and may affect how we manage our business.
Under the tax sharing agreement, a change in control could affect availability of cash payments.
Effective January 1, 2013, we entered into a federal tax sharing agreement with Voya Financial, Inc. which provides that for 2013 and subsequent years, Voya Financial, Inc. will pay us for the tax benefits of ordinary and capital losses only in the event that the consolidated tax group actually uses the tax benefit of losses generated. Accordingly, in years we incur losses and the associated tax benefits cannot be used by the consolidated tax group we may establish tax valuation allowances, reduce statutory-based admitted assets and may no longer be entitled to receive net cash payments from Voya Financial, Inc. During the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, we made/received net cash payments/(receipts) to/from Voya Financial, Inc. under the tax sharing agreement of $83 million and $13 million, respectively.
One such instance where the associated tax benefits may not be used by the consolidated tax group could occur if there is a change in control which would trigger the imposition of certain limitations pursuant to Section 382 and Section 383 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the "Internal Revenue Code"). These sections operate as anti-abuse rules, the general purpose of which is to prevent trafficking in tax losses and credits, but which can apply without regard to whether a "loss trafficking" transaction occurs or is intended. These rules are triggered by the occurrence of an ownership change generally defined as when the ownership of a company, or its parent, changes by more than 50% (measured by value) on a cumulative basis in any three-year period ("Section 382 event"). If triggered, the amount of the taxable income for any post-change year which may be offset by a pre-change loss is subject to an annual limitation. Generally speaking, this limitation is derived by multiplying the fair market value of the Company immediately before the date of the Section 382 event by the applicable federal long-term tax-exempt rate.
We may be required to reduce the carrying value of our deferred income tax or establish a valuation allowance against the deferred income tax asset if: (i) there are significant changes to federal tax policy; (ii) our business does not generate sufficient taxable income; (iii) there is a significant decline in the fair market value of our investment portfolio; or (iv) our tax planning strategies are not feasible. Reductions in the carrying value of our deferred income tax asset or establishment of a valuation allowance could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
Deferred income tax represents the tax effect of the differences between the book and tax basis of assets and liabilities. Deferred tax assets represent the tax benefit of future deductible temporary differences, operating loss carryforwards and tax credits carryforward. We periodically evaluate and test our ability to realize our deferred tax assets. Deferred tax assets are reduced by a valuation allowance if, based on the weight of evidence, it is more likely than not that some portion, or all, of the deferred tax assets will not be realized. In assessing the more likely than not criteria, we consider future taxable income as well as prudent tax planning strategies.
Future changes in facts, circumstances, tax law, including a reduction in federal corporate tax rates may result in a reduction in the carrying value of our deferred income tax asset and RBC ratios, or an increase in the valuation allowance. A reduction in the carrying value of our deferred income tax asset or RBC ratios, or an increase in the valuation allowance could have a material adverse effect on the Company's results of operations and financial condition.
As of December 31, 2018, we have recognized approximately $12 million of deferred tax assets based on tax planning related to unrealized gains on investment assets. To the extent unrealized gains decrease, the tax benefit may be reduced by establishing a tax valuation allowance. For example, if interest rates increase, the amount of the unrealized gains will, most likely decrease, with all other things constant. Any decrease in the deferred tax assets may be recorded as a tax expense in tax on continuing operations.
Our business may be negatively affected by adverse publicity or increased governmental and regulatory actions with respect to us, other well-known companies or the financial services industry in general.
Governmental scrutiny with respect to matters relating to compensation, compliance with regulatory and tax requirements and other business practices in the financial services industry has increased dramatically in the past several years and has resulted in more aggressive and intense regulatory supervision and the application and enforcement of more stringent standards. Press coverage and other public statements that assert some form of wrongdoing, regardless of the factual basis for the assertions being made, could result in some type of inquiry or investigation by regulators, legislators and/or law enforcement officials or in lawsuits. Responding to these inquiries, investigations and lawsuits, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the proceeding, is time-consuming and expensive and can divert the time and effort of our senior management from its business. Future legislation or regulation or governmental views on compensation may result in us altering compensation practices in ways that could adversely affect our ability to attract and retain talented employees. Adverse publicity, governmental scrutiny, pending or future investigations by regulators o
r law enforcement agencies and/or legal proceedings involving us or our affiliates could also have a negative impact on our reputation and on the morale and performance of employees, and on business retention and new sales, which could adversely affect our businesses and results of operations.
Litigation may adversely affect our profitability and financial condition.
We are, and may be in the future, subject to legal actions in the ordinary course of our business operations. Some of these legal proceedings may be brought on behalf of a class. Plaintiffs may seek large or indeterminate amounts of damage, including compensatory, liquidated, treble and/or punitive damages. Our reserves for litigation may prove to be inadequate. It is possible that our results of operations or cash flows in a particular quarterly or annual period could be materially affected by an ultimate unfavorable resolution of pending litigation depending, in part, upon the results of operations or cash flows for such period. Given the large or indeterminate amounts sometimes sought, and the inherent unpredictability of litigation, it is also possible that in certain cases an ultimate unfavorable resolution of one or more pending litigation matters could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition.
A loss of, or significant change in, key product distribution relationships could materially affect sales.
We distribute certain products under agreements with affiliated distributors and other members of the financial services industry that are not affiliated with us. We compete with other financial institutions to attract and retain commercial relationships in each of these channels, and our success in competing for sales through these distribution intermediaries depends upon factors such as the amount of sales commissions and fees we pay, the breadth of our product offerings, the strength of our brand, our perceived stability and financial strength ratings, and the marketing and services we provide to, and the strength of the relationships we maintain with, individual distributors. An interruption or significant change in certain key relationships could materially affect our ability to market our products and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Distributors may elect to alter, reduce or terminate their distribution relationships with us, including for such reasons as changes in our distribution strategy, adverse developments in our business, adverse rating agency actions or concerns about market-related risks. Alternatively, we may terminate one or more distribution agreements due to, for example, a loss of confidence in, or a change in control of, one of the distributors, which could reduce sales.
We are also at risk that key distribution partners may merge or change their business models in ways that affect how our products are sold, either in response to changing business priorities or as a result of shifts in regulatory supervision or potential changes in state and federal laws and regulations regarding standards of conduct applicable to distributors when providing investment advice to retail and other customers.
The occurrence of natural or man-made disasters may adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
We are exposed to various risks arising from natural disasters, including hurricanes, climate change, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and pandemic disease, as well as man-made disasters and core infrastructure failures, including acts of terrorism, military actions, power grid and telephone/internet infrastructure failures, which may adversely affect AUM, results of operations and financial condition by causing, among other things:
losses in our investment portfolio due to significant volatility in global financial markets or the failure of counterparties to perform;
changes in the rate of mortality, claims, withdrawals, lapses and surrenders of existing policies and contracts, as well as sales of new policies and contracts; and
disruption of our normal business operations due to catastrophic property damage, loss of life, or disruption of public and private infrastructure, including communications and financial services.
There can be no assurance that our business continuation and crisis management plan or insurance coverages would be effective in mitigating any negative effects on operations or profitability in the event of a disaster, nor can we provide assurance that the business continuation and crisis management plans of the independent distributors and outside vendors on whom we rely for certain services and products would be effective in mitigating any negative effects on the provision of such services and products in the event of a disaster.
Claims resulting from a catastrophic event could also materially harm the financial condition of our reinsurers, which would increase the probability of default on reinsurance recoveries. Our ability to write new business could also be adversely affected.
In addition, the jurisdictions in which we are admitted to transact business require life insurers doing business within the jurisdiction to participate in guaranty associations, which raise funds to pay contractual benefits owed pursuant to insurance policies issued by impaired, insolvent or failed insurers. It is possible that a catastrophic event could require extraordinary assessments on us, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
If we experience difficulties arising from outsourcing relationships, our ability to conduct business may be compromised, which may have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
As we continue to focus on reducing the expense necessary to support our operations, we have increasingly used outsourcing strategies for a significant portion of our information technology and business functions. If third-party providers experience disruptions or do not perform as anticipated, or we experience problems with a transition, we may experience system failures, disruptions or other operational difficulties, an inability to meet obligations, including, but not limited to, obligations to policyholders, customers, business partners and distribution partners, increased costs and a loss of business and such events may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations. For other risks associated with our outsourcing of certain functions, see “-Interruption or other operational failures in telecommunication, information technology and other operational systems, including as a result of human error, could harm our business,” and "-A failure to maintain the security, integrity, confidentiality or privacy of our telecommunication, information technology or other operational systems, or the sensitive data residing on such systems, could harm our business."
Risks Related to Regulation
Our businesses and those of our affiliates are heavily regulated and changes in regulation or the application of regulation may reduce our profitability.
We are subject to detailed insurance, securities and other financial services laws and government regulation. In addition to the insurance, securities and other regulations and laws specific to the industries in which we operate, regulatory agencies have broad administrative power over many aspects of our business, which may include ethical issues, money laundering, privacy, recordkeeping and marketing and sales practices. Also, bank regulators and other supervisory authorities in the United States and elsewhere continue to scrutinize payment processing and other transactions under regulations governing such matters as money-laundering, prohibited transactions with countries subject to sanctions, and bribery or other anti-corruption measures.
Compliance with applicable laws and regulations is time consuming and personnel-intensive, and changes in laws and regulations may materially increase the cost of compliance and other expenses of doing business. There are a number of risks that may arise where applicable regulations may be unclear, subject to multiple interpretations or under development or where regulations may conflict with one another, where regulators revise their previous guidance or courts overturn previous rulings, which could result in our failure to meet applicable standards. Regulators and other authorities have the power to bring administrative or judicial proceedings against us, which could result, among other things, in suspension or revocation of our licenses, cease and desist orders, fines, civil penalties, criminal penalties or other disciplinary action which could materially harm our results of operations and financial condition. If we fail to address, or appear to fail to address, appropriately any of these matters, our reputation could be harmed and we could be subject to additional legal risk, which could increase the size and number of claims and damages asserted against us or subject us to enforcement actions, fines and penalties. See "Item 1. Business -