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Capital, investment income concerns take center stage for life insurers in Q4’22
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Worries about capital and adverse variable investment income are expected to be the focal points of discussion as life insurers report their fourth-quarter 2022 earnings.
“Capital concerns have emerged — most notably at Lincoln National Corp. and also at Prudential Financial Inc.,” said Wells Fargo analyst Elyse Greenspan.
Lincoln sustained a $2.6 billion net loss in the third quarter of 2022, driven by an approximately $2 billion charge related to updated lapse assumptions in its guaranteed universal life block. CEO Ellen Cooper said during a December conference presentation she expects a “fair amount of pressure” on the business in 2023 as well.
Another potential area of focus may be life insurers’ interest maintenance reserves, or IMRs, where statutory accounting treatment of negative IMR balances has put downward pressure on industry capital and surplus in a rapidly rising rate environment. An S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis found the share of individual entities in the industry that reported a negative IMR balance could hit the highest levels since the global financial crisis based on developments through the third quarter and an expectation that interest rate hikes led to a similar result in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, investment income is likely to have been a headwind for life insurers in the fourth quarter of 2022 as well, according to Credit Suisse analyst Andrew Kligerman, who said it was the probable driver of his below-consensus earnings estimates for the period.
New accounting standard
Life insurance companies are also expected to reveal more about the impacts of a new accounting standard that many companies had to transition to as of Jan. 1, 2023.
The long-duration targeted improvements, or LDTI, accounting standard will significantly amend the accounting and disclosure requirements for long-duration insurance contracts. Companies will be required to review and update cash flow assumptions used to measure the liability for future policy benefits for traditional and limited-payment contracts at least on an annual basis.
Some insurers have already released limited information about how LDTI will affect them. Prudential Financial, for instance, in its third-quarter 2022 Form 10-Q, said it expects the standard to have a “significant financial impact” on its consolidated financial statements. As of June 30, 2022, Prudential Financial said the new accounting standard would result in a decrease in retained earnings of between $2 billion to $3 billion and an increase to accumulated other comprehensive income, or AOCI, of approximately $3 billion to $8 billion.
Piper Sandler analyst John Barnidge said in an interview that more capital market intensive variable annuity writers will feel larger impacts to AOCI from LDTI than other life insurers.
In the U.S., Jackson Financial Inc., Equitable Holdings Inc. and Lincoln pulled in the largest amount of individual variable annuity sales through the first nine months of the year, according to LIMRA data.
Barnidge also noted that Aflac Inc., Globe Life Inc. and Reinsurance Group of America Inc. are companies that will have higher earnings emergence under LDTI and have provided more disclosures than others.
Earnings set to slide YOY
A majority of the top 15 publicly traded U.S. life insurers are projected to book year-over-year decreases in earnings for the fourth quarter of 2022, according to analyst estimates compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Only a small number of companies, including Unum Group, American Equity and Lincoln, are expected to record year-over-year earnings growth for the period.
Most insurers in the group are also expected to post weaker revenue figures on a year-over-year basis, with the exception of Unum and American Equity Investment Life Holding Co. Investors and analysts will be watching American Equity closely this earnings season after it rejected a takeover bid from Prosperity Group Holdings LP and Elliott Investment Management LP in late December 2022, saying the $45-per-share proposal undervalued the company.
|* Read S&P Global Market Intelligence’s 2023 outlook for life insurers.
* Read about the 2023 outlook for U.S. financial institutions across the board.
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