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Soleares Research, LLC is a market research and consulting firm servicing the annuity and life insurance businesses. We provide, through our website, periodic articles that cover important industry trends; we also offer clients phone or on-site consultations, executive briefings and presentations. We pride ourselves on first-class customer service and responsiveness to our clients. We aim to be an indispensable resource to the marketplace.

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Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Aug 28, 2006

In our opinion, the new Pension Protection Act of 2006 does much to encourage Americans to save for retirement and contains provisions to make annuities more attractive both within Defined Contribution (DC) plans and in non-qualified settings. Since some portions do not take effect for a few years, the ramifications of the legislation will be lon


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Aug 21, 2006

In composing our usual roundup of variable fund filings from the previous month, we did not see a great many new registrations in July. We identified just two, but they were fairly notable: one was a fund-of-funds that uses technical models to rotate among baskets of Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs); the other a new global bond portfolio...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Aug 14, 2006

We always look forward to reviewing major public insurers’ quarterly calls during earnings season, as these companies in many ways act as barometers for the health of the variable annuity business as a whole. In this report, we’ll go over the second-quarter reports of nine insurers, more or less in chronological order, and try to identify reasons


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Aug 07, 2006

Variable Universal Life (VUL) policies certainly have a lot going for them in terms of optionality and flexibility, with the insured being able to adjust the death benefit, the timing and level of premium payments, the choice of underlying sub-accounts. But these products also have their risks...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Jul 31, 2006

It’s about time we issued one of our periodic updates on what’s happening in variable annuity lifetime withdrawal benefits, because they are so important to sales and the filing activity around them still vigorous. The current reality is that it’s crucial for insurers to constantly come out with new GMWBs and/or upgrades to maintain momentum. To


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Jul 24, 2006

We recently took time to reflect on divergent trends within the pricing and structure of variable annuities, a topic that should become more “front-and-center” in the future and cut across distribution outlets, since products and channels are uniquely interrelated; as in when one type is doing well, the other may suffer and vice versa...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Jul 17, 2006

We’ve identified a few brand-new variable annuity benefit guarantees filed over the past couple of months, but more frequently we’ve been seeing modifications of existing riders, such as clarifications to special provisions, pricing adjustments and instances where companies have made special benefit versions just for individual states. We’ll be di


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Jul 10, 2006

We identified 14 new variable insurance funds filed in the month of June, a fairly good number. In addition, activity was fairly energetic around sub-advisory and name changes, mergers, closings and other modifications, covering a wide range of investment styles. We’ll endeavor to comment on as many of these as possible in this commentary...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Jul 03, 2006

The sale of annuities in qualified plans has been a controversial subject over the years and the target of a number of law suits alleging that the practice is inappropriate. Lately there have been some new developments on this front that should give insurers pause, although some industry leaders still feel quite optimistic about the continued use


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Jun 26, 2006

Insurers have long offered various types of asset allocation and rebalancing services to their variable contract holders, to help them diversify and manage the risk associated with their sub-accounts. In fact, the performance of models and funds-of-funds can play a role in the marketing of products, with companies making any favorable comparisons


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Jun 19, 2006

We’ve long been noting how variable annuity insurers are faced with multiple opposing pressures. On the one hand, critics of the business clamor for annuities that are easier to understand and less expensive than the norm. Meanwhile, the current reality is that investors and advisors are favoring products with generous guarantees, causing insure


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Jun 12, 2006

In the month of May we found just two new variable insurance portfolios filed, although we saw quite a few name changes, adjustments and new share classes which we’ll mention in our monthly look at things that are happening in variable insurance underlying investments...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Jun 05, 2006

In our last report we discussed a number of spousal withdrawal benefits for life and figured we wouldn’t revisit the subject again for awhile but, since Hartford came out with its first such GMWBs relatively recently we figured it would make sense to make mention them, and pause to get an idea of the direction in which these benefits are heading...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: May 22, 2006

In the process of identifying the more important changes to variable annuity contracts and features this update season, we haven’t seen quite the volume of new ideas as in the past, but we can say that there are two dominant themes in play right now: the introduction of lower-cost VA chassis and new spousal withdrawal benefits for life...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: May 15, 2006

We identified just three new variable insurance funds registered with the SEC in the month of April, the reduced activity probably because most new investment options had already been filed earlier, well in advance of the May update season. There were plenty of fund changes and adjustments during the month, however...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: May 08, 2006

With this commentary we’ll resume our coverage of first quarter earnings calls and show how some insurers, due to their scale and ability to offer cutting-edge ideas, have seen resurgence in their variable annuity sales, although we must add that competitive advantage can be short-lived, so these firms must continually innovate to keep pace with th


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: May 01, 2006

Last week we listened to first quarter earnings conference calls of five publicly-traded insurers who do business in the U.S. variable space, and for some of these companies, annuity sales improved, although surrenders – more often than not from “vintage” annuities – remain an issue...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Apr 24, 2006

While our primary concentration is on the variable insurance business, from time to time we will reflect on the equity-indexed annuity, or EIA, and now is a good time to do so. There are a couple of reasons for this: the first is that over the past several years, EIA sales have grown exponentially, the second is that this rapid success has caused


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Apr 17, 2006

Last week there was concern within the variable insurance business over a draft circular letter from the New York State Insurance Department that clarifies how standard non-forfeiture law applies to separate account contracts. The letter raises questions whether certain annuity benefits might not meet requirements of the law...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Apr 10, 2006

Over the first few months of the year we’ve been noticing rather specialized variable insurance funds coming out, some “non-correlative” with the market – in that they may take an inverse position against an index – others that include hedge fund-like strategies such as short-selling or the use of derivatives...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Apr 03, 2006

As The Soleares Report evolves, we’ll have plenty to report regarding variable insurance products and features because new things are constantly coming out. This continuous introduction of ideas is important to the health of the industry, and now we’re seeing more of this activity coming from insurers whose core business is tax-qualified plans...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Mar 27, 2006

In our quick look at spousal lifetime withdrawal benefit provisions last month, we commented on some features that were still in the filing stage. It turns out that a few of these were formally launched lately, a not surprising occurrence because we are entering the May VA prospectus update season...


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Mar 20, 2006

We’re thinking that 2006 will be a time when many things will happen on the regulatory and compliance front, both positive and negative, for the VA business. If we look on the bright side of the situation, even though fresh new regulations and more legal actions may come along, there could also be opportunities to clear up misconceptions and ambig


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Mar 13, 2006

In the new variable funds filed in February we noticed some general trends continuing, among them the offering of new types of funds-of-funds (F-of-Fs), which to us is not surprising given their frequent use in connection with living benefit features. We also saw more international and emerging markets funds being registered, reflecting the incre


Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Mar 06, 2006

We are trying to get our arms around a number of tax considerations regarding variable annuities that might end up impacting the business rather sooner than later. At least one reason for concern is that the IRS rarely issues clear guidance on how to apply its rules to specific situations...


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