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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: Dec 11, 2006

We continue to see variable insurers add funds with sophisticated quantitative and non-correlative investment methods, and one of these cropped up in November, however during that month most activity centered on tweaking and consolidating investment platforms, with a few cases of fund fees being changed...

Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Dec 04, 2006

One topic we plan to tune into regularly in our reports is the use of variable annuities in qualified plans, a practice that has its critics, yet quite a few industry observers think this section of the market offers insurers an excellent chance for true “organic” sales growth in the years to come...

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

This year we haven’t seen as many new variable annuity contracts being registered as in the past, a fact we think reflects current conditions like the consolidation of market share, the competition around benefit features (rather than contract structure) as a generator of sales, and the continued criticism, in some circles, of VA fees and expenses.

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

Over the month of October, we identified 46 new variable funds registered, and these reflected the current popular interest in hedging and shorting strategies, Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs), and the use of mathematical modeling in devising investment objectives. There were a good number of portfolio changes, and in this commentary we’ll review them

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

Variable product insurers and mutual fund companies have at times used creative means to pay for, or receive compensation from, financial firms they have relationships with, while not always revealing these arrangements to shareholders. Now that regulators are demanding these payments to be transparent, it remains to be seen to what extent matters

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

The third quarter was a mixed bag for the nine major public variable insurers we regularly track, as all saw sales levels fall sequentially, but apparently these companies don’t feel the results were troubling and still have plenty of optimism. Nearly all the conference calls reflected the competitive pressure around benefit guarantees, yet some e

Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Oct 30, 2006

A sentiment we’ve been hearing from industry executives lately is that the variable annuity business already has a plethora of products and features due to the competitive “arms race” that has taken place in recent years, therefore a priority for insurers should be to focus more on helping financial advisors and their clients meet the challenges an

Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Oct 23, 2006

In the coming months, an issue of much interest to annuity issuers will be that of an impending change in accounting for Deferred Acquisition Costs (DAC) on internal replacements that will impact how companies conduct conservation programs and may ultimately influence how products are designed in the future...

Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Oct 16, 2006

We’ve seen a number of new variable annuity lifetime withdrawal benefits filed recently, and some won’t roll out until early next year. For those that will be introduced in the last two quarters it may be a good time to do so, since there’s less competition for the “mind space” than in the May filing season, less noise to contend with...

Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Oct 09, 2006

Of the new variable funds registered in September quite a few were illustrative of the current interest in protective or non-correlative investment styles, long/short strategies or sectors like natural resources or commodities. And yet more funds-of-funds were introduced, including some investing in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). The rate of cha

Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Oct 02, 2006

In our last report we discussed how insurers are building fee reductions into their variable annuities, which we think is good for the industry in that it may help counter some negative perceptions. This week, we’re following up on recent media coverage on the pricing front, and we’ll touch on some other hot-button issues as well...

Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Sep 25, 2006

Lately insurers have started to introduce greater choice in variable annuity expense structures, probably due to the ongoing criticism of product fees by regulators, press and other observers, coupled with a sincere desire to provide flexibility to consumers. We’re not sure whether these changes will prompt an investor to buy one annuity over anot

Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Sep 18, 2006

Over the month of August we saw a pickup in the rate of new variable insurance fund registrations, with eight coming out. In addition there were many adjustments done to fund platforms – albeit in different forms than we’ve seen earlier – and in this commentary we’ll catalogue many of them and suggest some emerging trends and themes...

Posted By: Steven D. McDonnell Posted On: Sep 11, 2006

Variable annuity benefit tweaking and modifying has been happening a bit less frequent lately, and we attribute this to the summer slowdown. Filing activity ought to be picking back up as we get into the latter part of the year, and The Soleares Report plans to consider how future tactical changes might offer clues as to how VA features play in th

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

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