Credit rating agencies, such as AM Best and Standard & Poor’s, provide transparency to consumers and promote integrity among annuity providers.
These agencies are monitored at the state and federal levels.
According to the National Council of Insurance Legislators and its Model Act to Support State Regulation of Insurance by Requiring Competition Among Rating Agencies, “protecting consumers and ensuring the safety and soundness of insurance companies in the United States have been the prime objectives of state insurance regulation for over 150 years.”
In addition, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act instituted the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Credit Ratings to ensure that credit rating agencies delivered accurate credit ratings to the public.
What Do Financial Strength Ratings Mean?
In its Guide to Best’s Financial Strength Ratings, AM Best defines its financial strength rating (FSR) as “an independent opinion of an insurer’s financial strength and ability to meet its ongoing insurance policy and contract obligations.”
Although AM Best and other credit rating agencies do not endorse any particular annuity product, these agencies provide consumers with their assessment of an insurance carrier’s financial solvency, which is a critical factor in deciding whether or not to purchase an annuity from an insurer.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission updated their list of nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs) in 2022. The “big four” — which in addition to AM Best, include Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch — are on the 2022 NRSRO list.
The SEC’s Office of Credit Ratings “assists the Commission in executing its responsibility for protecting investors, promoting capital formation, and maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets through the oversight of credit rating agencies registered with the Commission as ‘nationally recognized statistical rating organizations’ or ‘NRSROs.’”
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Annuity Rating Agencies
Credit rating agencies are independent entities bound by the Credit Rating Agency Reform Act of 2006, which Congress enacted “to improve ratings quality for the protection of investors and in the public interest by fostering accountability, transparency, and competition in the credit rating agency industry.” Profiles for each of the “big four” are outlined below.
AM Best’s methodologies analytical expertise, research and data to develop insight for rating annuity companies. These allow the nationally recognized statistical rating organizations company to form its opinions regarding an annuity company’s financial strength and soundness.
Standard & Poor’s
Since Poor’s Publishing Co. issued its first rating in 1916, Standard & Poor’s has been providing credit ratings to bolster transparency in the capital markets. The company employs analysts in 28 countries to assess global factors and trends that affect the financial stability of annuity companies worldwide.
Moody’s credit rating represents its opinion of the solvency of an annuity company using established rating categories and based on information from insurers and their agents and other credible, unbiased sources.
In 1923, Fitch developed the ‘AAA’ to ‘D’ ratings scale. The company assigns an IFS rating to the insurance organization to offer independent, forward-looking opinions and research. Fitch sets itself apart through its “strong local experience and credit market expertise,” which offers transparency to annuity issuers and consumers.
Annuity Carrier Ratings
The following is a list of annuity carriers and their AM Best financial strength rating as of Annuity.org’s last update. Be aware that these ratings may change over time. For the latest rating, access www.ambest.com.
|Life Insurance and Annuity Carriers||AM Best Rating|
|American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company||A- (Excellent)|
|American National||A (Excellent)|
|F&G Annuities & Life||A- (Excellent)|
|LBL (Liberty Bankers Life)||B++ (Good)|
|National Western Life Insurance Company||A (Excellent)|
|North American Company for Life and Health Insurance||A+ (Superior)|
|Oxford Life Insurance Company||A- (Excellent)|
|Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company||A+ (Superior)|
|United of Omaha Life Insurance Company||A+ (Superior)|
|Global Atlantic Financial Group||A (Excellent)|
|John Hancock Life Insurance Group (AMB# 069542)||A+ (Superior)|
|Lincoln Financial Insurance Group (069556)||A+ (Superior)|
|MetLife Global Benefits||A (Excellent)|
|Midland National Life Insurance Company||A+ (Superior)|
|Mutual of Omaha||A+ (Superior)|
|New York Life||A++ (Superior)|
|Pacific Life||A+ (Superior)|
|TIAA-CREF Life Insurance Company||A++ (Superior)|