As a company that does not answer to Wall Street or shareholders, we are also able to share our success with you, not just in the future, but today. For many of our clients, this comes in the form of an annual dividend1—something we’ve paid consistently since 1854. A dividend can be used in a few different ways. Some people simply take it as cash to spend on current needs. Others apply the money towards their premium payment to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Many, however, use their dividend to purchase more insurance. Our track record reflects our commitment to paying the strongest dividend possible each year, while maintaining unquestioned financial strength to back the long-term guarantees we make.
If you own one of our individual life insurance products, you are part of a community of millions that collectively owns more than $1 trillion in protection for their families and businesses. That’s money that can help pay for an education, secure a retirement, or protect the assets you’ve worked hard to accumulate.
The premiums and fees we collect on life insurance and annuity products are prudently invested and managed for the long term to ensure that we fulfill the promises we make to you.
Surplus is one of the most important measures of an insurer’s financial strength since it shows the company’s ability to help secure your future. This is capital above and beyond the funds already set aside to pay the benefits we promise. Think of it as a cushion against potential future adverse economic events—money that further ensures we can continue to meet our obligations to you whenever you need us. As a life insurer with no shareholders, this long-term view informs every decision we make. Whether it’s paying dividends or enhancing our financial strength by growing surplus, the actions we take are with your best interests in mind.
Interest rates decreased during the past year, and they remain at historically low levels. Despite this challenging environment, we’ve been able to pay a record total dividend payout to our eligible policy owners for the past six years, something no other major U.S. mutual life insurance company has done.4 How have we been able to do this?
In a low interest rate environment, companies have only a few options to offset the impact that smaller investment returns have on the size of policy owner dividends. They can tap into surplus, which is capital above and beyond the funds already set aside to pay benefits. They can seek larger returns by making more aggressive—sometimes riskier—investments. Or they can operate other businesses to generate additional earnings.
Exercising these options for the benefit of their policy owners, however, can be challenging for some companies. Publicly traded life insurers, for example, are not in a position to share their success with policy owners because their priority is generating returns for their shareholders. Other life insurers who, like us, are mutuals, need to have robust surplus or other successful businesses as options to offset those smaller investment returns in a low interest rate environment. We have both. This is how New York Life is uniquely positioned for your benefit and why we are built for both economic challenges and times of growth.
All New York Life policy owners benefit from our diversified business portfolio. These businesses are run by us and work for you. These strategic businesses can generate additional earnings to grow surplus and help keep your company strong and growing. Our whole life policy owners also enjoy a distinct advantage from this business strategy: a portion of those earnings can also contribute to the dividend payout. And we have been able to do this while continuing to hold the highest ratings for financial strength currently awarded to any U.S. life insurer by the four major rating agencies.5 Our alignment with your interests pays dividends.
One of the best ways we can continue to improve this portfolio of businesses for you is to make it even more financially strong and diverse, which is the reason behind our planned acquisition of Cigna’s Group Life & Group Disability Insurance business, as we announced on December 18th, and subject to regulatory approval.
Our proposed acquisition of Cigna’s Group Life & Group Disability Insurance business is intended to broaden the diversity of our strategic business portfolio and enhance our financial strength, which can help contribute to the dividend even in a low interest rate environment and add millions of customers to the New York Life family.
Expected to close this year, subject to applicable regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, this acquisition will only strengthen our mission to provide financial security and peace of mind to our customers.
1 The annual dividend payout is the total amount of money the company pays to all of its eligible policy owners in a given year. Because haracteristics including policy type and the year a policy was purchased differ from policy to policy, the performance of an individual policy’s dividend over a specific period may not mirror the performance of the company’s total dividend payout over that same period.
2 Policy owner benefits primarily include death claims paid to beneficiaries and annuity payments. Dividends are payments made to eligible policy owners from divisible surplus. Divisible surplus is the portion of the company’s total surplus that is ailable, following each year’s operations, for distribution in the form of dividends. Dividends are not guaranteed. Each year the board of directors votes on the amount and allocation of the divisible surplus. Policy owner benefits and dividends reflect the consolidated results of NYLIC and its domestic insurance subsidiaries. Intercompany transactions have been eliminated in consolidation. NYLIC’s policy owner benefits and dividends were $7.67 billion and $7.47 billion for the 12 months ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. NYLIAC’s policy owner benefits were $3.89 billion and $3.68 billion for the 12 months ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
3 Total surplus, which includes the Asset Valuation Reserve (AVR), is one of the key indicators of the company’s longterm financial strength and stability, and is presented on a consolidated basis of the company. NYLIC’s statutory surplus was $22.03 billion and $21.01 billion at December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. Included in NYLIC’s statutory surplus is NYLIAC’s statutory surplus totaling $9.35 billion and $8.59 billion at December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. AVR for NYLIC was $3.37 billion and $2.59 billion at December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. AVR for NYLIAC was $1.56 billion and $1.21 billion at December 31, 2019 and 2018, respectively. At the time of printing this book, surplus and AVR at December 31, 2019 is preliminary and subject to final audit.
Policy owners can view the audited statutory financial statements by visiting our website, www.newyorklife.com, beginning in mid-March.
4 Based on publicly available information on New York Life’s peer mutual U.S. life insurers. This peer group is comprised of major mutual U.S. insurance companies for whom life insurance is the primary focus and primary line of business, and whose dividend information is made publicly available.
5 The “highest ratings currently awarded” refers to the highest ratings currently awarded to any life insurer, specifically: A.M. Best A++ (7/24/19), Fitch Ratings AAA (as of 5/20/19), Moody’s Aaa (as of 9/12/19), and Standard & Poor’s AA+ (as of /12/19). Source: third-party reports.
6 For further financial information, including descriptions of our Strategic Businesses, visit our website (www.newyorklife.com), where the 2019 Annual Report will be available in mid-April 2020.