AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and Its Subsidiary
April 30, 2019 by AM Best
OLDWICK, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–AM Best has affirmed the Financial Strength Rating of A++ (Superior) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Ratings of “aaa” of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (Northwestern Mutual) and its subsidiary, Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company. The companies are domiciled in Milwaukee, WI, and collectively are known as Northwestern Mutual Group (NMG). Concurrently, AM Best has affirmed the Long-Term Issue Credit Ratings of “aa” of Northwestern Mutual’s outstanding $1.75 billion 6.063% surplus notes due 2040 and the $1.2 billion 3.85% surplus notes due 2047. The outlook of these Credit Ratings (rating) is stable.
The ratings reflect NMG’s balance sheet strength, which AM Best categorizes as strongest, as well as its very strong operating performance, very favorable business profile and very strong enterprise risk management (ERM).
NMG’s balance sheet is aided by its robust risk-adjusted capital position combined with a higher quality of capital with low leverage, no use of captives or permitted practices that would make its capital position less conservative than peers. Its reserve book is enhanced qualitatively by its concentration in whole life insurance, which AM Best categorizes as the highest creditworthy product on its product continuum. The company’s low risk tolerance on its products and capital management strategy is consistent with its ratings. NMG’s investment portfolio is highly diversified with a well-managed asset-liability management strategy; however, it does contain higher allocations to real estate-related asset classes as a percentage of capital and surplus, although this is mitigated partially by diversification in segment and geography, as well as strong loan-to-value ratios and debt service coverage ratios
NMG’s operating performance has shown a long track record of remaining profitable from an operating income basis and net income basis throughout a full market cycle with a low volatility of earnings. The consistent profitability is aided by a flexible dividend policy. Offsetting this is the highly competitive market segment of ordinary life in the affluent market segment, which continues to constrain top-line growth.
Contributing to NMG’s very favorable business profile is the group’s exclusive agency force, which provides it with a distinct competitive advantage, with strong market positions in the whole life insurance line of business with diversification coming from disability and long-term care, and its variable annuity segment. NMG has a recruitment program, which leads to consistent flow of younger talent into the career agency system, and its business profile benefits from strong brand recognition, with national reach in the affluent market. These strengths are offset partially by its concentration within traditional product lines, which lack some of the product features offered in the highly competitive life insurance and annuity market.
Northwestern Mutual has demonstrated a robust commitment to strong ERM practices. NMG’s ERM program includes comprehensive economic capital modeling and multi-model stress testing including a liquidity reverse test and various investment-, macroeconomic-, interest rate- and insurance-related stress tests. AM Best views NMG’s ERM program as very strong, and it has been effective over full market cycles historically. The group’s ERM program is enhanced by its considerable excess capital on a regulatory basis.
This press release relates to Credit Ratings that have been published on AM Best’s website. For all rating information relating to the release and pertinent disclosures, including details of the office responsible for issuing each of the individual ratings referenced in this release, please see AM Best’s Recent Rating Activity web page. For additional information regarding the use and limitations of Credit Rating opinions, please view Understanding Best’s Credit Ratings. For information on the proper media use of Best’s Credit Ratings and AM Best press releases, please view Guide for Media – Proper Use of Best’s Credit Ratings and AM Best Rating Action Press Releases.
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