A.M. Best Co. has revised the outlook to positive from stable and affirmed the financial strength rating of A- (Excellent) and issuer credit rating (ICR) of ‘a-’ of Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company (FB Life). Concurrently, A.M. Best has revised the outlook to positive from stable and affirmed the ICR of ‘bbb-’ of FBL Financial Group Inc. (FFG) (NYSE: FFG). Both companies are domiciled in West Des Moines, IA.
The revised outlook reflects FB Life’s initial success in its strategic shift to focus on life insurance sales, relative to a deliberate reduction in annuity sales, its ongoing profitable operations despite spread compression and its continued growth in capital and surplus. In addition, the revised outlook recognizes the decrease in FFG’s financial leverage following the deployment of proceeds from the sale of its former subsidiary, EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, to pay down debt.
FB Life has generated favorable, though fluctuating operating profitability, while maintaining a strong risk-adjusted capital position that is more than sufficient to support its insurance and investment risks. FB Life distributes a portfolio of life and annuity products through an exclusive agency force in 14 Midwestern and Western states and has demonstrated good penetration into its core Farm Bureau market.
Partially offsetting these strengths is FB Life’s ongoing exposure to spread compression in its annuity and universal life blocks of business, high exposure to structured securities and continued realized investment losses due to other than temporary impairments.
Factors that could lead to positive rating actions include favorable trends in FB Life’s earnings growth, sustained positive trends of ordinary life premium growth with a continued business mix focused on profitable life insurance production and increased penetration into its target market.
Factors that may precipitate unfavorable rating actions include an erosion in the company’s capital due to operating or investment losses, flat to declining trends in its ordinary life premium growth, heightened spread compression in its interest sensitive products or weakening in financial metrics at FFG.
The methodology used in determining these ratings is Best’s Credit Rating Methodology, which provides a comprehensive explanation of A.M. Best’s rating process and contains the different rating criteria employed in
the rating process. Key criteria utilized include: “Understanding BCAR for Life/Health Insurers”; “Insurance Holding Company and Debt Ratings”; and “Risk Management and the Rating Process for Insurance Companies.” Best’s Credit Rating Methodology can be found at www.ambest.com/ratings/methodology.
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