Phoenix Companies builds fixed indexed annuity business to $1.5 billion in funds under management

By Phil Polkinghorn

Phoenix Companies


HARTFORD,Conn., September 11, 2012 – The Phoenix Companies, Inc. (NYSE:PNX) reached a mid-year milestone of $1.5 billion in fixed indexed annuity funds under management, two and a half years after starting the business from scratch. A former variable annuity player, Phoenix shifted its focus to the middle market in 2009 and began building a fixed indexed annuity product line.

“We approached this business with a long-term view and not just for rapid sales growth,” said James D. Wehr, president and chief executive officer. “Our focus is on developing competitive and profitable products, establishing partnerships with strategically positioned Insurance Market Organizations (IMOs) and investing in technology infrastructure to meet the needs of these partners as well as our end clients.”

Opportunities for growth in the middle market with fixed indexed annuities

Phoenix saw opportunities for growth in fixed indexed annuities in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 market crisis, when middle market consumers were looking for products that had less downside risk and could provide acceptable levels of return even in a low interest rate environment. The demographic force of the Baby Boom generation was also expected to fuel growth in the retirement income sector for the next several decades.

“While the markets have recovered somewhat, today’s retirees and pre-retirees don’t necessarily want to get back into investing directly in stocks,” said Phil Polkinghorn, senior executive vice president and president, Business Development. “They continue to want products that provide a guaranteed retirement income stream and can offer the potential for better returns than strictly fixed rate vehicles.”

Product innovation to meet changing consumer demands

In addition to basic retirement income needs, there is growing consumer demand for annuities that provide more flexibility and help in addressing other financial concerns. As a result, the fixed indexed annuity marketplace has changed significantly in the brief period of time since Phoenix entered it.

Phoenix has been on the forefront of many of these changes, including annuities that offer distinct “income now” or “income later” retirement benefit options and the emerging multi-need, or “combo,” annuity products. “Consumers approaching retirement face many challenges including access to adequate income, protection against the high costs of chronic care and transfer of wealth to heirs. The current trend in annuities is to address multiple needs like these in a more affordable way than standalone products,” Polkinghorn said.

Some of Phoenix’s most recent products add even more flexibility by allowing an annuity holder, for an additional fee, to choose from up to three different benefits (including lifetime income, chronic care and an enhanced death benefit) to create a customized solution that meets their particular retirement needs.

Reaching a new market by building and supporting distribution relationships

“As a newcomer to the middle market, it was important for us to establish relationships with distributors who already had a strong presence and would be receptive to new carriers with competitive offerings for their clients,” said Ed Cassidy, executive vice president and managing principal of Saybrus Partners, Inc., Phoenix’s distribution company.  “We focused our efforts on IMOs, which dominate the fixed indexed annuity marketplace, and now have relationships with about two dozen firms, each with access to roughly 1,200 to 1,500 agents.”

Phoenix works with its IMO partners in a variety of ways, including co-developing proprietary products and providing proprietary client education, sales training and support, and technology that all make it easier for agents to find suitable products for their clients and complete the sale.

“Our IMO relationships are highly collaborative. While we always come to the table with ideas, we are also very interested in getting feedback from those who really know the market and their customers,” Cassidy said. “The result is that we now have a strong network of IMOs where we are offering innovative products backed by tools and support that allow these agents to better serve their clients’ retirement planning needs.”
After launching the first two products in its new fixed indexed annuity line at the end of 2009, Phoenix had nearly $200 million in deposits in 2010. In 2011, that number approached $1 billion, and the company has said it expects about $1 billion in deposits again in 2012. Since the end of 2009, fixed indexed annuity funds under management have grown to $1.5 billion at June 30, 2012.

Background on indexed annuities

An indexed annuity allows individuals to benefit from growth in the market without the risk of direct investment in the market. When the index shows a positive performance above a specified threshold, “index credits” that are based on that performance are added to the account value. Unlike direct investments, the account does not lose any value when the index goes down because index credits can never be negative.

Annuities are long-term investments, particularly applicable for retirement planning. Withdrawals may be subject to surrender charges and taxes, as well as possible tax penalties if taken prior to age 59½.

About Phoenix

The Phoenix Companies, Inc. (NYSE:PNX) is a boutique life insurance and annuity company serving customers’ retirement and protection needs through select independent distributors. Headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut, Phoenix has a history of keeping its promises since 1851. For more information, phoenixwm.com. Phoenix fixed indexed annuities are issued by PHL Variable Insurance Company (PHLVIC), Hartford, Connecticut.  PHLVIC is not authorized to conduct business in New York and Maine.

About Sybrus Partners

Saybrus Partners represents Phoenix’s life and annuity portfolios in key channels including independent marketing organizations and brokerage general agencies. Saybrus Partners offers solutions-based sales support and strategies for income planning and other retirement needs, as well as simplified issue life insurance. It is a subsidiary of The Phoenix Companies, Inc. (NYSE: PNX). For more information, visit saybruspartners.com.

Saybrus does not provide tax or legal advice. In California dba Saybrus Partners Insurance Agency, CA license #0G81229.

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