What If the Index in an Indexed Annuity Goes Away?

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For life and annuity advisors, the current financial storm raises a new question: What if U.S. life insurers continue to do well, but the firms that produce some of the indexes inside indexed life and annuity products go away?

Credit Suisse, for example, produces the Credit Suisse Momentum Index, a global, multi-asset index that’s used in some individual indexed annuities.

News organizations are reporting that the bank could face changes. Any big changes could affect the bank’s index unit. Even if Credit Suisse continues to operate as is and does well, it might be less interested in managing indexes.

Other organizations could also drop specific indexes, or index programs, because of lack of customer interest, a change in corporate strategy or difficulties with finding good index program managers. What then?

Ann Young Black, the co-chair of the life, annuity and retirement solutions team at Carlton Fields answered questions via email about how she sees the general question of what happens when index providers drop indexes.

Black has been working in the area of insurance law since 1991. She has experienced the spike in interest rates that hit in 1994, the 1995-2002 tech company bubble and bust, and the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

She helps life insurers design index-linked products and meet state insurance regulators’ filing requirements.

Our questions and her answers have been edited.

THINKADVISOR: Does the typical indexed annuity contract or indexed universal life insurance policy say anything about changes in the indexes used to set the crediting rates?

ANN YOUNG BLACK: Many fixed indexed annuity (FIA) and indexed universal life (IUL) policies include provisions that allow the insurer to cease offering new segments of an index crediting option.

Thus, once a segment of the particular index crediting option reaches the end of its term, the owner would need to select one of the other available index crediting options available under the owner’s contract.

This would allow an insurer to cease offering an index crediting option based upon an index that may no longer be available.

What kinds of arrangements do typical indexed life and annuity product issuers have with index providers?