Among many recent structured settlement industry developments, perhaps the most significant and impressive has been the continuation of sustained primary market annuity sales growth - especially in the context of various industry challenges. These challenges have included: 1) the aftermath of the ELNY insolvency; 2) continuation of historic low interest rates; 3) public exposure of unsavory secondary market business practices; and 4) a generational transition within the structured settlement industry.
Despite these challenges, primary market annuity sales (on a comparative basis with prior years) totaled $5.73 billion in 2016 (based upon 24,750 cases with an average case size of $231,478) according to industry estimates compiled and recently distributed by Melissa Price. 2016 sales totals compare favorably, and show a steady increase, compared with similar sales totals for these prior years::
- 2015 - $5.35 billion
- 2014 - $5.25 billion
- 2013 - $5.13 billion
- 2012 - $4.82 billion
For the first time, Ms Price's 2016 report included structured settlement annuity sales by USAA. Although USAA is a member of the National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA), it is S2KM's understanding that USAA is one of multiple "affiliated" life companies that limits its structured settlement sales to internal USAA claims only. Typically, because these companies don't compete for external business, they don't report their sales data.
Inclusive of USSA, 2016 structured settlement sales totaled $5.80 billion (based upon 25,201 cases with an average case size of $230,320. Even including USSA, the 2016 annual premium totals still fall short of the historic 12 month industry high ($6.2 billion in 2008) after consistently averaging close to $6 billion annually from 2001-2007.
It should also be noted, that while structured settlement premium has continued to increase since 2012, the number of structured cases has not noticeably increased - resulting in an ever-increasing average case size. This development may be explained by more structured settlement brokers transitioning to a settlement planning approach, which by definition targets larger cases. For example, Ringler, historically the largest U.S. structured settlement broker, has recently re-branded itself as "the largest settlement planning company in the nation."
Incorporating the USAA 2016 numbers, and adding the 2016 results to historic U.S. structured settlement totals, S2KM estimates the following primary market metrics from 1976 thru 2015:
- Total annuity premium: $156 billion.
- Total structured settlement cases: 879,000
- Average annuity premium: $177,474
Berkshire Hathaway continued its recent primary market leadership in 2016 by generating $1.504 billion of structured settlement annuity premium - a 15% percent increase from 2015. For the first time since 2011, two companies exceeded $1 billion in structured settlement annuity sales as Pacific Life increased its 2016 total to $1.186 billion from its year earlier total of $871MM - a 36% percent increase.
The U.S. structured settlement market now consists of nine NSSTA-member annuity providers who report their structured settlement annuity sales - down from more than 20 as recently as 2002. 2016 sales results (rounded in millions) for the seven other structured settlement annuity providers (per Ms Price's report) plus the rounded percentage increase (+) or decrease (-) from comparable 2015 results:
- MetLife: $815MM (+6%)
- Amgen: $688MM (+12%)
- Liberty Life: $513MM (-6%)
- New York Life: $487MM (+32%)
- Prudential: $399MM (-48%)
- Mutual of Omaha: $141MM (+44%)
- USAA: $72MM (first report)
Ms Price's 2016 compilation also reports an annual increase in annuity premium for non-qualified structured settlement assignments (from $190.3 million in 2015 to $199.2 million in 2016) as a portion of the overall structured settlement numbers. Non-qualified assignments represent transfers of periodic payment obligations that do not meet the requirements of IRC sections 130 and 104(a)(1) or (2) including deferred attorney fees.
From S2KM's perspective, several factors help to explain the sustained primary market sales growth:
- Increased Industry Unity - As former SSP President Neil Johnson pointed out in 2014, for many years, an historical lack of structured settlement industry unity created a drain - a drain on financial resources ... a drain on productivity ... a drain on our public image ... a drain on physical and emotional health. Lack of unity diverts attention from productive projects." Recent leaders of NSSTA, SSP and NASP have encouraged greater cooperation and focused their associations on more productive projects.
- SSP - As an organization, SSP is no longer a political advocate for injury victims' rights. As Joe Tombs, its current President, stated in this recent S2KM interview: "A year ago, we decided to abandon taking 'political' positions.'' Instead, Tombs added: "1) SSP has substantially expanded its membership; 2) we have re-focused on professional settlement planning as our primary Mission and purpose; 3) we have pretty much put to bed the idea that we oppose NSSTA; and 4) we have developed a new set of Professional Practice Standards which we will introduce during our 2017 Annual Conference."
- NSSTA - Although NSSTA continues to advocate for structured settlements, NSSTA has likewise undertaken its own initiatives toward achieving greater industry unification. As identified by former NSSTA President Michael Goodman in 2014, these initiatives have included: 1) a strong relationship with the AAJ; 2) improved dialogue with the SSP; 3) guest educational participation involving SSP and NASP representatives; 4) successful cooperation with NASP to enact revised structured settlement protection legislation in multiple states.
- Market Research - Among the structured settlement growth opportunities, expanded use by traditional stakeholders represents arguably the number one priority - a priority which NSSTA highlighted during 2014 by commissioning CLM Advisors to conduct a three-part survey of senior claims executives (Part 1); front line claims professionals (Part 2); and plaintiff attorneys (Part 3). For S2KM's summary and analysis of these surveys, see:
- Transitional Goals- During NSSTA' 2015 Annual Meeting, Goodman announced a series of transitional growth-oriented goals for NSSTA and its members: 1) modifying NSSTA's traditional "protect and preserve" message to inspire primary market growth; 2) moving beyond "interest rate selling"; 3) moving beyond a focus on factoring; 4) identifying and pursuing new markets for structured settlement annuities; 5) adding one or more new life company providers; 6) engaging new, younger structured settlement brokers; 7) providing a new and improved training initiative.
- Growth Initiative Committee - To help support these goals, NSSTA's Board of Directors established a new NSSTA "Industry Growth Initiative," "designed to identify opportunities to expand the use of structured settlements and bring those opportunities to the structured settlement industry marketplace." The first Growth Initiatives to be selected and approved:
- Rejuvenate Defense Programs (including casualty insurers, commercial insureds and TPAs) - Originally the prime movers for structured settlements, many defense insurers have reduced or completely abandoned their structured settlement programs citing a variety of reasons.
- Amend the Federal Employee Compensation Act - FECA, which provides workers compensation like benefits for federal workers, currently does not permit structured settlements.
- Convertible Deferred Lump Sums - As a sales response to "low interest rates", the Growth Committee proposed a new structured settlement feature. As envisioned, the convertible deferred lump sum would allow a structured settlement recipient to select a future lump sum that would automatically convert on its payment date into a series of predetermined periodic payments payable at whatever annuity rates offered at the time of conversion by the issuing life company.
- Educational and Lobbying Support - To support its Growth Initiative, NSSTA has also expanded both its educational and certification programming as well as its strategic lobbying and lobbying partnerships. Educational Committee Co-Chairs Jordan Bossler and Nolan Robinson, CSSC Co-Chairs Karen Meyers and Patricia Fairhurst, and their respective committees, plus Compliance and Administrative Director Debbie Sink provide NSSTA with its strongest-ever group of educational resources. NSSTA Executive Director Eric Vaughn, who also serves as Vice Chair of the American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD) and manages the Congressional Structured Settlement Caucus , has continued to expand NSSTA's lobbying outreach thru strategic relationships with national special needs attorney associations.
Ms Price's reports do not provide information about the structured settlement secondary market. For S2KM's most recent estimates of secondary market metrics, see this prior blog post. Based upon industry sources, it is S2KM's understanding that structured settlement secondary market sales declined during 2016.