We enter 2020 with a great deal of optimism and momentum following the launch of a new strategy built on our rich history and strength in life insurance and disability income (DI) insurance.
It’s been just over a year since I assumed the role of President and Chief Operating Officer at Ohio National and I’m extremely proud of how our company has executed. We have strengthened our capital position, reshaped our risk profile and delivered valuable protection products and benefits to our policyholders and beneficiaries while expanding our distribution footprint. As we look to 2020, our 2019 accomplishments are numerous and focused on providing greater value to the policyholder:
- Paid dividends for 96 consecutive years to eligible policyholders.
- Continued to pay benefits to policyholders and their beneficiaries—more than $1 billion in benefits to policyholders and their beneficiaries in 2018.*
- Rolled out a new whole life portfolio on the 2017 CSO table
- Includes five new whole life products that range from low premium protection products to limited pay accumulation-oriented policies.
- A new 20-pay product design provides high long-term cash accumulation features and the potential for strong dividend performance.
- Marked the 10th consecutive year of DI insurance sales growth last year.
- Solidified our relationship with Disability Management Services, Inc. to provide administrative and claims management support for our growing DI business.
- Our wholly owned retail broker-dealer, The O.N. Equity Sales Co. (ONESCO), named among the top ten growing independent broker-dealers by Investment News and Financial Planning (ranked sixth by Financial Planning).
- Reduced management fees for our variable product customers through fund manager changes and other actions.
- Added more than 500 new personal producing general agents and 12 new Career channel general agencies in 2019.
- Ranked #7 of U.S. companies with MDRT.
- Added new independent intermediaries (financial professionals) in our Latin American operations: Peru (205) and Chile (152). We continue to grow our builder agency model in our Brazilian joint venture.
Our mutual heritage is our guiding principle—our North Star. Every decision and action we take considers the long-term interests of all our policyholders. We are not beholden to the quarterly requirements of Wall Street. Our commitment now and in the future is to deliver on the promises we make to all our policyholders and beneficiaries.
In 2020 we continue to be laser focused on serving the needs of our field partners and policyholders. Life insurance and DI remain our core product focus, as the depth and quality of this product combination remains a differentiator. We are evaluating products and enhancements that align with our strategy and provide solutions for the evolving needs of our field partners and policyholders. The customer is where we choose to invest—making their experience better guides how we deliver operational efficiencies. We look forward to what’s ahead.
Competitive protection products
We’re starting off the year with the introduction of our new universal life portfolio, including the next iteration of our indexed universal life (IUL) product which offers strong accumulation potential while maintaining some of the lowest expenses compared to similar products in the market. We have stayed true to our mutual principles with this product and have not given in to competitive pressures to increase expenses and risk for the benefit of higher illustrated returns.
Creating a more flexible product design for our whole life portfolio is a priority so our financial professionals can customize solutions to each of their client’s needs. We continue to research new products and enhancements that will attract new distribution partners and provide those existing partners with more opportunities to choose Ohio National.
The combination of our competitive whole life, universal life, indexed universal life and term products creates a robust life insurance portfolio, well positioned to provide exceptional value and meet our clients’ needs now and in the future.
By including disability income (DI) insurance in their protection strategy, our policyholders are better able to plan for and protect their future. Currently, about 20 percent of our DI applications come through our life + DI combination offering, featuring a permanent discount for the DI policy when purchased with a qualifying life insurance policy.
We expect our DI insurance line to continue to grow at an industry-leading rate. Our top-shelf ContinuON Income Solutions® II individual disability income insurance product offers exceptionally competitive features, occupation classes and definitions, while maintaining attractive flexibility and pricing. We are currently working to offer greater flexibility and new features, including a student loan rider and lump sum retirement rider—addressing two specific client financial needs, as well as the third generation of this highly competitive product portfolio for individual and employer-sponsored multi-life DI.
Our annuity business represents over $21 billion in assets under management and provides another important source of revenue and fee income. While we no longer sell variable annuities (VA), we continue to service and support our annuity contract holders, and sales of our single premium indexed annuities (SPIA) remain steady.
We continue to attract new distribution partners with a value proposition that expands beyond product. Our relationship-oriented approach is foundational to how we do business every day. Reflecting this philosophy is our tagline, “Your business. Your vision. We’ll help.®” This supports the entrepreneurship and independence our financial professionals desire. In addition, producers are attracted to Ohio National for the personal service and support they receive across our organization as well as an array of contract choices, and an affiliated broker-dealer that also respects and supports their independence.
ONESCO offers registered representatives choice, support and stability. We are in the process of enhancing ONESCO’s open architecture technology package with full e-signature capabilities without a mandated platform. The ONESCO relationship also helps our Career Channel builder agencies attract and retain top securities professionals and the payout to fee ratio remain among the lowest of independent broker-dealers. We are entering our 52nd year of uninterrupted ownership by Ohio National, something uncommon in the industry, which gives ONESCO’s registered representatives ongoing consistency in support, services and delivery.
We’re excited to see that our field force is growing more diverse, because it’s critical to our long-term success. By recruiting diverse talent, our organization aims to increase access to additional market segments and build competencies in how we do business. Focusing on improving diversity goes beyond metrics; inclusion, awareness and equality help us better execute our Mission, Vision and Values.
We continue our efforts in the emerging life insurance markets in Latin America. Our subsidiaries in Chile and Peru and our joint venture in Brazil are poised for continued innovation in the boutique life insurance industry despite challenging economic and political environments.
Our Latin America operations are responding to these challenges by focusing on improving productivity through measured investments in technology. Both Chile and Peru have embarked on initiatives to update platforms and migrate to a lighter more flexible cloud environment. These improvements are contributing to improved profitability in our individual life, credit life and mass consumer segments through three quarters.
As the expectations of our field force and policyholders grow, so must our response. Therefore, we are focusing much of our innovation efforts on making us easier to do business with. We’re pursuing an application and underwriting experience that’s faster and more efficient but also supports our disciplined underwriting process.
We have taken the approach that our pursuit for ways to speed up business processes, providing short-term convenience, can’t come at the cost of risk management or delivering on the long-term promises we make.
Our e-delivery capability for our term life policies created an end-to-end digital experience for customers and has improved time to policy delivery and reduced costs. We look to expand this service to all our life and DI policies. Still to come are technology enhancements including e-bill, e-mobile pay, e-service forms and agent dashboard improvements.
We are also implementing robotics to automate low exception, high volume and repetitive processes to improve our business efficiencies.
Looking ahead, I continue to be very excited about how we are executing on our strategy. Our diversified product portfolio continues to provide our customers with the benefits and protection they desire.
I am proud to be part of an organization that focuses on serving the needs of our policyholders and cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with our field partners. We continue to offer products, solutions and services that help them achieve financial security and independence now, and for generations to come. [BT]
*Benefits paid to policyholders and beneficiaries include cash payments for life insurance benefits, systematic withdrawal transactions on deferred annuity contracts, annuity lump sum death claims and disbursements, monthly disability income benefits and retirement plan benefits. Benefits paid to policyholders for 2019 were not available as of publication.
Life insurance disability income insurance and annuity products are issued by The Ohio National Life Insurance Company and Ohio National Life Assurance Corporation. Product and product features vary by state. Issuers not licensed to conduct business in New York or outside of the United States. The payment of dividends is not guaranteed.