Michael J. Sapyta, CFP®, CLU®

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Understanding New York Regulation 187 (NY 187)

Suitability and Best Interests in Life Insurance and Annuity Transactions

The New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) best-interest Regulation 187 (NY 187) is effective February 1, 2020 for life insurance transactions, and August 1, 2019 for annuity transactions within the state of New York.

What is NY 187?

NY 187 imposes a best-interest standard on recommendations to purchase, replace, or alter life insurance and annuity products sold in New York state. According to the NYSDFS, a goal of the amended regulation is to “fill in regulatory gaps” resulting from the elimination of the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule.

Compliance with the duties and obligations connected with life and annuity product transactions fall on both producers and insurers. The new regulation significantly expands the producers’ duties and obligations by imposing a best-interest standard on all life and annuity products recommended to consumers. In general, producers must act in the “best interest” of the consumer with respect to purchase and replacement recommendations, and to post-issuance transactions of in-force products, including the exercise of any contractual provisions. Those transactions of in-force business that do not result in a commission are subject to “best-interest lite” standards.

The overarching theme of the regulation is to redefine the client’s best interest in insurance product recommendations in alignment with other fiduciary rules. Only the consumer’s interest can be considered when making a product recommendation. According to NY 187, this recommendation must reflect the care, skill, and diligence of a prudent person, and must not be influenced by a “producer’s receipt of compensation or other incentives.”

A dominant emphasis in the regulation is written documentation—disclosing the range of products recommended after an evaluation of the client’s needs based on relevant suitability information and consistent with the client’s risk tolerance. (A summary of the information required to support a product recommendation can be found at the end of this article.)

Picking the “Right” Index Crediting Strategy

Picking the “Right” Index Crediting Strategy

When positioning life insurance from a perspective of potential cash value build-up, there are various product types to consider, each with its own straightforward, distinguishing features. For aggressive risk profiles, variable life products—which may be fully exposed to the ups and downs of the market—may be appropriate. On the other end of the spectrum, fixed universal or whole life contracts with guarantees may be more suitable for a risk-averse client.

In between those extremes are index universal life products, where the lines between similar products can become distorted with very different features. Guarantees and safeguards are available with many, but not all contracts and accumulation strategies vary from simple and conservative to complex and aggressive.

On its face, traditional index universal life (IUL) is simple and straightforward. The policy owner trades some upside potential in the form of a cap in return for downside protection in the form of a floor. But the reality of the current IUL marketplace is far more complex and nuanced than that.

The array of index account options available today is vast. They range from the simple and straightforward cap- and floor-tied; to the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500); to those with multiple underlying indexes; to some that may include global exposure and a variety of caps, participation rates, bonuses, and index credit multipliers; or any combination thereof.

Have You Stress-Tested Your Premium Financing Proposal?

Have you stress tested your premium financing proposal

In order to educate clients on the inherent risks of a premium financing program, it is important to “stress test” any plan proposals. Stress-testing may involve any of the following:

  1. Illustrating the plan using reasonable increasing future cost of borrowing
  2. Illustrating the policy with a lower than current crediting rate, we suggest using 85% of the current rate
  3. Illustrating the combined effect of 1 and 2

The best way to demonstrate the importance of stress testing your premium financing cases can be illustrated by using a real example. Highland was asked to opine on a financed supplemental retirement income design, using a leveraged indexed universal life product. The client, a male aged 40, was to borrow $200,000 a year for ten years, accruing 100% of the loan interest, and repay the third-party loan at the end of year 15. He would then take an income of $434,105 per year for 25 years, beginning year 26 via participating policy loans.

Quick math on the proposed plan design:

✓ $2,000,000 of premium borrowed

✓ $528,000 out of pocket interest payments by the client, amounts over $40,000 accrued

✓ $10,852,625 of tax-free income

✓ $3,157,092 of tax-free death benefit

What could go wrong?

Best Practices: Financing Life Insurance Premiums

There are many ways to fund an insurance program. In most cases, the funding source is the checking account of the client or trust. However, what do you do when your client’s funding needs outpace their available liquid assets or gifting capacity?

Reading the title of this article would lead most to conclude that the focus is on clients who borrow funds from a bank to pay annual insurance premiums. That is not entirely wrong. However, when the team at Highland thinks of financing life insurance premiums, we think in terms of premium funding strategies. That includes commercial premium financing, but also private finance, split-dollar, sales to intentionally defective grantor trusts, and dual loan strategies.

There’s no free lunch

You may be familiar with the phrase, popularized by the award-winning economist, Milton Friedman, ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’. Commercial premium financing is no different, this is a pay me now, pay me later proposition. While the initial interest cost is very low, at 5% of the 1st year premium, the cost to simply service the funding escalates quickly reaching 50% by year ten. Not to mention the increasing collateral exposure the client must plan for annually. This simplistic example below assumes a static interest rate environment. An increasing cost of borrowing only serves to increase the ongoing servicing cost, or the outside collateral exposure.

Foreign Nationals: A Power-Packed Sales Opportunity Hiding in Plain Sight

Have recent changes in estate-tax thresholds made it harder to close larger, permanent-case domestic life insurance sales? If so, now’s the time to consider selling to Foreign Nationals, a vast, lucrative and virtually untapped market hiding in plain sight.