Standard & Poors Rating System
Standard and Poor's, which began rating insurance companies in the mid 1980s, assesses a company's Claims-Paying Ability–that is, its financial capacity to meet its insurance obligations. S&P forms its opinion by examining industry-specific risk, management factors, operating performance and capitalization. Industry-specific risk addresses the inherent risk in and diversity of the insurance business being underwritten. Management factors include how management defines its corporate strategy and the effectiveness of its operations and financial controls. Operating performance focuses on a company's trend for current and future earnings. For capitalization, S&P looks at the company's capital structure, its ability to raise capital, liquidity, and cash flow.
Contact: Standard and Poor's, 55 Water St., New York, NY 10041.
S&P's rating scheme uses a letter grade scale that ranges from AAA (highest) to R (lowest), (ie., AAA, AA, A, BBB, BB, B, CCC, R). The "AAA" rating, for example, represents a company's extremely strong capacity to honor its obligations and to remain so over a long period of time. "AAA" companys offer superior financial security on both an absolute and relative basis. They possess the highest safety and have an overwhelming capacity to meet policyholder obligations.
As a group, the claims-paying ability ratings are divided into two broad classifications. Rating categories from 'AAA' to 'BBB' are classifed as "secure" and indicate insurers whose financial capacity to meet policyholder obligations is viewed on balance as sound. Ratings categories from 'BB' to 'CCC' are classified as "vulnerable" and indicate insurers whose financial capacity to meet policyholders obligations is viewed as vulnerable to adverse economic and underwriting conditions. Plus (+) and minus (-) signs show relative standing within a category; they do not suggest likely upgrades or downgrades. For certain companies, the S&P rating includes a 'q' subscript, which indicates that the rating is based solely on quantitative analysis of publicly available financial data. In the case of claims-paying ability ratings, this is the statutory financial data filed with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Annuity & Life Insurance Shopper does not include the 'q' subscript rating.
|AAA||Superior financial security. Highest safety.|
|AA||Excellent financial security. Highly safe.|
|A||Good financial security. More susceptible to economic change than highly rated companies.|
|BBB||Adequate financial security. More vulnerable to economic changes than highly rated companies.|
|BB||Financial security may be adequate, but capacity to meet long-term policies is vulnerable.|
|B||Vulnerable financial security.|
|CCC||Extremely vulnerable financial security. Questionable ability to meet obligations unless favorable conditions prevail|
|R||Regulatory action. Placed under an order of rehabilitation and liquidation.|
S & P ratings for individual companies are available at no charge. Financial reports are $25 each. Write to Standard & Poor's Corporation; 25 Broadway; New York, NY 10004. Or call (212) 208-1527.