Other corporate information

Products and drivers of insurance operations' profits

Overview of the Group's principal activities

Prudential plc is the holding company of the Prudential Group. The principal activity of our subsidiary operations is the provision of financial services to individuals and businesses in Asia, the US and UK. We offer a wide range of retail financial products and services and asset management services throughout these territories. The retail financial products and services principally include life insurance, pensions and annuities as well as collective investment schemes.

Asia

The life insurance products offered by Prudential Corporation Asia include with-profits (participating) and non-participating term, whole life and endowment and unit-linked policies. To supplement our life products we also offer health, disablement, critical illness and accident cover.

The primary focus in Asia is regular premium products that provide both savings and protection benefits.

In 2010, the new business profit mix in our Asian insurance business was derived 59 per cent (2009: 56 per cent) from health and protection products, 32 per cent (2009: 31 per cent) from unit-linked products and nine per cent (2009: 13 per cent) from non-linked products.

Unit-linked products combine savings with protection, with the cash value of the policy depending on the value of the underlying unitised funds. Participating products provide savings with protection where the basic sum assured can be enhanced by a profit share (or bonus) from the underlying fund as determined at the discretion of the insurer. Non-participating products offer savings with protection where the benefits are guaranteed or determined by a set of defined market-related parameters. Accident and health products provide mortality or morbidity benefits and include health, disablement, critical illness and accident cover. These products are commonly offered as supplements to main life policies, but can also be sold separately.

Policyholder and insurer share the profits from participating policies (typically in a 90:10 ratio) in the same way as with-profits business in the UK. With unit-linked products, shareholders receive the profits arising from managing the policy, its investments and the insurance risk. Policyholders within the underlying unitised fund receive investment gains. The profits from accident and health and non-participating products come from any surplus remaining after paying policy benefits.

Unit-linked products tend to have higher profits on the EEV basis of reporting than traditional non-linked products, as expenses and charges are better matched and solvency capital requirements are lower. At the end of 2010, we were offering unit-linked products in 10 of the 11 countries in Asia in which we operate, with the only exception being Thailand.

In Malaysia and Indonesia, Prudential also offers life insurance policies that are constructed to comply with Islamic principles otherwise known as Takaful. The main principles are policyholders co-operate amongst themselves for the common good, uncertainty is eliminated in respect of subscription and compensation and there is no investment in prohibited areas such as gambling or alcohol.

In addition to the life products described above, we offer mutual fund investment products in India, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam and China, thus enabling customers to participate in debt, equity and money market investments. We are also licensed in the United Arab Emirates. Prudential Corporation Asia earns a fee based on assets under management.

United States

Jackson's product offerings include variable, fixed and fixed index annuities, as well as life insurance and institutional products.

Annuities

Annuity products are long-term individual retirement products, which offer tax-deferred accumulation on the funds invested until proceeds are withdrawn from the policy.

Fixed annuities are used for asset accumulation in retirement planning and for providing income in retirement and offer flexible payout options. The contract holder pays us a premium, which is credited to the contract holder's account. Periodically, interest is credited to the contract holder's account and administrative charges are deducted. The interest rate may be reset on each contract anniversary, subject to a guaranteed minimum, in line with state regulations. When the annuity matures, the contract holder is paid either the amount in the contract holder account or staggered payments in the form of an immediate annuity – similar to a UK annuity in payment.

Fixed annuity policies are subject to early surrender charges for the first six to nine years of the contract. In addition, the contract may be subject to a market value adjustment at the time of surrender. During the surrender charge period, the contract holder may cancel the contract for the surrender value. Our profits on fixed annuities come primarily from the spread between the return earned on investments and the interest credited to the contract holder's account, less expenses. Fixed annuities continue to be a profitable book of business, benefiting from favourable spread income in recent years.

Fixed index annuities are similar to fixed annuities, in that the contract holder pays a premium that is credited to the contract holder's account, and also in that interest is periodically credited to the contract holder's account. An annual minimum interest rate is guaranteed, although actual interest credited may be higher and is linked to an equity index over the product's index option period. Profit comes primarily from the spread between the return earned on investments and the amounts credited to the contract holder's account, less expenses, which include the costs of hedging the equity component of the interest credited to the contract. As previously described, hedge results are reflected in short-term fluctuations. Fixed index annuities are subject to early surrender charges for the first five to twelve years of the contract. During the surrender charge period, the contract holder may cancel the contract for the surrender value. Fixed index annuities continue to be a profitable product, benefiting from favourable spread and the effective management of equity risk. The fixed index book provides natural offsetting equity exposure to the guarantees issued in connection with our variable annuity products, which allows for efficient hedging of the net equity exposure.

Variable annuities are tax-advantaged, deferred annuities where the rate of return depends upon the performance of the underlying investment portfolio, similar in principle to UK unit-linked products. They are also used for asset accumulation in retirement planning and to provide income in retirement.

The contract holder can allocate the premiums between a variety of variable sub-accounts, with a choice of fund managers and/or guaranteed fixed-rate options. As with a unit-linked fund, the contract holder's premiums allocated to the variable accounts are held separately from Jackson's general account assets. The value of the portion of the separate account allocated to variable sub-accounts fluctuates with the underlying investments. Variable annuity policies are subject to early surrender charges for the first four to seven years of the contract. During the surrender charge period, the contract holder may cancel the contract for the surrender value. Jackson offers one variable annuity that has no surrender charges and also offers a choice of guaranteed benefit options within their variable annuity product portfolio, which customers can elect and pay for. These options include the guaranteed minimum death benefit (GMDB), which guarantees that, upon death of the annuitant, the contract holder or beneficiary receives a minimum value regardless of past market performance. These guaranteed death benefits might be expressed as the return of original premium, the highest past anniversary value of the contract, or as the original premium accumulated at a fixed rate of interest. In addition, there are three other types of guarantees: guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefits (GMWB), guaranteed minimum accumulation benefits (GMAB) and guaranteed minimum income benefits (GMIB). Due to the lack of availability to economically reinsure or hedge new issues of GMIB, Jackson discontinued offering it in 2009.

GMWBs provide a guaranteed return of the principal invested by allowing for periodic withdrawals that are limited to a maximum percentage of the initial premium. One version of the GMWBs provides for a minimum annual withdrawal amount that is guaranteed for the contract holder's life without annuitisation. Variations of the GMWBs are offered whereby the guaranteed base can be increased, either through step-ups to a more recent market value of the account, or through bonuses offered if withdrawals are delayed for a particular number of years. Additional charges are assessed for these features. GMABs generally provide a guarantee for a return of a certain amount of principal after a specified period. GMIBs provide for a minimum level of benefits upon annuitisation regardless of the value of the investments underlying the contract at the time of annuitisation. The GMIB is reinsured.

As the investment return on the separate account assets is attributed directly to the contract holders, Jackson's profit arises from the fees charged on the contracts, less the expenses incurred, which include the costs of hedging the guarantees. As previously described, hedge results are reflected in short-term fluctuations. In addition to being a profitable book of business in its own right, the variable annuity book also provides an opportunity to utilise the offsetting equity risk among various lines of business to cost effectively manage our equity exposure. It is believed that the internal management of equity risk, coupled with the use of external derivative instruments where necessary, continues to provide a cost-effective method of managing equity exposure. Profits in the variable annuity book of business will continue to be subject to the impact of market movements on both sales and allocations to the variable accounts and the effects of the economic hedging programme. While risk is hedged on an economic basis, the nature and duration of the hedging instruments, which are recorded at fair value through the income statement, will fluctuate and produce some accounting volatility. Management continues to believe that, on a long-term economic basis, the equity exposure remains well managed.

Life insurance

Jackson also sells several types of life insurance including term life, universal life and variable universal life. Term life provides protection for a defined period of time and a benefit that is payable to a designated beneficiary upon the insured's death. Universal life provides permanent individual life insurance for the life of the insured and includes a savings element. Variable universal life is a life insurance policy that combines death benefit protection and the important tax advantages of life insurance with the long-term growth potential of professionally managed investments. The Jackson life insurance book has also delivered consistent profitability, driven primarily by favourable mortality experience.

Institutional products

Jackson's institutional products division markets institutional products such as traditional Guaranteed Investment Contracts (GICs), Funding Agreements and Medium Term Note (MTN) funding agreements. The institutional product offerings also include Jackson's funding agreements issued to the Federal Home Loan Bank. Institutional products are distributed directly to investors, through investment banks, or through funding agreement brokers. Jackson sold no institutional products during 2010 or 2009, as available capital was directed to support higher-margin variable annuity sales.

United Kingdom

In common with other UK long-term insurance companies, Prudential UK's products are structured as either with-profits (or participating) products, or non-participating products including annuities in payment and unit-linked products. Depending on the structure, the level of shareholders' interest in the value of policies and the related profit or loss varies.

With-profits policies are supported by a with-profits sub-fund and can be single premium (for example, Onshore Bonds or Flexible Investment Bonds) or regular premium (for example, certain pension products).

The primary with-profits sub-fund is part of The Prudential Assurance Company Limited (PAC)'s long-term fund. The return to shareholders on virtually all with-profits products is in the form of a statutory transfer to PAC shareholders' funds. This is analogous to a dividend from PAC's long-term fund, and is dependent upon the bonuses credited or declared on policies in that year. In this context, there are two types of bonuses – 'regular' and 'final'. Regular bonuses are declared regularly, usually once a year, and are determined as a prudent proportion of the long-term expected future investment return on the underlying assets. Once credited, regular bonuses are guaranteed in accordance with the terms of the particular product. In contrast, 'final' bonuses are only guaranteed until the next bonus declaration, and are primarily determined on the actual smoothed investment return achieved over the life of the policy. Prudential's with-profits policyholders currently receive 90 per cent of the distribution from the main with-profits sub-fund as bonus additions to their policies, while shareholders receive 10 per cent as a statutory transfer.

The Defined Charge Participating Sub-Fund (DCPSF) forms part of the PAC long-term fund. It is comprised of the accumulated investment content of premiums paid in respect of the defined charge participating with-profits business issued in France, the defined charge participating with-profits business reassured into PAC from Prudential International Assurance plc and Canada Life (Europe) Assurance Ltd and includes the portfolio of with-profit annuity policies acquired from Equitable Life in 2007. All profits in this fund accrue to policyholders in the DCPSF.

The profits from almost all of the new non-participating business accrue solely to shareholders. Such business is written in the non-profit sub-fund within PAC's long-term fund, or in various shareholder-owned direct or indirect subsidiaries. The most significant of these is Prudential Retirement Income Limited (PRIL), which also writes all new immediate annuities arising from vesting deferred annuity policies in the with-profits sub-fund of PAC.

There is a substantial volume of in-force non-participating business in PAC's with-profits sub-fund and that fund's wholly-owned subsidiary Prudential Annuities Limited (PAL), which is closed to new business. Profits from this business accrue to the with-profits sub-fund.

Description of EEV basis reporting

Prudential's results are prepared on two accounting bases – the supplementary EEV basis, and the IFRS basis for the financial statements. Over the life of any given product, the total profit recognised will be the same under either the IFRS or the EEV basis. However, the two methods recognise the emergence of that profit in different ways, with profits emerging earlier under the EEV basis than under IFRS. This section explains how EEV differs from IFRS and why it is used.

In broad terms, IFRS profits for long-term business reflect the aggregate of statutory transfers from UK-style with-profits funds and profit on a traditional accounting basis for other long-term business. By their nature, the products sold by the life insurance industry are long-term, as insurance companies commit to service these products for many years into the future. The profit on these insurance sales is generated over this long-term period. In our view, the result under IFRS does not properly reflect the inherent value of these future profits, as it focuses instead on the amounts accruing to shareholders in the current year.

In May 2004 the CFO Forum, representing the Chief Financial Officers of 19 European insurers, published the European Embedded Value Principles (expanded by the Additional Guidance of EEV Disclosures published in October 2005), that provide consistent definitions, a framework for setting actuarial assumptions, and a more explicit approach to the underlying methodology and disclosures. So for example:

  • The allowance for risk is explicit for EEV through: (i) an allowance for the cost of capital (at the higher of economic capital and the local statutory minimum) (ii) stochastic or other appropriate modelling of financial options and guarantees to ensure that an allowance for their cost is irrespective of their value at the balance sheet date, and (iii) an explicit allowance in the risk discount rate for financial and non-financial risks;
  • EEV specifically allows for the look-through into profits arising in shareholder service companies, most notably the profit arising in investment management companies from managing the insurance companies funds for covered business; and
  • There are extensive disclosures required for EEV on all aspects of the calculations, including the methodology adopted and the analysis of return.

It is thought that the EEV basis not only provides a good indication of the value being added by management in a given accounting period, but also helps demonstrate whether shareholder capital is being deployed to best effect. Indeed insurance companies in many countries use comparable bases of accounting for management purposes.

The EEV basis is a value-based method of reporting in that it reflects the change in value of the business over the accounting period. This value is called the shareholders' funds on the EEV basis which, at a given point in time, is the value of future profits expected to arise from the current book of long-term insurance business plus the net worth of the Company. In determining these expected profits, full allowance is made for the risks attached to their emergence and the associated cost of capital, and takes into account recent experience in assessing likely future persistency, mortality and expenses.

The change in value is typically analysed into the following components:

  • the value added from new business sold during the year;
  • the change in value from existing business already in place at the start of the year;
  • short-term fluctuations in investment returns;
  • change in economic assumptions;
  • change in the time value of cost of options and guarantees and economic assumption changes;
  • other items (for example, profit from other Group operations, tax, foreign exchange, exceptional items); and
  • dividends.

The value added from new business – defined as the present value of the future profits arising from new business written in the year – is a key metric used in the management of our business. The change in value of business in-force at the start of the year demonstrates how the existing book is being managed. Together, these metrics provide management and shareholders with valuable information about the underlying development of the Group's business and the success or otherwise of management actions.

EEV basis results are prepared by first of all setting 'best estimate' assumptions, by product, for all relevant factors including expenses, surrender levels and mortality. Economic assumptions as to future investment returns and inflation are generally based on a combination of market data and long-term assumptions. These assumptions are used to project future cash flows. The present value of the future cash flows is then calculated using a discount rate which reflects both the time value of money and the risks associated with the cash flows. The risk discount rate is determined by adding a risk margin to the appropriate risk-free rate of return. The actual outcome may differ from that projected, in which case the effect will be reflected in the experience variances for that year.

The assumptions used for the EEV basis of accounting are set out in the notes that accompany the supplementary EEV basis information. An indication of the sensitivity of the results to changes in key assumptions is also provided within that information.

 

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