A Fitch Insurer Financial Strength Rating (IFS Rating) provides an assessment of the financial strength of an insurance organization, and its capacity to meet senior obligations to policyholders and contractholders on a timely basis. The IFS Rating is assigned to the insurance organization itself, and no liabilities or obligations of the insurer are specifically rated unless otherwise stated (for example, Fitch may separately rate the debt obligations of an insurer). The IFS Rating can be assigned to insurance and reinsurance companies in all insurance sectors, including the life & health, property & casualty, mortgage, financial guaranty and title insurance sectors, as well as managed care companies such as health maintenance organizations.
The IFS Rating does not address the willingness of an insurance organization's management to honor its company's obligations, nor does the IFS Rating address the quality of an insurer's claims handling services. In the context of the IFS Rating, the timeliness of payments is considered relative to both contract and/or policy terms and also recognizes the possibility of acceptable delays caused by circumstances unique to the insurance industry, including claims reviews, fraud investigations and coverage disputes.
The IFS Rating is based on a comprehensive analysis of relevant factors that in large part determing an insurance organization's financial strength, including its regulatory solvency characteristics, liquidity, operating performance, financial flexibility, balance shee strength, management quality, competitive positioning and long-term business viability.
The IFS Rating is an international-scale rating, and incorporates relevant economic and political risks that could impair an insurance organization's capacity to meet its obligations. As a result, in most cases it would be rare for an insurance organization to achieve an IFS Rating that would be higher than the long-term, international-scale local currency ratings assigned to the obligations of its sovereign state of domicile. One exception could be cases in which foreign parental support commitments are in place. Other exceptions could include cases in which, due to the international nature of an insurer's business, a major portion of its business and financial resources are not exposed to the economic and political risks of its sovereign state. Since the IFS Rating is not assigned to any specific obligations of the insurer, the rating does not take into account the potential for government restrictions that could prevent specific obligations from being met on a timely basis, such as exchange controls placed on obligations owed in a foreign currency.
The IFS Rating uses the same ratings scale and symbols used by Fitch for its international ratings of long-term debt obligations and issuers. However, the definitions associated with the ratings reflect the unique aspects of the IFS Rating within an insurance industry context. Ratings in the 'AA' through 'CCC' categories may be amended with a (+) or (-) sign to show relative standing within the major rating category. Ratings of 'BBB-' and higher are considered to be 'Secure,' and those of 'BB+' and lower are considered to be 'Vulnerable.'
Insurers assigned this highest rating are viewed as possessing EXCEPTIONALLY STRONG capacity to meet policyholder and contract obligations. For such companies, risk factors are minimal and the impact of any adverse business and economic factors is expected to be extremely small.
Insurers are viewed as possessing VERY STRONG capacity to met policyholder and contract obligations. Risk factors are modest, and th impact of any adverse business and economic factors is expected to be very small.
Insurers are viewed as possessing STRONG capacity to meet policyholder and contract obligations. Risk factors are moderate, and the impact of any adverse business and economic factors is expected to be small.
Insurers are viewed as possessing GOOD capacity to met policyholder and contract obligations. Risk facors are somewhat high, and the impact of any adverse business and economic factors is expected to be maerial, yet manageable.
Insurers are viewed as MODERATELY WEAK with an uncertain capacity to meet policyholder and contract obligations. Though positive factors are present, overall risk factors are high, and the impact of any adverse business and economic factors is expected to be significant.
Insurers are viewed as WEAK with a poor capacity to meet policyholder and contract obligations. Risk factors are very high, and the impact of any adverse business and economic factors is expected to be very significant.
CCC, CC, C
Insurers rated in any of these three categories are viewed as VERY WEAK with a very poor capacity to meet policyholder and contract obligations. Risk factors are extremely high, and the impact of any adverse business and economic factors is expected to be insurmountable. A 'C' rating signals that insolvency or a liquidity impairment appears imminent.
DDD, DD, D
These ratings are assigned to insurers that have either failed to make payments on their obligations in a timely manner, are deemed to be insolvent or have been subjected to some form of regulatory intervention. Within the DDD-D range, those companies rated 'DDD' have the highest prospects for resumption of business operations or, if liquidated or wound down, of having a vast majority of their obligations to policyholders and contractholders ultimately paid off, though on a delayed basis (with recoveries expected in the range of 90-100%). Those rated 'DD' show a much lower likelihood of ultimately paying off material amounts of their obligations in a liquidation or wind down scenario (in a range of 50-90%). Those rated 'D' are ultimately expected to have very limited liquid assets available to fund obligations, and therefore any ultimate payoffs would be quite modest (at under 50%).
For further information contact Fitch at 55 E. Monroe, 35th Floor Chicago, IL 60603 (312)368-3157.
Last Updated: 9/23/2012 10:05:00 PM