Annuity Sales Representatives of The Standard in South Carolina
Individual Annuities Department
Producer Services Team
Diane Hodgman, ChFC, AIRC
Compliance Analyst, Individual Annuities
September 25, 2011
Suitability of Annuity Sales
South Carolina Regulation 69-29 establishes suitability requirements in the purchase, exchange, or replacement of annuities. It requires insurance producers to receive continuing education credits in annuities as well as training in the features of the insurers' products they sell. It details the minimum information to be collected in a producer's analysis of an annuity recommendation's suitability, and requires both the producer and insurer to have reasonable grounds for believing that the recommendation is suitable for the consumer. Special attention must be paid to an exchange or replacement that follows another for that consumer within three years. Insurers are required to review the suitability of each annuity recommendation, and may not issue an annuity unless they have determined it is suitable.
South Carolina's new regulation follows the suitability model regulation adopted by the NAIC in 2010, Suitability in Annuity Transactions.
One-Time CE Training
Effective September 25, 2011, a South Carolina annuity producer must complete four CE credits of annuity training in a course or courses approved by the South Carolina Department of Insurance. This is a one-time requirement. Satisfaction of substantially similar training requirements in another state may satisfy South Carolina's requirement.
The South Carolina Department of Insurance website gives detailed instructions on how to find a state-approved annuity training course. Producers who are already selling annuities on September 25 must complete the training by March 25, 2012. Producers beginning to sell annuities after September 25 must earn their credits before they can sell anuities.
Before recommending any individual annuity product offered by The Standard, producers must submit proof of CE course completion to us. Before March 25, 2012, South Carolina producers appointed with The Standard on or before September 25, 2011, must certify their four-credit training to us by submitting our form Insurance Producer Acknowledgment of Completion of Annuity Training along with a copy of their course certificate. We also will require training certification from each producer newly contracting with The Standard in order for him or her sell our annuities.
To find our form Insurance Producer Acknowledgment of Completion of Annuity Training, go to The Standard's website. On the Annuities page, select Annuity CE Acknowledgment Form. Producers may return the acknowledgment and certificate to us by email, fax: 877.247.5473, or mail: Producer Services, 900 SW 5th Ave., Portland, OR 97204.
Product Features Training
South Carolina's regulation prohibits producers from selling an insurer's annuities without having been trained in its products' features, and requires insurers to verify that producers have completed their product-features training.
Producers already appointed with The Standard in South Carolina must complete our product features training by September 25. After September 25 they must complete it before presenting our products to their clients. Annuity producers newly contracting with us must complete the training before they can sell The Standard's annuities.
Producers can find a training module for each product at our website. On the Annuities page, select the product to be recommended; then, under Related Information, select State-Required Training. After completing the training, return to Related Information, select the knowledge assessment, complete it and click Send.
In recommending an annuity to a prospective purchaser, the producer must have reasonable grounds for believing that the recommendation is suitable for the consumer on the basis of the facts disclosed during the sale. The producer must analyze at least 12 points of suitability information about the purchaser, including:
- Annual income
- Financial situation and needs, including financial resources used for the funding of the annuity
- Financial experience
- Financial objectives
- Intended use of the annuity
- Financial time horizon
- Existing assets, including investment and life insurance holdings
- Liquidity needs
- Liquid net worth
- Risk tolerance
- Tax status
In performing a suitability analysis for an annuity offered by The Standard, producers must collect information on our Suitability Profile form. This form incorporates the client's financial situation with the 12 points of suitability information to help producers determine whether a particular annuity is a suitable purchase. Producers must submit the completed Suitability Profile form to The Standard with the application, keep a copy in their files and provide a copy to the client.
To find our Suitability Profile form, go to The Standard's website. On the Annuities page, select Find Forms & Materials, and proceed through the new-business forms search under the appropriate state.
Producer's Belief An Annuity Is Suitable
As a result of the suitability analysis, the producer must have a reasonable basis to believe that all the following points are true:
- The consumer has been reasonably informed of the various features of the annuity, such as:
- Surrender charge period and amounts
- Potential tax penalties associated with a sale, exchange, surrender or annuitization of the annuity
- Expenses and investment advisory fees
- Features of and potential charges for riders
- Limitations on interest returns
- Insurance and investment components
- Market risk
- The consumer would benefit from the annuity's features.
- The annuity as a whole, including any riders or product enhancements, is suitable for the consumer based on his or her suitability information. In the case of an exchange or replacement, the transaction as a whole is suitable.
- An exchange or replacement (if applicable) is suitable taking into consideration, among other factors, whether the consumer:
- Will incur a surrender charge or be subject to the start of a new surrender period
- Will lose existing contractual benefits
- Will be subject to increased fees, investment advisory fees, or charges for riders and product enhancements
- Will benefit from product enhancements and improvements
- Has transacted another annuity exchange or replacement and, in particular, has had one within the preceding 36 months
The Standard will review each annuity application for suitability and will not issue an annuity unless we have a reasonable basis to determine that the recommendation is suitable. Annuity sales made in compliance with FINRA suitability requirements and supervised under FINRA rules satisfy the requirements of South Carolina's suitability regulation.
The producer must, at the time of sale, make a record of any recommendation made to a purchaser. The record must contain the information collected from the consumer and any other information used to make the recommendation. The producer must be able to provide The Standard or the Department of Insurance director with records for five years after the transaction is completed or as long as the annuity is in force with The Standard, whichever is longer.
Producers may not dissuade consumers from truthfully responding to an insurer's request for confirmation of suitability information, filing a complaint or cooperating with the investigation of a complaint
Insurer's Suitability Supervision
Insurers must supervise the suitability of their producers' sales and may not issue an annuity unless there is a reasonable basis to believe it is suitable based on the consumer's suitability information. Insurers must review the suitability of every recommendation, either in-house or by contracting with a third party. Insurers must also maintain procedures to detect — before or after policy issue and delivery — any unsuitable recommendations. This monitoring may include confirmation of consumer suitability information through customer interviews, confirmation letters or other means.
The regulation requires every insurer to report annually to its senior management on the effectiveness of its suitability supervision system, the exceptions discovered and any corrective action taken.
The Department of Insurance director may order an insurance company, agency or producer to take corrective action for any consumer harmed by the insurance producer's violation of this regulation. State penalties are determined by the director under South Carolina Code section 38-2-10, Administrative Penalties. A producer who submits unsuitable annuity recommendations to The Standard is subject to termination of his or her sales appointment.