10-K 1 a2018-12x31_ael10k.htm 10-K Document
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
____________________________________
FORM 10-K
(Mark One)
 
x
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018
or
o
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from                                  to                                 
Commission File Number:    001-31911
______________________________________________
American Equity Investment Life Holding Company
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Iowa
(State or other jurisdiction of Incorporation)
42-1447959
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
6000 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, Iowa
(Address of principal executive offices)
50266
(Zip Code)
Registrant's telephone number, including area code:    (515) 221-0002
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
Name of each exchange on which registered
Common stock, par value $1
New York Stock Exchange
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: Common Stock, par value $1
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x    No o
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. Yes o    No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x    No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes x    No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant's knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer," "smaller reporting company," and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer x
Accelerated filer o
Non-accelerated filer o

Smaller reporting 
company o
Emerging growth company o
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act.) Yes o    No x
Aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the registrant was $3,203,746,848 based on the closing price of $36.00 per share, the closing price of the common stock on the New York Stock Exchange on June 29, 2018.
Shares of common stock outstanding as of February 18, 2019: 90,502,491
Documents incorporated by reference: Portions of the registrant's definitive proxy statement for the annual meeting of shareholders to be held June 6, 2019, which will be filed within 120 days after December 31, 2018, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this report.



AMERICAN EQUITY INVESTMENT LIFE HOLDING COMPANY
FORM 10-K FOR THE YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2018
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
 
 
 
 
Exhibit 21.2
Subsidiaries of American Equity Investment Life Holding Company
 
Exhibit 23.1
Consent of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
 
Exhibit 31.1
Certification
 
Exhibit 31.2
Certification
 
Exhibit 32.1
Certification
 
Exhibit 32.2
Certification
 




PART I

Item 1.    Business
Introduction
We are a leader in the development and sale of fixed index and fixed rate annuity products. We were incorporated in the state of Iowa on December 15, 1995. We issue fixed annuity products through our wholly-owned life insurance subsidiaries, American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company ("American Equity Life"), American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company of New York and Eagle Life Insurance Company ("Eagle Life"). We have one business segment which represents our core business comprised of the sale of fixed index and fixed rate annuities. Our business strategy is focused on growing our policyholder funds and earning predictable returns by managing investment spreads and investment risk. We are licensed to sell our products in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Throughout this report, unless otherwise specified or the context otherwise requires, all references to "American Equity", the "Company", "we", "our" and similar references are to American Equity Investment Life Holding Company and its consolidated subsidiaries.
Investor related information, including periodic reports filed on Forms 10-K, 10-Q and 8-K and any amendments may be found on our website at www.american-equity.com as soon as reasonably practicable after such reports are filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"). In addition, we have available on our website our: (i) code of business conduct and ethics; (ii) audit committee charter; (iii) compensation committee charter; (iv) nominating and corporate governance committee charter and (v) corporate governance guidelines. The information incorporated herein by reference is also electronically accessible from the SEC's website at www.sec.gov.
Annuity Market Overview
Our target market includes the group of individuals ages 45-75 who are seeking to accumulate tax-deferred savings or create guaranteed lifetime income. We believe that significant growth opportunities exist for annuity products because of favorable demographic and economic trends. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 39 million Americans age 65 and older in 2010, representing 13% of the U.S. population and this group has grown to 49.2 million in 2016. By 2030, this sector of the population is expected to increase to 20% of the total population. Our fixed index and fixed rate annuity products are particularly attractive to this group due to their principal protection, competitive rates of credited interest, tax-deferred growth, guaranteed lifetime income and alternative payout options. Our competitive fixed index and fixed rate annuity products have enabled us to enjoy favorable growth in recent years and since our formation.
According to Wink's Sales and Market Report published by Wink, Inc., total industry sales of fixed index annuities increased 22% to $49.3 billion for the first three quarters of 2018 from $40.4 billion for the first three quarters of 2017. Total industry sales of fixed index annuities have increased 40% over the five-year period from 2012 to 2017 (data provided in the following table according to Wink's Sales and Market Report published by Wink, Inc.), which we believe is attributable to more Americans reaching retirement age and seeking products that will provide principal protection and guaranteed lifetime income.
 
 
 
For the Year Ended December 31,
 
2017
 
2016
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Total industry sales of fixed index annuities
$53,992,850
 
$
58,235,265

 
$
53,069,850

 
$
46,896,350

 
$
38,646,864

Increase (decrease) from prior year
(4,242,415
)
 
5,165,415

 
6,173,500

 
8,249,486

 
4,671,422

Increase (decrease) from prior year
(7.3
)%
 
9.7
%
 
13.2
%
 
21.3
%
 
13.7
%
Strategy
Key elements of executing our strategy include the following:
Expand and Enhance our Distribution Network.  We currently distribute through several distribution channels, including independent agents, broker/dealers, banks and registered investment advisors. American Equity Life has relationships with 32 national marketing organizations, through which nearly 24,000 independent agents are under contract. Our objective is to improve the productivity and efficiency of our independent agent distribution channel by focusing our marketing and recruiting efforts on those independent agents capable of selling $1 million or more of annuity premium annually. We will also be alert for opportunities to establish relationships with successful national marketing organizations and agents not presently associated with us. Eagle Life has relationships with 12 third party wholesale distribution partners, through which there are 70 selling agreements and more than 7,300 representatives. Thirteen of these selling agreements are with broker/dealers affiliated with banks. We are also building out our employee wholesaling model. Our employee wholesalers will work with those accounts who do not work with third party wholesalers. According to Wink's Sales and Market Report published by Wink, Inc., sales of fixed index annuities through broker/dealers and banks represented 38% of industry sales in the third quarter of 2018. Eagle Life is focused solely on the broker/dealer, bank and registered investment advisor channel and is developing a network of broker/dealers, banks and registered investment advisors that have the ability to distribute fixed index and fixed rate annuity products in large volume. We also offer broker/dealer and bank friendly products for those broker/dealers and banks that choose to associate with us through American Equity Life. We continue to strive to provide all of our distribution partners with the highest quality service possible.

1


Continue to Introduce Innovative and Competitive Products.  We intend to be at the forefront of the fixed index and fixed rate annuity industry in developing and introducing innovative and competitive products. We were one of the first companies to offer a fixed index annuity that allows a choice among interest crediting strategies including both equity and bond indices as well as a traditional fixed rate strategy. We were one of the first companies to include a lifetime income benefit rider with our fixed index annuities and first to have a lifetime income benefit rider with gender-based income payments. We believe that our continued focus on anticipating and being responsive to the product needs of the ever-growing population of retirees will lead to increased customer loyalty, revenues and profitability.
Use our Expertise to Achieve Targeted Spreads on Annuity Products.  We have had a successful track record in achieving the targeted spreads on our annuity products. This historical success has been challenged in the current extended low interest rate environment. However, we intend to continue to leverage our experience and expertise in managing the investment spread during a range of interest rate environments to achieve, or work towards achieving, our targeted spreads.
Maintain our Profitability Focus and Improve Operating Efficiency.  We are committed to improving our profitability by advancing the scope and sophistication of our investment management and spread capabilities and continuously seeking out efficiencies within our operations. The expanded use of technological resources will continue to allow us to improve our processes, scalability and response times.
Take Advantage of the Growing Popularity of Index Products.  We believe the growing popularity of fixed index annuity products that allow equity market participation without the risk of loss of the premium deposit presents an attractive opportunity to grow our business. The popularity of fixed index annuity products has increased in recent years with the availability of lifetime income benefit riders that provide an attractive alternative for converting accumulated retirement savings into lifetime income. We intend to capitalize on our reputation as a leading provider of fixed index annuities in this expanding segment of the annuity market.
Focus on High Quality Service to Agents and Policyholders.  We have maintained high quality personal service as one of our highest priorities since our inception and continue to strive for an unprecedented level of timely and accurate service to both our agents and policyholders. Examples of our high quality service include a live person answering phone calls and issuing policies within 24 hours of receiving the application if the paperwork is in good order. We also continue to focus on technological advancements to enable us to maintain high quality service to agents and policyholders. Our goal is to achieve digital service on par with the high quality personal service provided by our employees. We believe high quality service is one of our strongest competitive advantages.
Be Proactive in the Changing Regulatory Environment. We have been a strong and vocal defender of our products and our industry through continued regulatory challenges and have long been an advocate for appropriate regulation. We intend to remain flexible and responsive to the ever changing regulatory environment and will continue to engage with our key regulators to ensure policyholder protections are in place and adequate while permitting continued access to our much needed retirement products.
Products
Annuities offer our policyholders a tax-deferred means of accumulating retirement savings, as well as a reliable source of income during the payout period. When our policyholders deposit cash to annuities, we account for these receipts as policy benefit reserves in the liability section of our consolidated balance sheet. The annuity deposits collected, by product type, during the three most recent fiscal years are as follows:
 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
Product Type
 
Deposits
Collected
 
Deposits
as a % of
Total
 
Deposits
Collected
 
Deposits
as a % of
Total
 
Deposits
Collected
 
Deposits
as a % of
Total
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Fixed index annuities
 
$
4,221,282

 
96
 %
 
$
3,966,839

 
95
 %
 
$
5,724,758

 
80
%
Annual reset fixed rate annuities
 
47,191

 
1
 %
 
74,829

 
2
 %
 
64,317

 
1
%
Multi-year fixed rate annuities
 
112,677

 
3
 %
 
110,596

 
3
 %
 
1,303,273

 
18
%
Single premium immediate annuities
 
23,813

 
 %
 
24,946

 
 %
 
35,851

 
1
%
 
 
$
4,404,963

 
100
 %
 
$
4,177,210

 
100
 %
 
$
7,128,199

 
100
%
Fixed Index Annuities
Fixed index annuities allow policyholders to earn index credits based on the performance of a particular index without the risk of loss of their account value. Most of these products allow policyholders to transfer funds once a year among several different crediting strategies, including one or more index based strategies and a traditional fixed rate strategy. Bonus products represented 81%, 87% and 88% of our net annuity account values at December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. The initial annuity deposit on these policies is increased at issuance by a specified premium bonus ranging from 3% to 10%. Generally, the surrender charge and bonus vesting provisions of our policies are structured such that we have comparable protection from early termination between bonus and non-bonus products.

2


The annuity contract value is equal to the sum of premiums paid, premium bonuses and interest credited ("index credits" for funds allocated to an index based strategy), which is based upon an overall limit (or "cap") or a percentage (the "participation rate") of the appreciation (based in certain situations on monthly averages or monthly point-to-point calculations) in a recognized index or benchmark. Caps and participation rates limit the amount of interest the policyholder may earn in any one contract year and may be adjusted by us annually subject to stated minimums. Caps generally range from 1% to 12% and participation rates range from 10% to 175%. In addition, some products have a spread or "asset fee" generally ranging from 0.75% to 4.5%, which is deducted from interest to be credited. For products with asset fees, if the appreciation in the index does not exceed the asset fee, the policyholder's index credit is zero. The minimum guaranteed surrender values are equal to no less than 87.5% of the premium collected plus interest credited at an annual rate ranging from 1% to 3%.
The initial caps and participation rates are largely a function of the cost of the call options we purchase to fund the index credits, the interest rate we can earn on invested assets acquired with new annuity deposits and the rates offered on similar products by our competitors. For subsequent adjustments to caps and participation rates, we take into account the cost of the call options we purchase to fund the index credits, yield on our investment portfolio, annuity surrender and withdrawal assumptions and crediting rate history for particular groups of annuity policies with similar characteristics.
Fixed Rate Annuities
Fixed rate deferred annuities include annual reset and multi-year rate guaranteed products. Our annual reset fixed rate annuities have an annual interest rate (the "crediting rate") that is guaranteed for the first policy year. After the first policy year, we have the discretionary ability to change the crediting rate once annually to any rate at or above a guaranteed minimum rate. Our multi-year rate guaranteed annuities are similar to our annual reset products except that the initial crediting rate is guaranteed for up to seven years before it may be changed at our discretion. The minimum guaranteed rate on our annual reset fixed rate deferred annuities ranges from 1% to 4% and the initial guaranteed rate on our multi-year rate guaranteed policies ranges from 1.7% to 3.35%.
The initial crediting rate is largely a function of the interest rate we can earn on invested assets acquired with new annuity deposits and the rates offered on similar products by our competitors. For subsequent adjustments to crediting rates, we take into account the yield on our investment portfolio, annuity surrender and withdrawal assumptions and crediting rate history for particular groups of annuity policies with similar characteristics. As of December 31, 2018, crediting rates on our outstanding fixed rate deferred annuities generally ranged from 1.0% to 4.0%. The average crediting rates on our outstanding annual reset and multi-year rate guaranteed fixed rate deferred annuities at December 31, 2018 were 1.82% and 2.74%, respectively.
We also sell single premium immediate annuities ("SPIAs"). Our SPIAs provide a series of periodic payments for a fixed period of time or for life, according to the policyholder's choice at the time of issue. The amounts, frequency and length of time of the payments are fixed at the outset of the annuity contract. SPIAs are often purchased by persons at or near retirement age who desire a steady stream of payments over a future period of years.
Withdrawal Options - Fixed Index and Fixed Rate Annuities
Policyholders are typically permitted penalty-free withdrawals up to 10% of the contract value in each year after the first year, subject to limitations. Withdrawals in excess of allowable penalty-free amounts are assessed a surrender charge during a penalty period which ranges from 5 to 17 years for fixed index annuities and 5 to 15 years for fixed rate annuities from the date the policy is issued. This surrender charge initially ranges from 5% to 20% for fixed index annuities and 8% to 20% for fixed rate annuities of the contract value and generally decreases by approximately one-half to two percentage points per year during the surrender charge period. For certain policies, the premium bonus is considered in the establishment of the surrender charge percentages. For other policies, there is a vesting schedule ranging from 10 to 14 years that applies to the premium bonus and any interest earned on that premium bonus. Surrender charges and bonus vesting are set at levels aimed at protecting us from loss on early terminations and reducing the likelihood of policyholders terminating their policies during periods of increasing interest rates. This practice enhances our ability to maintain profitability on such policies. Policyholders may elect to take the proceeds of the annuity either in a single payment or in a series of payments for life, for a fixed number of years or a combination of these payment options. Information on surrender charge protection and net account values are as follows:
 
 
December 31,
 
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Annuity Surrender Charges:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Average years at issue
 
13.2
 
13.4
 
13.5
Average years remaining
 
7.5
 
8.1
 
8.6
Average surrender charge percentage remaining
 
12.1
%
 
13.0
%
 
13.8
%
Annuity Account Value (net of coinsurance)
 
$
51,053,450

 
$
48,400,755

 
$
45,204,015


3


Beginning in July 2007 a significant amount of our fixed index annuity policies and many of our annual reset fixed rate deferred annuities were issued with a lifetime income benefit rider. This rider provides an additional liquidity option to policyholders. With the lifetime income benefit rider, a policyholder can elect to receive guaranteed payments for life from their contract without requiring them to annuitize their contract value. The amount of the lifetime income benefit available is determined by the growth in the policy's income account value and the policyholder's age at the time the policyholder elects to begin receiving lifetime income benefit payments. The growth in the policy's income account value is based on the growth rate specified in the policy which ranges from 3.0% to 8.5% and the time period over which that growth rate is applied which ranges from 5 to 20 years for the majority of these policies. Generally, the time period consists of an initial period of up to 10 years and the policyholder has the option to elect to continue the time period for an additional period of up to 10 years. We have the option to either increase the rider fee or decrease the specified growth rate depending on the specifics of the policy at the time the policyholder elects to continue the time period. Lifetime income benefit payments may be stopped and restarted at the election of the policyholder. During 2013, we introduced new versions of our lifetime income benefit rider that had an optional wellbeing benefit or optional death benefit. Policyholders have the choice of selecting a rider with a base level of benefit for no explicit fee or paying a fee for a rider that has a higher level of benefits, and beginning in 2013 we introduced products where the addition of a rider to the policy is completely optional. Rider fees range from 0.15% to 1.20% of the policy's account value. The additional value to the policyholder provided by this rider through the income account value is not transferable to other contracts and we believe will improve the persistency of the contract.
Investments/Spread Management
Investment activities are an integral part of our business, and net investment income is a significant component of our total revenues. Profitability of our annuity products is significantly affected by spreads between interest yields on investments, the cost of options to fund the index credits on our fixed index annuities and rates credited on our fixed rate annuities and the fixed rate strategy in our fixed index annuities. We manage the index-based risk component of our fixed index annuities by purchasing call options on the applicable indices to fund the index credits on these annuities and by adjusting the caps, participation rates and asset fees on policy anniversary dates to reflect the change in the cost of such options which varies based on market conditions. All options are purchased on the respective policy anniversary dates, and new options are purchased on each of the anniversary dates to fund the next index credits. All credited rates on annual reset fixed rate deferred annuities and the fixed rate strategy in fixed index annuities may be changed annually, subject to minimum guarantees. Changes in caps, participation rates and asset fees on fixed index annuities and crediting rates on fixed rate and fixed index annuities may not be sufficient to maintain targeted investment spreads in all economic and market environments. In addition, competition and other factors, including the potential for increases in surrenders and withdrawals, may limit our ability to adjust or to maintain caps, participation rates, asset fees and crediting rates at levels necessary to avoid narrowing of spreads under certain market conditions.
For additional information regarding the composition of our investment portfolio and our interest rate risk management, see Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Financial Condition—Investments, Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk and Note 3 to our audited consolidated financial statements.
Marketing/Distribution
We market our products through a variable cost distribution network, including independent agents through national marketing organizations, broker/dealers, banks and registered investment advisors. We emphasize high quality service to our agents, distribution partners and policyholders along with the prompt payment of commissions to our agents and distribution partners. We believe this has been significant in building excellent relationships with our distribution network.
Our independent agents and agencies range in profile from national sales organizations to personal producing general agents. We actively recruit new agents and terminate those agents who have not produced business for us in recent periods and are unlikely to sell our products in the future. In our recruitment efforts, we emphasize that agents have direct access to our senior leadership, giving us an edge in recruiting over larger and foreign-owned competitors. We also emphasize our products, service and our focused fixed annuity expertise. We also have favorable relationships with our national marketing organizations, which have enabled us to efficiently sell through an expanded number of independent agents.
The independent agent distribution system is comprised of insurance brokers and marketing organizations. We are pursuing a strategy to increase the efficiency of our independent agent distribution network by strengthening our relationships with key national and regional marketing organizations and are alert for opportunities to establish relationships with organizations not presently associated with us. These organizations typically recruit agents for us by advertising our products and our commission structure through direct mail advertising or seminars for insurance agents and brokers. These organizations bear most of the cost incurred in marketing our products. We compensate marketing organizations by paying them a percentage of the commissions earned on new annuity policy sales generated by the agents recruited by such organizations. We generally do not enter into exclusive arrangements with these marketing organizations.
Agents contracted with us through two national marketing organizations accounted for more than 34% of the annuity deposits and insurance premiums collected during 2018 by American Equity Life, and we expect these organizations to continue as marketers for American Equity Life with a focus on selling our products. The states with the largest share of direct premium collected during 2018 were: Florida (8.8%), Texas (8.0%), Pennsylvania (6.4%), North Carolina (5.1%) and California (5.0%).
Eagle Life's fixed index and fixed rate annuities are distributed pursuant to selling agreements with broker/dealers, banks and registered investment advisors. Relationships with these firms are facilitated by third party wholesalers who promote Eagle Life and are compensated based upon the sales of the firms that they have contracted with Eagle Life. We are also building out our employee wholesaling model. Our employee wholesalers will work with those accounts that do not work with third party wholesalers. American Equity Life to a lesser extent also sells through broker/dealers and we have introduced products specifically for this distribution channel.

4


Competition and Ratings
We operate in a highly competitive industry. Our annuity products compete with fixed index, fixed rate and variable annuities sold by other insurance companies and also with mutual fund products, traditional bank products and other investment and retirement funding alternatives offered by asset managers, banks, and broker/dealers. Our insurance products compete with products of other insurance companies, financial intermediaries and other institutions based on a number of features, including crediting rates, index options, policy terms and conditions, service provided to distribution channels and policyholders, ratings, reputation and distributor compensation.
The sales agents for our products use the ratings assigned to an insurer by independent rating agencies as one factor in determining which insurer's annuity to market. The degree to which ratings adjustments have affected and will affect our sales and persistency is unknown. Following is a summary of American Equity Life's financial strength ratings:
 
Financial Strength Rating
 
Outlook Statement
A.M. Best Company, Inc.
 
 
 
January 2011 - current
A-
 
Stable
S&P Global
 
 
 
August 2015 - current
A-
 
Stable
June 2013 - August 2015
BBB+
 
Positive
October 2011 - June 2013
BBB+
 
Stable
Fitch Ratings Ltd.
 
 
 
September 2018 - current
BBB+
 
Positive
May 2013 - September 2018
BBB+
 
Stable
Financial strength ratings generally involve quantitative and qualitative evaluations by rating agencies of a company's financial condition and operating performance. Generally, rating agencies base their ratings upon information furnished to them by the insurer and upon their own investigations, studies and assumptions. Ratings are based upon factors of concern to policyholders, agents and intermediaries and are not directed toward the protection of investors and are not recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities.
In addition to the financial strength ratings, rating agencies use an "outlook statement" to indicate a medium or long-term trend which, if continued, may lead to a rating change. A positive outlook indicates a rating may be raised and a negative outlook indicates a rating may be lowered. A stable outlook is assigned when ratings are not likely to be changed. Outlook statements should not be confused with expected stability of the insurer's financial or economic performance. A rating may have a "stable" outlook to indicate that the rating is not expected to change, but a "stable" outlook does not preclude a rating agency from changing a rating at any time without notice.
In December 2018, A.M. Best changed its rating outlook on the U.S. life/annuity sector to 'stable' from 'negative', reflecting its view that the sector is well-capitalized and insurers balance sheets are expected to benefit from the lower effective corporate tax rate resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 ("Tax Reform"), and that operating performance is benefiting from improved product pricing, modest increases in interest rates and a decline in regulatory uncertainty. In November 2018, Fitch affirmed its rating outlook on the U.S. life insurance sector as 'stable', reflecting its view that financial performance will benefit from a continued benign credit environment and reduced pressure from low interest rates and will be relatively stable across the industry in 2019. In January 2019, S&P affirmed its rating outlook on the U.S. life insurance sector as 'stable', reflecting its view that insurers continue to exhibit strong capitalization and liquidity.
A.M. Best financial strength ratings currently range from "A++" (superior) to "F" (in liquidation), and include 16 separate ratings categories. Within these categories, "A++" (superior) and "A+" (superior) are the highest, followed by "A" (excellent) and "A-" (excellent) then followed by "B++" (good) and "B+" (good). Publications of A.M. Best indicate that the "A-" rating is assigned to those companies that, in A.M. Best's opinion, have demonstrated an excellent ability to meet their ongoing obligations to policyholders.
S&P financial strength ratings currently range from "AAA" (extremely strong) to "R" (under regulatory supervision), and include 21 separate ratings categories, while "NR" indicates that S&P has no opinion about the insurer's financial strength. Within these categories, "AAA" and "AA" are the highest, followed by "A" and "BBB". Publications of S&P indicate that an insurer rated "A-" is regarded as having strong financial security characteristics, but is somewhat more likely to be affected by adverse business conditions than are higher rated insurers.
Fitch financial strength ratings currently range from "AAA" (exceptionally strong) to "C" (distressed). Ratings of "BBB-" and higher are considered to be "secure," and those of "BB+" and lower are considered to be "vulnerable."
A.M. Best, S&P and Fitch review their ratings of insurance companies from time to time. There can be no assurance that any particular rating will continue for any given period of time or that it will not be changed or withdrawn entirely if, in their judgment, circumstances so warrant. If our ratings were to be negatively adjusted for any reason, we could experience a material decline in the sales of our products and the persistency of our existing business, as well as an increase in the cost of debt or equity financing.

5


Reinsurance
We follow the industry practice of reinsuring a portion of our annuity risks with unaffiliated reinsurers. Our reinsurance agreements play a part in managing our regulatory capital.
Coinsurance
American Equity Life has three coinsurance agreements with Athene Life Re Ltd. ("Athene"), an unauthorized life reinsurer domiciled in Bermuda. One agreement ceded 20% of certain of American Equity Life's fixed index annuities issued from January 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010. The business reinsured under this agreement is no longer eligible for recapture. The second agreement ceded 80% of American Equity Life's multi-year rate guaranteed annuities issued from July 1, 2009 through December 31, 2013 and 80% of Eagle Life's multi-year rate guaranteed annuities issued from November 20, 2013 through December 31, 2013. The business reinsured under this agreement may not be recaptured. The third agreement cedes 80% of American Equity Life's and Eagle Life's multi-year rate guaranteed annuities issued on or after January 1, 2014, 80% of Eagle Life's fixed index annuities issued prior to January 1, 2017, 50% of Eagle Life's fixed index annuities issued from January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2018 and 80% of certain of American Equity Life's fixed index annuities issued from August 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016. The reinsurance agreement specifies that the coinsurance percentage for Eagle Life's fixed index annuities decreases to 20% for policies issued on or after January 1, 2019. The business reinsured under this agreement may not be recaptured. American Equity Life is an intermediary for reinsurance of Eagle Life's business ceded to Athene. American Equity Life and Eagle Life remain liable to policyholders with respect to the policy liabilities ceded to Athene should Athene fail to meet the obligations it has coinsured. The annuity deposits that have been ceded to Athene are held in trusts and American Equity Life is named as the sole beneficiary of the trusts. The assets in the trusts are required to remain at a value that is sufficient to support the current balance of policy benefit liabilities of the ceded business on a statutory basis. If the value of the trust accounts would ever be less than the amount of the ceded policy benefit liabilities on a statutory basis, Athene is required to either establish a letter of credit or deposit securities in the trusts for the amount of any shortfall. Athene has received a financial strength rating of "A" (Excellent) with a stable outlook from A.M. Best. None of the coinsurance deposits with Athene are deemed by management to be uncollectible.
American Equity Life has two coinsurance agreements with EquiTrust Life Insurance Company ("EquiTrust"), covering 70% of certain of American Equity Life's fixed index and fixed rate annuities issued from August 1, 2001 through December 31, 2001, 40% of those contracts issued during 2002 and 2003, and 20% of those contracts issued from January 1, 2004 to July 31, 2004. The business reinsured under these agreements may not be recaptured. We remain liable to policyholders with respect to the policy liabilities ceded to EquiTrust should EquiTrust fail to meet the obligations it has coinsured. EquiTrust has received a financial strength rating of "B++" (Good) with a stable outlook from A.M. Best. None of the coinsurance deposits with EquiTrust are deemed by management to be uncollectible.
Financing Arrangements
American Equity Life has a reinsurance agreement with Hannover Life Reassurance Company of America, ("Hannover"), which is treated as reinsurance under statutory accounting practices and as a financing arrangement under U.S. generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"). The statutory surplus benefit under this agreement is eliminated under GAAP and the associated charges are recorded as risk charges and included in other operating costs and expenses in the consolidated statements of operations. The agreement became effective July 1, 2013 and is a yearly renewable term reinsurance agreement for statutory purposes covering 45.6% of waived surrender charges related to penalty free withdrawals, deaths and lifetime income benefit rider payments as well as lifetime income benefit rider payments in excess of policy fund values on certain business. We may recapture the risks reinsured under this agreement as of the end of any quarter after December 31, 2020 and the agreement, as amended, makes it punitive to us if we do not recapture the business ceded by the first quarter of 2021.
For more information regarding reinsurance, see Note 7 to our audited consolidated financial statements. For risks involving reinsurance see "Item 1A. Risk Factors."
Regulation
Life insurance companies are subject to regulation and supervision by the states in which they transact business. State insurance laws establish supervisory agencies with broad regulatory authority, including the power to:
grant and revoke licenses to transact business;
regulate and supervise trade practices and market conduct;
establish guaranty associations;
license agents;
approve policy forms;
approve premium rates for some lines of business;
establish reserve requirements;
prescribe the form and content of required financial statements and reports;
determine the reasonableness and adequacy of statutory capital and surplus;
perform financial, market conduct and other examinations;
define acceptable accounting principles for statutory reporting;
regulate the type and amount of permitted investments; and
limit the amount of dividends and surplus note payments that can be paid without obtaining regulatory approval.

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Our life subsidiaries are subject to periodic examinations by state regulatory authorities. In 2015, the Iowa Insurance Division completed financial examinations of American Equity Life and Eagle Life for the five-year period ending December 31, 2013. There were no adjustments to American Equity Life's or Eagle Life's statutory financial statements as a result of these examinations. In 2017, the New York Insurance Department completed its financial examination of American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company of New York for the three-year period ending December 31, 2013. There were no adjustments to American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company of New York's statutory financial statements as a result of this examination.
The payment of dividends or the distributions, including surplus note payments, by our life subsidiaries is subject to regulation by each subsidiary's state of domicile's insurance department. Currently, American Equity Life may pay dividends or make other distributions without the prior approval of the Iowa Insurance Commissioner, unless such payments, together with all other such payments within the preceding twelve months, exceed the greater of (1) American Equity Life's statutory net gain from operations for the preceding calendar year, or (2) 10% of American Equity Life's statutory surplus at the preceding December 31. For 2019, up to $325.2 million can be distributed as dividends by American Equity Life without prior approval of the Iowa Insurance Commissioner. In addition, dividends and surplus note payments may be made only out of earned surplus, and all surplus note payments are subject to prior approval by regulatory authorities. American Equity Life had $1.9 billion of statutory earned surplus at December 31, 2018.
Most states have also enacted regulations on the activities of insurance holding company systems, including acquisitions, extraordinary dividends, the terms of surplus notes, the terms of affiliate transactions and other related matters. We are registered pursuant to such legislation in Iowa. A number of state legislatures have also considered or have enacted legislative proposals that alter and, in many cases, increase the authority of state agencies to regulate insurance companies and holding company systems.
Most states, including Iowa and New York where our life subsidiaries are domiciled, have enacted legislation or adopted administrative regulations affecting the acquisition of control of insurance companies as well as transactions between insurance companies and persons controlling them. The nature and extent of such legislation and regulations currently in effect vary from state to state. However, most states require administrative approval of the direct or indirect acquisition of 10% or more of the outstanding voting securities of an insurance company incorporated in the state. The acquisition of 10% of such securities is generally deemed to be the acquisition of "control" for the purpose of the holding company statutes and requires not only the filing of detailed information concerning the acquiring parties and the plan of acquisition, but also administrative approval prior to the acquisition. In many states, the insurance authority may find that "control" in fact does not exist in circumstances in which a person owns or controls more than 10% of the voting securities.
Historically, the federal government has not directly regulated the business of insurance. However, federal legislation and administrative policies in several areas, including pension regulation, age and sex discrimination, financial services regulation, securities regulation and federal taxation can significantly affect the insurance business. Additionally, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (the "Dodd-Frank Act") generally provides for enhanced federal supervision of financial institutions, including insurance companies in certain circumstances, and financial activities that represent a systemic risk to financial stability or the U.S. economy. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, a Federal Insurance Office has been established within the U.S. Treasury Department to monitor all aspects of the insurance industry and its authority may extend to our business, although the Federal Insurance Office is not empowered with any general regulatory authority over insurers. The director of the Federal Insurance Office serves in an advisory capacity to the Financial Stability Oversight Council ("FSOC").
State insurance regulators and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners ("NAIC") are continually reexamining existing laws and regulations and developing new legislation for passage by state legislatures and new regulations for adoption by insurance authorities. Proposed laws and regulations or those still under development pertain to insurer solvency and market conduct and in recent years have focused on:
insurance company investments;
risk-based capital ("RBC") guidelines, which consist of regulatory targeted surplus levels based on the relationship of statutory capital and surplus, with prescribed adjustments, to the sum of stated percentages of each element of a specified list of company risk exposures;
suitability/best interest standard;
the implementation of non-statutory guidelines and the circumstances under which dividends may be paid;
principles-based reserving;
own risk solvency and enterprise risk management assessment;
cybersecurity assessments;
product approvals;
agent licensing;
underwriting and suitability practices; and
life insurance and annuity sales practices.
The NAIC's RBC requirements are intended to be used by insurance regulators as an early warning tool to identify deteriorating or weakly capitalized insurance companies for the purpose of initiating regulatory action. The RBC formula defines a minimum capital standard which supplements low, fixed minimum capital and surplus requirements previously implemented on a state-by-state basis. Such requirements are not designed as a ranking mechanism for adequately capitalized companies.
The NAIC's RBC requirements provide for four levels of regulatory attention depending on the ratio of a company's total adjusted capital to its RBC. Adjusted capital is defined as the total of statutory capital and surplus, asset valuation reserve and certain other adjustments. Calculations using the NAIC formula at December 31, 2018, indicated that American Equity Life's ratio of total adjusted capital to the highest level at which regulatory action might be initiated was 360%.

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Our life subsidiaries also may be required, under the solvency or guaranty laws of most states in which they do business, to pay assessments up to certain prescribed limits to fund policyholder losses or liabilities of insolvent insurance companies. These assessments may be deferred or forgiven under most guaranty laws if they would threaten an insurer's financial strength and, in certain instances, may be offset against future premium taxes.
Federal Income Tax
The annuity and life insurance products that we market generally provide the policyholder with a federal income tax advantage, as compared to certain other savings investments such as certificates of deposit and taxable bonds, in that federal income taxation on any increases in the contract values (i.e., the "inside build-up") of these products is deferred until it is received by the policyholder. With other savings investments, the increase in value is generally taxed each year as it is realized. Additionally, life insurance death benefits are generally exempt from income tax.
From time to time, various tax law changes have been proposed that could have an adverse effect on our business, including the elimination of all or a portion of the income tax advantage described above for annuities and life insurance. If legislation were enacted to eliminate the tax deferral for annuities, such a change would have an adverse effect on our ability to sell non-qualified annuities. Non-qualified annuities are annuities that are not sold to an individual retirement account or other qualified retirement plan.
Employees
As of December 31, 2018, we had 554 full-time employees. We have experienced no work stoppages or strikes and consider our relations with our employees to be excellent. None of our employees are represented by a union.
Item 1A.    Risk Factors
We are exposed to significant financial and capital risk, including changing interest rates and credit spreads which could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Future changes in interest rates and credit spreads may result in fluctuations in the income derived from our investments. These and other factors could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Interest rate and credit spread risk. Our interest rate risk is related to market price and changes in cash flow. Substantial and sustained increases and decreases in market interest rates can adversely affect the profitability of our products, our ability to earn predictable returns, the fair value of our investments and the reported value of stockholders' equity. A rise in interest rates, in the absence of other countervailing changes, will increase the unrealized loss position of our investment portfolio. With respect to our available for sale fixed maturity securities, declines in value (net of income taxes and certain adjustments for assumed changes in amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs and deferred sales inducements) reduce our reported stockholders' equity and book value per share.
If interest rates rise dramatically within a short period of time, our business may be exposed to disintermediation risk. Disintermediation risk is the risk that our policyholders may surrender all or part of their contracts in a rising interest rate environment, which may require us to sell assets in an unrealized loss position. Alternatively, we may increase crediting rates to retain business and reduce the level of assets that may need to be sold at a loss. However, such action would reduce our investment spread and net income.
Sustained declines in long-term interest rates may result in increased redemptions of our fixed maturity securities that are subject to call redemption prior to maturity by the issuer or prepayments of commercial mortgage loans and expose us to reinvestment risk. If we are unable to reinvest the proceeds from such redemptions into investments with credit quality and yield characteristics of the redeemed or prepaid investments, our net income and overall financial performance may be adversely affected. We have a certain ability to mitigate this risk by lowering crediting rates on our products subject to certain restrictions as discussed below.
Our exposure to credit spreads is related to market price and changes in cash flows related to changes in credit spreads. If credit spreads widen significantly it could result in greater investment income on new investments but would also indicate growing concern about the ability of credit issuers to service their debt which could result in additional other than temporary impairments. If credit spreads tighten significantly it could result in reduced net investment income from new purchases of fixed maturity securities or funding of commercial mortgage loans.
Credit risk. We are subject to the risk that the issuers of our fixed maturity securities and other debt securities and borrowers on our commercial mortgages will default on principal and interest payments, particularly if a major downturn in economic activity occurs. An increase in defaults on our fixed maturity securities and commercial mortgage loan portfolios could harm our financial strength and reduce our profitability.
Credit and cash flow assumption risk is the risk that issuers of securities, mortgagees on mortgage loans or other parties, including derivatives counterparties, default on their contractual obligations or experience adverse changes to their contractual cash flow streams. We attempt to minimize the adverse impact of this risk by monitoring portfolio diversification and exposure by asset class, creditor, industry, and by complying with investment limitations governed by state insurance laws and regulations as applicable. We also consider all relevant objective information available in estimating the cash flows related to residential and commercial mortgage backed securities.

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We use derivative instruments to fund the index credits on our fixed index annuities. We purchase derivative instruments, consisting primarily of one-year call options, from a number of counterparties. Our policy is to acquire such options only from counterparties rated "A-"or better by a nationally recognized rating agency and the maximum credit exposure to any single counterparty is subject to concentration limits. In addition, we have entered into credit support agreements with our counterparties which allow us to require our counterparties to post collateral to secure their obligations to us under the derivative instruments. If our counterparties fail to honor their obligations under the derivative instruments, our revenues may not be sufficient to fund the index credits on our fixed index annuities. Any such failure could harm our financial strength and reduce our profitability.
Liquidity risk. We could have difficulty selling certain investments such as privately placed securities, below investment grade securities and mortgage loans because they are less liquid than our publicly traded securities. If we require significant amounts of cash on short notice, we may have difficulty selling these securities and loans at attractive prices or in a timely manner, or both.
Fluctuations in interest rates and investment spread could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
A key component of our net income is the investment spread. A narrowing of investment spreads may adversely affect operating results. Although we have the right to adjust interest crediting rates (caps, participation or asset fee rates for fixed index annuities) on most products, changes to crediting rates may not be sufficient to maintain targeted investment spreads in all economic and market environments. In general, our ability to lower crediting rates is subject to minimum crediting rates filed with and approved by state regulators. In addition, competition and other factors, including the potential for increases in surrenders and withdrawals, may limit our ability to adjust or maintain crediting rates at levels necessary to avoid the narrowing of spreads under certain market conditions. Our policy structure generally provides for resetting of policy crediting rates at least annually and imposes withdrawal penalties for withdrawals during the first 5 to 17 years a policy is in force.
We manage the index-based risk component of our fixed index annuities by purchasing call options on the applicable indices to fund the annual index credits on these annuities and by adjusting the caps, participation rates and asset fees on policy anniversary dates to reflect changes in the cost of such options which varies based on market conditions. The price of such options generally increases with increases in the volatility in both the options and interest rates, which may either narrow the spread or cause us to lower caps or participation rates. Thus, the volatility of the cost of the options adds an additional degree of uncertainty to the profitability of the index products. We attempt to mitigate this risk by resetting caps, participation rates and asset fees annually on the policy anniversaries.
Persistent environment of low interest rates may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Prolonged periods of low interest rates may have a negative impact on our ability to sell our fixed index annuities as consumers look for other financial instruments with potentially higher returns to fund retirement. In times of low interest rates, such as we have been experiencing since 2010 and which we may continue to experience in 2019, it is difficult to offer attractive rates and benefits to customers while maintaining profitability, which may limit sales growth of interest sensitive products.
Sustained declines in interest rates may subject us to lower returns on our invested assets, and we have had to and may have to continue to invest the cash we receive from premiums and interest or return of principal on our investments in instruments with yields less than those we currently own. This may reduce our future net investment income and compress the spread on our annuity products. Further, borrowers may prepay fixed maturity securities and commercial mortgage loans in order to borrow at lower market rates. Any related prepayment fees are recorded in net investment income and may create income statement volatility.
An environment of rising interest rates may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Periods of rising interest rates may cause increased policy surrenders and withdrawals as policyholders seek financial instruments with higher returns, commonly referred to as disintermediation. This may lead to net cash outflows and the resulting liquidity demands may require us to sell investment assets when the prices of those assets are adversely affected by the increase in interest rates, which may result in realized investment losses. Further, a portion of our investment portfolio consists of privately placed securities, below investment grade securities and commercial mortgage loans, which are relatively illiquid, thus increasing our liquidity risk in the event of disintermediation. We may also be required to accelerate the amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs and deferred sales inducements related to surrendered contracts, which would adversely affect our results of operations.
During such times, we may offer higher crediting rates on new sales of annuity products and increase crediting rates on existing annuity products to maintain or enhance product competitiveness. We may not be able to purchase enough higher yielding assets necessary to fund higher crediting rates and maintain our desired spread, which could result in lower profitability on our business. Alternatively, if we seek to maintain profitability of our products in rising interest rate environments it may be difficult to position our products to offer attractive rates and benefits to customers which may limit sales growth of interest sensitive products.

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Our valuation of fixed maturity securities may include methodologies, estimates and assumptions which are subject to differing interpretations and could result in changes to investment valuations that may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Fixed maturity securities are reported at fair value in our consolidated balance sheets. During periods of market disruption including periods of significantly rising or high interest rates, rapidly widening credit spreads or illiquidity, it may be difficult to value certain of our securities if trading becomes less frequent and/or market data becomes less observable. Prices provided by independent pricing services or independent broker quotes that are used in the determination of fair value can vary significantly for a particular security. There may be certain asset classes that were in active markets with significant observable data that become illiquid due to changes in the financial environment. As such, valuations may include inputs and assumptions that are less observable or require greater judgment as well as valuation methods that require greater judgment. Further, rapidly changing and unprecedented credit conditions could negatively impact the valuation of securities as reported in our consolidated financial statements and the period-to-period changes in value could vary significantly. Decreases in value may have an adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
Defaults on commercial mortgage loans and volatility in performance may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Commercial mortgage loans have the potential to face heightened delinquency and default risk depending on economic conditions which could have a negative impact on the performance of the underlying collateral, resulting in declining values and an adverse impact on the obligors of such instruments. An increase in the default rate of our commercial mortgage loan investments could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
In addition, the carrying value of commercial mortgage loans is negatively impacted by such factors. The carrying value of commercial mortgage loans is stated as outstanding principal less any loan loss allowances recognized. Considerations in determining allowances include, but are not limited to, the following: (i) declining debt service coverage ratios and increasing loan to value ratios; (ii) bankruptcy filings of major tenants or affiliates of the borrower on the property; (iii) catastrophic events at the property; and (iv) other subjective events or factors, including whether the terms of the debt will be restructured. There can be no assurance that management's assessment of loan loss allowances on commercial mortgage loans will not change in future periods, which could lead to investment losses.
Equity market volatility could adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Equity market volatility could adversely affect our profitability in various ways, particularly as a result of the lifetime income benefit riders in most of our policies. The liability for lifetime income benefit riders incorporates assumptions about the overall performance of equity markets over the estimated lives of the policies. Periods of equity market performance that are lower than our expectations could result in an increase in the portion of the liability for lifetime income benefit riders associated with such policies that is not funded by growth in the policy account value which could result in a reduction in our net income. In addition, periods of equity market performance that are lower than our expectations could result in accelerating the amortization of expenses we deferred in connection with the acquisition of the policies.
Conditions in the U.S. and global capital markets and economies could deteriorate in the near future and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Our business is affected by conditions in the U.S. and global capital markets and economies. Future economic downturn or market disruption could negatively impact our ability to invest funds. Specifically, if market conditions deteriorate in 2019 or beyond:

our investment portfolio could incur additional other than temporary impairments;
our commercial mortgage loans could experience a greater amount of loss;
due to potential downgrades in our investment portfolio, we could be required to raise additional capital to sustain our current business in force and new sales of our annuity products, which may be difficult in a distressed market. If capital would be available, it may be at terms that are not favorable to us;
we may be required to limit growth in sales of our annuity products; and/or
our liquidity could be negatively affected and we could be forced to limit our operations and our business could suffer, as we need liquidity to pay our policyholder benefits, operating expenses, dividends on our capital stock, and to service our debt obligations.
The principal sources of our liquidity are annuity deposits, investment income and proceeds from the sale, maturity and call of investments. Sources of additional capital in normal markets include the issuance of short and long-term instruments, including equity, debt or other types of securities.

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We face competition from companies that have greater financial resources, broader arrays of products and higher ratings, which may limit our ability to retain existing customers, attract new customers and maintain our profitability and financial strength.
We operate in a highly competitive industry. Many of our competitors are substantially larger and enjoy substantially greater financial resources, higher ratings by rating agencies, broader and more diversified product lines and more widespread agency relationships. Our annuity products compete with fixed index, fixed rate and variable annuities sold by other insurance companies and also with mutual fund products, traditional bank products and other retirement funding alternatives offered by asset managers, banks and broker/dealers. Our insurance products compete with those of other insurance companies, financial intermediaries and other institutions based on a number of factors, including caps, participation rates and crediting rates, policy terms and conditions, service provided to distributors and policyholders, ratings by rating agencies, reputation and distributor compensation.
Our ability to compete depends in part on returns and other benefits we make available to our policyholders through our annuity contracts. We will not be able to accumulate and retain assets under management for our products if our investment results underperform the market or the competition, since such underperformance likely would result in lower rates to policyholders which could lead to withdrawals and reduced sales.
Our ability to compete also depends on financial strength ratings we receive from rating agencies. A ratings downgrade, or the potential for a ratings downgrade, could have a number of adverse effects on our business. For example, distributors and sales agents for annuity products use the ratings as one factor in determining which insurer's annuities to market. A ratings downgrade could cause those distributors and agents to seek alternative carriers.
We compete for distribution sources for our products. We believe that our success in competing for distributors depends on our financial strength, the services we provide to and the relationships we develop with these distributors, as well as offering competitive commission structures. Our distributors are generally free to sell products from whichever providers they wish, which makes it important for us to continually offer distributors products and services they find attractive. If our products or services fall short of distributors' needs, we may not be able to establish and maintain satisfactory relationships with distributors of our products. Our ability to compete in the past has also depended in part on our ability to develop innovative new products. In order for us to compete in the future, we will need to continue to bring innovative products to market in a timely fashion. Otherwise, our revenues and profitability could suffer.
Our reinsurance program involves risks because we remain liable with respect to the liabilities ceded to reinsurers if the reinsurers fail to meet the obligations assumed by them.
Our life insurance subsidiaries cede certain policies to other insurance companies through reinsurance agreements. American Equity Life has three coinsurance agreements with Athene covering $4.4 billion of policy benefit reserves at December 31, 2018 and two coinsurance agreements with EquiTrust covering $0.6 billion of policy benefit reserves at December 31, 2018. Since Athene is an unauthorized reinsurer, the annuity deposits ceded to Athene are held in trusts and American Equity Life is named as the sole beneficiary of the trusts. The assets in the trusts are required to remain at a value that is sufficient to support the current balance of policy benefit liabilities of the ceded business on a statutory basis. If the value of the assets in the trusts would ever be less than the amount of the ceded policy benefit liabilities on a statutory basis, Athene is required to either establish a letter of credit or deposit securities in the trusts for the amount of any shortfall. We remain liable with respect to the policy liabilities ceded to EquiTrust and Athene should either fail to meet the obligations assumed by them.
In addition, we have entered into other types of reinsurance contracts including financing arrangements. Should any of these reinsurers fail to meet the obligations assumed under such contracts, we remain liable with respect to the statutory liabilities ceded.
Any disruption in our ability to maintain our reinsurance program may hinder our ability to manage our regulatory capital.
No assurances can be made that reinsurance will remain continuously available to us to the same extent and on the same terms as are currently available. If we were unable to maintain our current level of reinsurance or purchase new reinsurance protection in amounts that we consider sufficient and at prices that we consider acceptable, we would have to accept an increase in our net liability exposure or a decrease in our statutory surplus, reduce the amount of business we write or develop other alternatives to reinsurance.

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We may experience volatility in net income due to the application of fair value accounting to our derivatives.
All of our derivative instruments and derivatives embedded in other contracts are recognized in the balance sheet at their fair values and changes in fair value are recognized immediately in earnings. This impacts certain revenues and expenses we report for our fixed index annuity business as follows:
We must present the call options purchased to fund the index credits on our fixed index annuity products at fair value. The fair value of the call options is based upon the amount of cash that would be required to settle the call options obtained from the counterparties adjusted for the nonperformance risk of the counterparty. We record the change in fair value of these options as a component of our revenues. The change in fair value of derivatives includes the gains or losses recognized at expiration of the option term and changes in fair value for open positions.
The contractual obligations for future index credits are treated as a "series of embedded derivatives" over the expected life of the applicable contracts. Increases or decreases in the fair value of embedded derivatives generally correspond to increases or decreases in equity market performance and changes in the interest rates used to discount the excess of the projected policy contract values over the projected minimum guaranteed contract values. We record the change in fair value of these embedded derivatives as a component of our benefits and expenses in our consolidated statements of operations.
The application of fair value accounting for derivatives and embedded derivatives in future periods to our fixed index annuity business may cause substantial volatility in our reported net income.
Our financial condition and results of operations depend on the accuracy of management assumptions and estimates.
Assumptions and estimates are made regarding expenses and interest rates, tax liability, contingent liabilities, investment performance and other factors related to our business and anticipated results. We rely on these assumptions and estimates when determining period end accruals, future earnings and various components of our consolidated balance sheet. All assumptions and estimates utilized incorporate many factors, none of which can be predicted with certainty. Our actual experiences, as well as changes in estimates, are used to prepare our consolidated statement of operations. To the extent our actual experience and changes in estimates differ from original estimates, our results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected.
The calculations we use to estimate various components of our consolidated balance sheet and consolidated statement of operations are necessarily complex and involve analyzing and interpreting large quantities of data. The assumptions and estimates required for these calculations involve judgment and by their nature are imprecise and subject to changes and revisions over time. Accordingly, our results may be adversely affected from time to time by actual results differing from assumptions, by changes in estimates and by changes resulting from implementing more sophisticated administrative systems and procedures that facilitate the calculation of more precise estimates.
We may face unanticipated losses if there are significant deviations from our assumptions regarding the probabilities that our annuity contracts will remain in force from one period to the next and our assumptions regarding policyholders' utilization of lifetime income benefit riders.
The expected profitability of our annuity products is based in part upon expected patterns of premiums, expenses and benefits using a number of assumptions, including those related to the probability that a policy will remain in force, or persistency, and mortality. Since no insurer can precisely determine persistency or mortality, actual results could differ significantly from assumptions, and deviations from estimates and assumptions could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. For example, actual persistency that is lower than our assumptions could have an adverse impact on future profitability, especially in the early years of a policy primarily because we would be required to accelerate the amortization of expenses we deferred in connection with the acquisition of the policy.
In addition, we set initial crediting rates for our annuity products based upon expected benefit payments using assumptions for, among other factors, mortality rates of our policyholders. The long-term profitability of these products depends upon how our actual experience compares with our pricing assumptions. For example, if mortality rates are lower than our pricing assumptions, we could be required to make more payments under certain annuity contracts than what we had projected.
In determining the liability from period to period of our lifetime income benefit riders, we must make significant assumptions such as expected index credits, the age when a policyholder may begin to utilize the rider and the number of policyholders that may not utilize the rider at all. Changes in these assumptions can be significant. Our experience regarding policyholder activity is limited as we began issuing policies with this rider in 2007. Accordingly, our results of operations could be adversely affected from time to time by actual index credits being different than expected, actual policyholder behavior varying from what we have assumed in determining the liability associated with these riders and by changes in estimates based on this policyholder behavior.
If our estimated gross profits decrease significantly from initial expectations we may be required to expense our deferred policy acquisition costs and deferred sales inducements in an accelerated manner, which would reduce our profitability.
Deferred policy acquisition costs are costs that vary with and primarily relate to the successful acquisition of new business. Deferred sales inducements are contract enhancements such as first-year premium and interest bonuses that are credited to policyholder account balances. These costs are capitalized when incurred and are amortized over the expected life of the contracts. Current amortization of these costs is generally in proportion to expected gross profits from interest margins and, to a lesser extent, from surrender charges and rider fees. Unfavorable experience with regard to expected expenses, investment returns, mortality or withdrawals may cause acceleration of the amortization of these costs resulting in an increase of expenses and lower profitability.

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If we do not manage our growth effectively, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected; our historical growth rates may not be indicative of our future growth.
We have experienced rapid growth since our formation in December 1995. We intend to continue to grow and further growth will impose significant added responsibilities on our management, including the need to identify, recruit, maintain and integrate additional employees, including management. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in expanding our business or that our systems, procedures and controls will be adequate to support our operations as they expand. In addition, due to our rapid growth and resulting increased size, it may be necessary to expand the scope of our investing activities to asset classes in which we historically have not invested or have not had significant exposure. If we are unable to adequately manage our investments in these classes, our financial condition or operating results in the future could be less favorable than in the past. Further, we have utilized reinsurance in the past to support our growth. The future availability and cost of reinsurance is uncertain. Our failure to manage growth effectively, or our inability to recruit, maintain and integrate additional qualified employees could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. In addition, our historical growth rates are not likely to accurately reflect our future growth rates or our growth potential. There is no assurance that our future revenues will increase or that we will continue to be profitable.
Our operations support complex transactions and are highly dependent on the proper functioning of information technology and communication systems. Any failure of our information technology or communications systems could adversely affect our reputation, business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
While systems and processes are designed to support complex transactions and avoid systems failure, fraud, information security failures, processing errors and breaches of regulation, any failure could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. In addition, we must commit significant resources to maintain and enhance our existing systems in order to keep pace with industry standards and customer preferences. If we fail to keep up-to-date information systems, we may not be able to rely on information for product pricing, risk management and underwriting decisions. In addition, even though backup and recovery systems and contingency plans are in place, we cannot assure investors that interruptions, failures or breaches in security of these processes and systems will not occur, or if they do occur, that they can be remediated promptly. The occurrence of any of these events could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
An information technology failure or security breach could adversely affect our reputation, business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We use information technology ("IT") to store, retrieve, evaluate and utilize customer and company data and information. Our business is highly dependent on our ability to access IT systems to perform necessary business functions such as providing customer support, making changes to existing policies, filing and paying claims, managing our investment portfolios and producing financial statements. While we maintain comprehensive policies, procedures, automation and backup plans, and a broad range of information security technical and human controls designed to prevent or limit the effect of a failure, all IT systems are vulnerable to disruptions or data breaches as the result of natural or man-made disasters, criminal activity, pandemics or other events beyond an organization's control. The failure of our IT for any of these reasons could disrupt our operations, cause reputational harm resulting in the loss of customers, or otherwise negatively impact our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We retain confidential information within our IT, and we rely on sophisticated commercial control technologies to maintain the security of those systems. Anyone who is able to circumvent our security measures and penetrate our IT could access, view, misappropriate, alter, or delete any information contained with the accessed systems, including personally identifiable policyholder information and proprietary business information. The NAIC has adopted the Insurance Data Security Model Law which established the standards for data security and investigation and notification of a breach of data security for insurance companies, and an increasing number of states require that affected persons be notified if a security breach results in the disclosure of their personally identifiable information. Any compromise of the security of our computer systems that results in the inappropriate disclosure of personally identifiable customer information could damage our reputation in the marketplace, deter people from purchasing our products, subject us to significant civil and criminal liability and require us to incur significant technical, legal and other expenses. While there have been attempts to penetrate our IT security defenses, there is no evidence that any the attacks have been successful or that an IT breach has occurred.
If we are unable to attract and retain national marketing organizations, independent agents, broker/dealers, banks and registered investment advisors, sales of our products may be reduced.
We must attract and retain marketing organizations and distributors, including agents to sell our products. Insurance companies compete vigorously for productive agents. We compete with other life insurance companies for marketers and agents primarily on the basis of our financial position, support services, compensation and product features. Such marketers and agents may promote products offered by other life insurance companies that may offer a larger variety of products than we do. Our competitiveness for such marketers and agents also depends upon the long-term relationships we develop with them. We are developing a network of broker/dealers, banks and registered investment advisors to distribute our products. If we are unable to attract and retain sufficient marketers, agents, broker/dealers, banks and registered investment advisors to sell our products, our ability to compete and our sales would suffer.

13


We may require additional capital to support our business and sustain future growth which may not be available when needed or may be available only on unfavorable terms.
Our long-term strategic capital requirements will depend on many factors including the accumulated statutory earnings of our life insurance subsidiaries and the relationship between the statutory capital and surplus of our life insurance subsidiaries and various elements of required capital. For the purpose of supporting long-term capital requirements, we may need to increase or maintain the statutory capital and surplus of our life insurance subsidiaries through additional financings, which could include debt, equity, financing arrangements and/or other surplus relief transactions. Adverse market conditions have affected and continue to affect the availability and cost of capital. Such financings, if available at all, may be available only on terms that are not favorable to us. If we cannot maintain adequate capital, we may be required to limit growth in sales of new annuity products, and such action could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Changes in state and federal laws and regulation may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We are subject to regulation under applicable insurance statutes, including insurance holding company statutes, in the various states in which our life insurance subsidiaries transact business. Our life insurance subsidiaries are domiciled in Iowa and New York. We are currently licensed to sell our products in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Insurance regulation is intended to provide safeguards for policyholders rather than to protect shareholders of insurance companies or their holding companies. As increased scrutiny has been placed upon the insurance regulatory framework, a number of state legislatures have considered or enacted legislative proposals that alter, and in many cases increase, state authority to regulate insurance companies and holding company systems.
Regulators oversee matters relating to trade practices, policy forms, claims practices, guaranty funds, types and amounts of investments, reserve adequacy, insurer solvency, minimum amounts of capital and surplus, transactions with related parties, changes in control and payment of dividends.
The NAIC and state insurance regulators continually reexamine existing laws and regulations. The NAIC may develop and recommend adoption of new or modify existing Model Laws and Regulations. State insurance regulators may impose those recommended changes, or others, in the future.
Our life insurance subsidiaries are subject to state insurance regulations based on the NAIC's risk-based capital requirements which are intended to be used by insurance regulators as an early warning tool to identify deteriorating or weakly capitalized insurance companies for the purpose of initiating regulatory action. Our life insurance subsidiaries also may be required, under solvency or guaranty laws of most states in which they do business, to pay assessments up to certain prescribed limits to fund policyholder losses or liabilities for insolvent insurance companies.
Although the federal government does not directly regulate the insurance business, federal legislation and administrative policies in several areas, including financial services regulation, securities regulation, federal taxation and employment matters, can significantly affect the insurance business. Heightened standards of conduct as a result of a fiduciary or best interest standard or other similar rules or regulations could also increase the compliance and regulatory burdens on our representatives. In addition, legislation has been enacted which could result in the federal government assuming some role in the regulation of the insurance industry.
In July 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act was enacted and signed into law. The Dodd-Frank Act made extensive changes to the laws regulating the financial services industry and requires various federal agencies to adopt a broad range of new rules and regulations. Among other things, the Dodd-Frank Act imposes a comprehensive new regulatory regime on the over-the-counter ("OTC") derivatives marketplace. It also requires central clearing for certain derivatives transactions that the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission ("CFTC") determines must be cleared and are accepted for clearing by a "derivatives clearing organization" (subject to certain exceptions) and provides the CFTC with authority to impose position limits across markets. The Dodd-Frank Act and any such regulations may subject us to additional restrictions on our hedging positions which may have an adverse effect on our ability to hedge risks associated with our business, including our fixed index annuity business, or on the cost of our hedging activity.
The Dodd-Frank Act also created the FSOC. The FSOC may designate whether certain insurance companies and insurance holding companies pose a grave threat to the financial stability of the United States, in which case such companies would become subject to prudential regulation by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. The Dodd-Frank Act also established a Federal Insurance Office under the U.S. Treasury Department to monitor all aspects of the insurance industry other than certain health insurance, certain long-term care insurance and crop insurance. It is not possible at this time to assess the impact on our business of the establishment of the Federal Insurance Office and the FSOC. However, the regulatory framework at the state and federal level applicable to our insurance products is evolving. The changing regulatory framework could affect the design of such products and our ability to sell certain products. Any changes in these laws and regulations could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Changes in federal income taxation laws, including any reduction in individual income tax rates, may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
The annuity and life insurance products that we market generally provide the policyholder with certain federal income tax advantages. For example, federal income taxation on any increases in non-qualified annuity contract values (i.e., the "inside build-up") is deferred until it is received by the policyholder. With other savings instruments, such as certificates of deposit and taxable bonds, the increase in value is generally taxed each year as it is realized. Decreases in individual income tax rates would decrease the advantage of deferring the inside build-up.

14


From time to time, various tax law changes have been proposed that could have an adverse effect on our business, including the elimination of all or a portion of the income tax advantages described above for annuities and life insurance. If legislation were enacted to eliminate all or a portion of the tax deferral for annuities, such a change would have an adverse effect on our ability to sell non-qualified annuities. Non-qualified annuities are annuities that are not sold to a qualified retirement plan.
We face risks relating to litigation and regulatory examination, including the costs of such litigation or examination, management distraction and the potential for damage awards, fines, penalties or other required remediation, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We are occasionally involved in litigation, both as a defendant and as a plaintiff. In addition, state regulatory bodies, such as state insurance departments, the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. ("FINRA"), the Department of Labor ("DOL") and other regulatory bodies regularly make inquiries and conduct examinations or investigations concerning our compliance with, among other things, insurance laws, securities laws, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, and laws governing the activities of broker/dealers. Companies in the life insurance and annuity business have faced litigation, including class action lawsuits, alleging improper product design, improper sales practices and similar claims.
A downgrade in our credit or financial strength ratings may increase our cost of capital, reduce new sales, adversely affect relationships with distributors and increase policy surrenders and withdrawals.
Currently, our senior unsecured indebtedness carries a "BBB-" rating with a stable outlook from S&P, a "BB+" rating with a positive outlook from Fitch, and a "bbb-" rating with a stable outlook from A.M. Best. Our ability to maintain such ratings is dependent upon the results of operations of our subsidiaries and our financial strength. If we fail to preserve the strength of our balance sheet and to maintain a capital structure that rating agencies deem suitable, it could result in a downgrade of the ratings applicable to our senior unsecured indebtedness. A downgrade would likely reduce the fair value of the common stock and may increase our cost of capital.
Financial strength ratings are important factors in establishing the competitive position of life insurance and annuity companies. In recent years, the market for annuities has been dominated by those insurers with the highest ratings. A ratings downgrade, or the potential for a ratings downgrade, could have a number of adverse effects on our business. For example, distributors and sales agents for life insurance and annuity products use the ratings as one factor in determining which insurer's annuities to market. A ratings downgrade could cause those distributors and agents to seek alternative carriers. In addition, a ratings downgrade could increase the number of policy or contract surrenders we experience, as well as our ability to obtain reinsurance or obtain reasonable pricing on reinsurance.
Financial strength ratings are measures of an insurance company's ability to meet policyholder obligations and generally involve quantitative and qualitative evaluations by rating agencies of a company's financial condition and operating performance. Generally, rating agencies base their ratings upon information furnished to them by the insurer and upon their own investigations, studies and assumptions. Ratings are based upon factors of concern to agents, policyholders and intermediaries and are not directed toward the protection of investors and are not recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities.
Item 1B.    Unresolved Staff Comments
None.
Item 2.    Properties
We lease commercial office space in two buildings in West Des Moines, Iowa, one for our principal offices under an operating lease that expires on November 30, 2026 and one for our investment operations under a lease that expires on March 15, 2023. We believe these facilities are suitable and adequate for our current business operations.
Item 3.    Legal Proceedings
See Note 13 to our audited consolidated financial statements.
Item 4.    Mine Safety Disclosures
None

15


PART II

Item 5.    Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Our common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange ("NYSE") under the symbol AEL. The following table sets forth the high and low sales prices of our common stock for each quarterly period within the two most recent fiscal years as quoted on the NYSE.
 
High
 
Low
2018
 
 
 
First Quarter
$35.79
 
$28.90
Second Quarter
$37.16
 
$27.06
Third Quarter
$38.57
 
$34.51
Fourth Quarter
$36.39
 
$25.27
2017
 
 
 
First Quarter
$28.00
 
$21.66
Second Quarter
$26.65
 
$22.23
Third Quarter
$29.43
 
$25.43
Fourth Quarter
$32.54
 
$28.06
As of February 11, 2019, there were approximately 28,800 holders of our common stock. In 2018 and 2017, we paid an annual cash dividend of $0.28 and $0.26, respectively, per share on our common stock. We intend to continue to pay an annual cash dividend on such shares so long as we have sufficient capital and/or future earnings to do so. However, we anticipate retaining most of our future earnings, if any, for use in our operations and the expansion of our business. Any further determination as to dividend policy will be made by our board of directors and will depend on a number of factors, including our future earnings, capital requirements, financial condition and future prospects and such other factors as our board of directors may deem relevant.
Since we are a holding company, our ability to pay cash dividends depends in large measure on our subsidiaries' ability to make distributions of cash or property to us. Iowa insurance laws restrict the amount of distributions American Equity Life and Eagle Life can pay to us without the approval of the Iowa Insurance Commissioner. See Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and Note 12 to our audited consolidated financial statements, which are incorporated by reference in this Item 5.
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
The following table presents the amount of our share purchase activity for the periods indicated:
Period
 
Total Number of
Shares Purchased (a)
 
Average Price
Paid Per Share
January 1, 2018 - January 31, 2018
 

 
$

February 1, 2018 - February 28, 2018
 
913

 
$
31.92

March 1, 2018 - March 31, 2018
 
8,759

 
$
31.82

April 1, 2018 - April 30, 2018
 

 
$

May 1, 2018 - May 31, 2018
 

 
$

June 1, 2018 - June 30, 2018
 
2,018

 
$
35.70

July 1, 2018 - July 31, 2018
 

 
$

August 1, 2018 - August 31, 2018
 

 
$

September 1, 2018 - September 30, 2018
 

 
$

October 1, 2018 - October 31, 2018
 

 
$

November 1, 2018 - November 30, 2018
 

 
$

December 1, 2018 - December 31, 2018
 

 
$

Total
 
11,690

 
 
(a)
Includes the number of shares of common stock utilized to execute certain stock incentive awards.


16


Item 6.    Selected Consolidated Financial Data
The summary consolidated financial and other data should be read in conjunction with Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this report. The results for past periods are not necessarily indicative of results that may be expected for future periods.
 
Year ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
2015
 
2014
 
(Dollars in thousands, except per share data)
Consolidated Statements of Operations Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenues
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Premiums and other considerations
$
26,480

 
$
34,228

 
$
43,767

 
$
36,048

 
$
32,623

Annuity product charges
224,488

 
200,494

 
173,579

 
136,168

 
118,990

Net investment income
2,147,812

 
1,991,997

 
1,849,872

 
1,692,192

 
1,531,667

Change in fair value of derivatives
(777,848
)
 
1,677,871

 
164,219

 
(336,146
)
 
504,825

Net realized gains (losses) on investments, excluding other than temporary impairment ("OTTI") losses
(37,178
)
 
10,509

 
11,524

 
10,211

 
(4,003
)
Net OTTI losses recognized in operations
(36,656
)
 
(4,630
)
 
(22,679
)
 
(19,536
)
 
(2,627
)
Total revenues
1,547,098

 
3,891,652

 
2,220,282

 
1,518,937

 
2,168,973

Benefits and expenses
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Insurance policy benefits and change in future policy
    benefits
39,530

 
43,219

 
52,483

 
45,458

 
41,815

Interest sensitive and index product benefits
1,610,835

 
2,023,668

 
725,472

 
968,053

 
1,473,700

Change in fair value of embedded derivatives
(1,389,491
)
 
919,735

 
543,465

 
(464,698
)
 
32,321

Amortization of deferred sales inducements and policy acquisition costs
550,192

 
432,576

 
625,178

 
495,504

 
294,997

Interest expense on notes and loan payable and subordinated debentures
40,989

 
44,492

 
41,206

 
41,088

 
48,492

Other operating costs and expenses
129,301

 
111,691

 
102,231

 
96,218

 
81,584

Total benefits and expenses
981,356

 
3,575,381

 
2,090,035

 
1,181,623

 
1,972,909

Income before income taxes
565,742

 
316,271

 
130,247

 
337,314

 
196,064

Income tax expense
107,726

 
141,626

 
47,004

 
117,484

 
70,041

Net income
$
458,016

 
$
174,645

 
$
83,243

 
$
219,830

 
$
126,023

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Per Share Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Earnings per common share
$
5.07

 
$
1.96

 
$
0.98

 
$
2.78

 
$
1.69

Earnings per common share - assuming dilution
5.01

 
1.93

 
0.97

 
2.72

 
1.58

Dividends declared per common share
0.28

 
0.26

 
0.24

 
0.22

 
0.20

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Non-GAAP Financial Measures (a):
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reconciliation from net income to non-GAAP operating income:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net income
$
458,016

 
$
174,645

 
$
83,243

 
$
219,830

 
$
126,023

Net realized investment (gains) losses, including OTTI
45,450

 
(5,093
)
 
7,188

 
5,737

 
4,429

Change in fair value of derivatives and embedded derivatives - fixed index annuities
(72,181
)
 
121,846

 
56,634

 
(44,055
)
 
79,053

Change in fair value of derivatives - debt
(1,892
)
 
(1,224
)
 
(1,265
)
 
1,296

 
104

Extinguishment of debt

 

 

 

 
12,503

Litigation reserve

 

 
(1,957
)
 

 
(1,418
)
Income taxes
(3,653
)
 
(5,124
)
 
(21,499
)
 
13,012

 
(30,048
)
Non-GAAP operating income
$
425,740

 
$
285,050

 
$
122,344

 
$
195,820

 
$
190,646

Non-GAAP operating income per common share
$
4.71

 
$
3.20

 
$
1.44

 
$
2.48

 
$
2.56

Non-GAAP operating income per common share - assuming dilution
4.66

 
3.16

 
1.43

 
2.42

 
2.39




17


 
As of and for the Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
2015
 
2014
 
(Dollars in thousands, except per share data)
Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total investments
$
49,427,498

 
$
50,300,705

 
$
44,757,568

 
$
39,570,332

 
$
35,981,858

Total assets
61,625,564

 
62,030,736

 
56,053,472

 
49,029,392

 
43,976,689

Policy benefit reserves
57,606,009

 
56,142,673

 
51,637,026

 
45,495,431

 
39,802,861

Notes and loan payable
494,591

 
494,093

 
493,755

 
393,227

 
413,805

Subordinated debentures
242,982

 
242,565

 
241,853

 
241,452

 
241,072

Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) ("AOCI")
(52,432
)
 
724,599

 
339,966

 
201,663

 
721,401

Total stockholders' equity
2,399,101

 
2,850,157

 
2,291,595

 
1,944,535

 
2,139,876

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other Data:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Life subsidiaries' statutory capital and surplus and asset valuation reserve
3,542,339

 
3,260,328

 
2,933,193

 
2,593,472

 
2,327,335

Life subsidiaries' statutory net gain from operations before income taxes and realized capital gains (losses)
372,830

 
565,295

 
144,159

 
227,865

 
467,923

Life subsidiaries' statutory net income
222,734

 
386,274

 
80,699

 
132,723

 
344,666

Book value per share (b)
26.55

 
31.91

 
26.04

 
23.83

 
27.93

Book value per share, excluding AOCI (b)
27.13

 
23.79

 
22.17

 
21.36

 
18.52


(a)
In addition to net income, we have consistently utilized non-GAAP operating income and non-GAAP operating income per common share—assuming dilution, non-GAAP financial measures commonly used in the life insurance industry, as economic measures to evaluate our financial performance. Non-GAAP operating income equals net income adjusted to eliminate the impact of items that fluctuate from year to year in a manner unrelated to core operations, and we believe measures excluding their impact are useful in analyzing operating trends. The most significant adjustments to arrive at non-GAAP operating income eliminate the impact of fair value accounting for our fixed index annuity business. These adjustments are not economic in nature but rather impact the timing of reported results. In addition, 2017 includes a $35.9 million adjustment to arrive at non-GAAP operating income resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which was enacted on December 22, 2017 and required a revaluation of our net deferred tax assets from 35% to 21%. We believe the combined presentation and evaluation of non-GAAP operating income together with net income provides information that may enhance an investor's understanding of our underlying results and profitability. The amounts included in the reconciliation of net income to non-GAAP operating income are presented net of related adjustments to amortization of deferred sales inducements and deferred policy acquisition costs.
(b)
Book value per share and book value per share excluding AOCI, non-GAAP financial measures, are calculated as total stockholders' equity and total stockholders' equity excluding AOCI divided by the total number of shares of common stock outstanding. Since AOCI fluctuates from year to year due to unrealized changes in the fair value of available for sale investments, we believe these non-GAAP financial measures provide useful supplemental information.

18


Item 7.    Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Management's discussion and analysis reviews our consolidated financial position at December 31, 2018 and 2017, and our consolidated results of operations for the three years in the period ended December 31, 2018, and where appropriate, factors that may affect future financial performance. This analysis should be read in conjunction with our audited consolidated financial statements, notes thereto and selected consolidated financial data appearing elsewhere in this report.
Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information
All statements, trend analyses and other information contained in this report and elsewhere (such as in filings by us with the SEC, press releases, presentations by us or our management or oral statements) relative to markets for our products and trends in our operations or financial results, as well as other statements including words such as "anticipate", "believe", "plan", "estimate", "expect", "intend" and other similar expressions, constitute forward-looking statements. We caution that these statements may and often do vary from actual results and the differences between these statements and actual results can be material. Accordingly, we cannot assure you that actual results will not differ materially from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Factors that could contribute to these differences include, among other things:
general economic conditions and other factors, including prevailing interest rate levels and stock and credit market performance which may affect (among other things) our ability to sell our products, our ability to access capital resources and the costs associated therewith, the fair value of our investments, which could result in impairments and other than temporary impairments, and certain liabilities, and the lapse rate and profitability of policies;
customer response to new products and marketing initiatives;
changes in Federal income tax laws and regulations which may affect the relative income tax advantages of our products;
increasing competition in the sale of fixed annuities;
regulatory changes or actions, including those relating to regulation of financial services affecting (among other things) bank sales and underwriting of insurance products and regulation of the sale, underwriting and pricing of products; and
the risk factors or uncertainties listed from time to time in our filings with the SEC.
For a detailed discussion of these and other factors that might affect our performance, see Item 1A of this report.
Executive Summary
Excellent customer service teamed with our ability to offer innovative insurance products that provide principal protection and lifetime income continued to result in significant sales of our annuity products. In 2018, our sales were $4.4 billion which has resulted in cash and investments in excess of $49 billion at December 31, 2018. Our sales for the last five years have ranged from $4.2 billion to $7.1 billion. We have applied a conservative investment strategy to the annuity deposits we continue to manage which has provided reliable returns on our invested assets. Our profitability has also been driven by maintaining an efficient operation.
The economic and personal investing environments continued to be conducive for high sales levels as retirees and others look to put their money in instruments that will protect their principal and provide them with consistent cash flow sources in their retirement years. Our sales increased in 2018 as compared to 2017 due to the launch of new products during 2018 to improve our competitive position in the guaranteed lifetime income benefit market, the continued competitiveness of our accumulation products and higher yields which supported increases in payout factors on our guaranteed income products. In addition, we benefited from an increase in industry sales of fixed index annuities during 2018 in part due to the DOL conflict of interest fiduciary rule being vacated. These factors were partially mitigated by continued competitive pressures within each of our distribution channels. We continue to face a challenging environment for sales of fixed index annuities due to a highly competitive market.
We continue to be in the midst of an unprecedented period of low interest rates and low yields for investments with the credit quality we prefer which presents a strong headwind to achieving our target rate for investment spread. In response, we have been reducing policyholder crediting rates for new annuities and existing annuities since the fourth quarter of 2011. In addition, options costs for certain index strategies have been increasing in the last several quarters which has caused an increase in our aggregate cost of money. We continue to have flexibility to reduce our crediting rates if necessary and could decrease our cost of money by approximately 63 basis points if we reduce current rates to guaranteed minimums. In addition, starting in 2017 we began to invest in asset classes that were not traditionally in our portfolio, focusing on investments with less liquidity that provide higher yields and have a track record of positive credit performance. Investment yields available to us in 2018 increased compared to 2017 due to an increase in interest rates on the asset classes we targeted for purchase and investment in new asset classes as noted above. We are looking to improve our investment yield through the opportunistic replacement of lower yielding securities with higher yielding securities. During 2018 we sold $2.1 billion in book value of lower yielding securities for a yield pick-up of approximately 170 basis points on these investments. As book yields on the securities sold were less than market yields, we recognized losses of approximately $50 million with $38 million recognized in net realized gains (losses), and $12 million recognized as OTTI. These losses should be recovered from the higher yields on the securities acquired with the proceeds from the sales in less than two years. While we anticipate pursuing additional portfolio realignment opportunities in 2019, we would not expect the size to be as large as in 2018.


19


Our Business and Profitability
We specialize in the sale of individual annuities (primarily fixed index deferred annuities). Under U.S. generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"), premium collections for deferred annuities are reported as deposit liabilities instead of as revenues. Similarly, cash payments to policyholders are reported as decreases in the liabilities for policyholder account balances and not as expenses. Sources of revenues for products accounted for as deposit liabilities are net investment income, surrender charges assessed against policy withdrawals and fees deducted from policyholder account balances for lifetime income benefit riders, net realized gains (losses) on investments and changes in fair value of derivatives. Components of expenses for products accounted for as deposit liabilities are interest sensitive and index product benefits (primarily interest credited to account balances and changes in the liability for lifetime income benefit riders), changes in fair value of embedded derivatives, amortization of deferred sales inducements and deferred policy acquisition costs, other operating costs and expenses and income taxes.
Our business model contemplates continued growth in invested assets and non-GAAP operating income while maintaining a high quality investment portfolio that will not experience significant losses from impairments of invested assets. We are committed to maintaining a high quality investment portfolio with limited exposure to below investment grade securities and other riskier assets. Growth in invested assets is predicated on a continuation of our high sales achievements of the last five years while at the same time maintaining a high level of retention of the funds received.
Our profitability depends in large part upon:
the amount of assets under our management,
investment spreads we earn on our policyholder account balances,
our ability to manage our investment portfolio to maximize returns and minimize risks such as interest rate changes and defaults or impairment of investments,
our ability to manage interest rates credited to policyholders and costs of the options purchased to fund the annual index credits on our fixed index annuities,
our ability to manage the costs of acquiring new business (principally commissions paid to agents and distribution partners and bonuses credited to policyholders),
our ability to manage our operating expenses, and
income taxes.
Earnings from products accounted for as deposit liabilities are primarily generated from the excess of net investment income earned over the interest credited or the cost of providing index credits to the policyholder, or the "investment spread." Our investment spread is summarized as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
Average yield on invested assets
4.47%
 
4.46%
 
4.51%
Aggregate cost of money
1.87%
 
1.74%
 
1.90%
Aggregate investment spread
2.60%
 
2.72%
 
2.61%
 
 
 
 
 
 
Impact of:
 
 
 
 
 
Investment yield - additional prepayment income
0.08%
 
0.08%
 
0.06%
Cost of money benefit from over hedging
0.05%
 
0.06%
 
0.01%
The cost of money for fixed index annuities and average crediting rates for fixed rate annuities are computed based upon policyholder account balances and do not include the impact of amortization of deferred sales inducements. See Critical Accounting Policies—Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs and Deferred Sales Inducements. With respect to our fixed index annuities, the cost of money includes the average crediting rate on amounts allocated to the fixed rate strategy and expenses we incur to fund the annual index credits. Proceeds received upon expiration of call options purchased to fund annual index credits are recorded as part of the change in fair value of derivatives, and are largely offset by an expense for interest credited to annuity policyholder account balances. See Critical Accounting Policies - Policy Liabilities for Fixed Index Annuities and Financial Condition - Derivative Instruments.
Aggregate investment spread decreased during 2018 as compared to 2017 primarily due to an increase in the cost of money resulting from an increase in option costs for certain index strategies over the last several quarters. See the Executive Summary for a discussion of our actions in response to the increase in option costs and the low interest rate environment.

20


Results of Operations for the Three Years Ended December 31, 2018
Annuity deposits by product type collected during 2018, 2017 and 2016, were as follows:
 
 
Year Ended December 31,
Product Type
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
American Equity:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fixed index annuities
 
$
3,560,881

 
$
3,390,144

 
$
5,114,178

Annual reset fixed rate annuities
 
45,636

 
74,829

 
64,317

Multi-year fixed rate annuities
 
3,581

 
23,424

 
450,474

Single premium immediate annuities
 
23,813

 
24,946

 
35,851

 
 
3,633,911

 
3,513,343

 
5,664,820

Eagle Life:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fixed index annuities
 
660,401

 
576,695

 
610,580

Annual reset fixed rate annuities
 
1,555

 

 

Multi-year fixed rate annuities
 
109,096

 
87,172

 
852,799

 
 
771,052

 
663,867

 
1,463,379

Consolidated:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fixed index annuities
 
4,221,282

 
3,966,839

 
5,724,758

Annual reset fixed rate annuities
 
47,191

 
74,829

 
64,317

Multi-year fixed rate annuities
 
112,677

 
110,596

 
1,303,273

Single premium immediate annuities
 
23,813

 
24,946

 
35,851

Total before coinsurance ceded
 
4,404,963

 
4,177,210

 
7,128,199

Coinsurance ceded
 
413,222

 
387,280

 
1,736,054

Net after coinsurance ceded
 
$
3,991,741

 
$
3,789,930

 
$
5,392,145

Over these years competition has increased significantly within the fixed index annuity market. While we continue to be in the top three companies for sales of fixed index annuities within the independent agent channel, the new entrants into the market have expanded the overall market through other distribution channels and our overall market share has declined from second in 2016 to sixth based on information available through the nine-months ended September 30, 2018 according to Wink's Sales and Market Report published by Wink, Inc. We attribute our leading position to our attractive product offerings, our consistent presence in the fixed index annuity market, our continued strong relationships with and excellent service provided to our distribution partners, the increased attractiveness of safe money products in volatile markets and lower interest rates on competing products such as bank certificates of deposit.
Annuity deposits before coinsurance ceded increased 5% during 2018 compared to 2017 and decreased 41% during 2017 compared to 2016. Annuity deposits after coinsurance ceded increased 5% during 2018 as compared to 2017 and decreased 30% in 2017 as compared to 2016. The increase in sales in 2018 was due to the launch of new products during 2018 to improve our competitive position in the guaranteed lifetime income benefit market, the continued competitiveness of our accumulation products and higher yields which supported increases in payout factors on our guaranteed income products. In addition, we benefited from an increase in industry sales of fixed index annuities during 2018 in part due to the DOL conflict of interest fiduciary rule being vacated. These factors were partially mitigated by continued competitive pressures within each of our distribution channels. We continue to face a challenging environment for sales of fixed index annuities due to a highly competitive market.
2017 sales levels were negatively impacted by competitive pressures within each of our distribution channels. In addition, low interest rates, strong equity markets and uncertainty surrounding the DOL conflict of interest fiduciary rule were headwinds for sales of guaranteed income products. 2016 sales levels were supported by sales of multi-year rate guaranteed ("MYGA") fixed annuity products. These products are often emphasized by banks which are an expanding source of distribution for Eagle Life. Our rates on these products were more competitive during the first half of 2016 and together with the larger number of bank distribution relationships, translated into significant sales of those products.
We coinsure 80% of the annuity deposits received from MYGA fixed annuity products and 50% of the fixed index annuities sold by Eagle Life through broker/dealers and banks. Prior to January 1, 2017, the coinsurance percentage for fixed index annuities sold by Eagle Life was 80%. The changes in coinsurance ceded premiums are attributable to changes in premiums from these sources.
Net income increased 162% to $458.0 million in 2018 and 110% to $174.6 million in 2017 from $83.2 million in 2016. Net income, in general, has been positively impacted by the growth in the volume of business in force and the investment spread earned on this business. The average amount of annuity account balances outstanding (net of annuity liabilities ceded under coinsurance agreements) increased 6% to $49.9 billion for the year ended December 31, 2018 compared to $46.8 billion in 2017 and 8% for the year ended December 31, 2017 compared to $43.5 billion in 2016. Our investment spread measured in dollars was $1.2 billion, $1.2 billion, and $1.0 billion for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. As previously mentioned, our investment spread has been negatively impacted by the extended low interest rate environment (see Net investment income) and the increase in our aggregate cost of money due to an increase in option costs for certain index strategies we have been experiencing for the last several quarters.

21


Net income for the year ended December 31, 2018 was also positively impacted by a decrease in the statutory federal income tax rate as a result of Tax Reform (see Income tax expense). In addition, net income for the year ended December 31, 2018 benefited from a discrete tax item for a worthless stock deduction related to a wholly-owned subsidiary which reduced income tax expense by approximately $7.4 million.
Net income for the year ended December 31, 2018 was negatively impacted by realized investment losses of $73.8 million, of which $37.1 million was recognized as net realized losses and $36.7 million was recognized as OTTI. See Net realized gains (losses) on investments, excluding OTTI losses and Net OTTI losses recognized in operations and Note 3 to our audited consolidated financial statements for discussion of net realized gains (losses) on investments and net OTTI losses recognized in operations.
Net income for the year ended December 31, 2017 was negatively impacted by $35.9 million related to the revaluation of our net deferred tax assets using the newly enacted federal tax rate as a result of Tax Reform. Net income for the year ended December 31, 2017 was also negatively impacted by an $18.4 million pretax loss on the extinguishment of our $400 million notes due 2021 (the “2021 Notes”), which reduced net income by $10.8 million. See Note 9 to our audited consolidated financial statements.
Net income is also impacted by the change in fair value of derivatives and embedded derivatives which fluctuates from year to year based upon changes in fair values of call options purchased to fund the annual index credits for fixed index annuities and changes in the interest rate used to discount the embedded derivative liability. Net income for the year ended December 31, 2018 was positively impacted by an increase in the discount rate used to estimate our embedded derivative liabilities while net income for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016 was negatively impacted by a decrease in the discount rate used to estimate our embedded derivative liabilities.
We periodically revise the key assumptions used in the calculation of amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs and deferred sales inducements retrospectively through an unlocking process when estimates of current or future gross profits/margins (including the impact of realized investment gains and losses) to be realized from a group of products are revised. In addition, we periodically revise the assumptions used in determining the liability for lifetime income benefit riders as experience develops that is different from our assumptions.
Net income for 2018, 2017 and 2016 includes effects from revisions to assumptions as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Increase (decrease) in amortization of deferred sales inducements
$
(21,465
)
 
$
(34,274
)
 
$
35,760

Increase (decrease) in amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs
(30,572
)
 
(48,198
)
 
48,164

Increase (decrease) in interest sensitive and index product benefits
(53,607
)
 
21,608

 
42,002

Increase (decrease) in net income
82,825

 
39,196

 
(81,224
)
We review these assumptions quarterly and as a result of these reviews, we made adjustments to assumptions used in the calculation of amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs and deferred sales inducements during 2018. The most significant revisions to such assumptions were account balance true-ups which were favorable to us due to stronger index credits than we assumed due to strong equity market performance and adjustments to generally decrease lapse rate assumptions to reflect better persistency experienced than assumed. The favorable impact of the account balance true-ups and lapse rate assumption changes was partially offset by revisions to lower our future investment spread assumptions primarily due to an increase in the cost of money we have been experiencing.
The most significant revisions made during 2017 as a result of our quarterly reviews were account balance true-ups which were favorable to us due to stronger index credits than we assumed due to strong equity market performance and adjustments to generally decrease lapse rate assumptions to reflect better persistency experienced than assumed. The favorable impact of the account balance true-ups and lapse rate assumption changes was partially offset by reductions in estimated future gross profits attributable to revisions to assumptions used in determining the liability for lifetime income benefit riders as well as an increase in estimated expenses associated with a reinsurance agreement with an unaffiliated reinsurer.
The most significant revisions during 2016 as a result of our quarterly reviews were adjustments to lower future spread assumptions as actual investment spreads being earned showed investment spread and gross profits being less than what we were assuming in our models due to decreases in the average yield on invested assets resulting from the continued low interest rate environment. We also made adjustments to extend the period of time in which we assume investment spread will grade up to our long-term spread targets by an additional two years as yields obtained on investment purchases were much lower than we had anticipated as a result of the overall decline in investment yields that followed the Brexit vote. In addition, revisions to assumptions used in determining the liability for lifetime income benefit riders during 2016 resulted in a decrease in estimated future gross profits.
The 2018, 2017 and 2016 revisions to the liability for lifetime income benefit riders were consistent with the revisions used in the calculation of amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs and deferred sales inducements described above. The 2018 revisions were primarily attributable to account balance true-ups and future investment spread assumptions. The impact of the account balance true-ups and future investment spread changes was partially offset by the lapse rate assumptions changes described above. The 2017 revisions were primarily due to the lapse rate assumption changes described above and changes to our account value growth projections. The 2016 revisions were primarily due to actual index credits on policies being lower than projected over the past four quarters.

22


Non-GAAP operating income, a non-GAAP financial measure (see reconciliation to net income in Item 6. Selected Consolidated Financial Data) increased 49% to $425.7 million in 2018 and 133% to $285.1 million in 2017 from $122.3 million in 2016.
In addition to net income, we have consistently utilized non-GAAP operating income, a non-GAAP financial measure commonly used in the life insurance industry, as an economic measure to evaluate our financial performance. Non-GAAP operating income equals net income adjusted to eliminate the impact of items that fluctuate from year to year in a manner unrelated to core operations, and we believe measures excluding their impact are useful in analyzing operating trends. The most significant adjustments to arrive at non-GAAP operating income eliminate the impact of fair value accounting for our fixed index annuity business and are not economic in nature but rather impact the timing of reported results. In addition, 2017 includes a $35.9 million adjustment to arrive at non-GAAP operating income resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which was enacted on December 22, 2017 and required a revaluation of our net deferred tax assets from 35% to 21%. We believe the combined presentation and evaluation of non-GAAP operating income together with net income provides information that may enhance an investor's understanding of our underlying results and profitability.
Non-GAAP operating income is not a substitute for net income determined in accordance with GAAP. The adjustments made to derive non-GAAP operating income are important to understand our overall results from operations and, if evaluated without proper context, non-GAAP operating income possesses material limitations. As an example, we could produce a low level of net income in a given period, despite strong operating performance, if in that period we experience significant net realized losses from our investment portfolio. We could also produce a high level of net income in a given period, despite poor operating performance, if in that period we generate significant net realized gains from our investment portfolio. As an example of another limitation of non-GAAP operating income, it does not include the decrease in cash flows expected to be collected as a result of credit loss OTTI. Therefore, our management reviews net realized investment gains (losses) and analyses of our net investment income, including impacts related to OTTI write-downs, in connection with their review of our investment portfolio. In addition, our management examines net income as part of their review of our overall financial results.
Non-GAAP operating income for 2018, 2017 and 2016 includes effects from revisions to assumptions as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Increase (decrease) in amortization of deferred sales inducements
$
(20,466
)
 
$
(31,317
)
 
$
36,127

Increase (decrease) in amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs
(28,702
)
 
(43,716
)
 
47,765

Increase (decrease) in interest sensitive and index product benefits
(53,607
)
 
21,608

 
42,002

Increase (decrease) in non-GAAP operating income
80,576

 
34,405

 
(81,202
)
Annuity product charges (surrender charges assessed against policy withdrawals and fees deducted from policyholder account balances for lifetime income benefit riders) increased 12% to $224.5 million in 2018 and 16% to $200.5 million in 2017 from $173.6 million in 2016. The components of annuity product charges are set forth in the table that follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Surrender charges
$
65,644

 
$
54,624

 
$
51,577

Lifetime income benefit riders (LIBR) fees
158,844

 
145,870

 
122,002

 
$
224,488

 
$
200,494

 
$
173,579

 
 
 
 
 
 
Withdrawals from annuity policies subject to surrender charges
$
572,802

 
$
456,084

 
$
429,090

Average surrender charge collected on withdrawals subject to surrender charges
11.5
%
 
12.0
%
 
12.0
%
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fund values on policies subject to LIBR fees
$
21,773,577

 
$
20,440,431

 
$
17,809,659

Weighted average per policy LIBR fee
0.73
%
 
0.71
%
 
0.69
%
The increases in annuity product charges were primarily attributable to increases in fees assessed for lifetime income benefit riders due to a larger volume of business in force subject to the fee and increases in the average fees being charged due to higher fees on new products as compared to prior periods. See Interest sensitive and index product benefits below for corresponding expense recognized on lifetime income benefit riders. In addition, surrender charges increased in 2018 and 2017 due to an increase in withdrawals from annuity policies subject to surrender charges as compared to prior years, which is due to a larger volume of business in force and policyholder behavior.
Net investment income increased 8% to $2.1 billion in 2018 and 8% to $2.0 billion in 2017 from $1.8 billion in 2016. The increases were principally attributable to the growth in our annuity business and corresponding increases in our invested assets. Average invested assets excluding derivative instruments (on an amortized cost basis) increased 7% to $48.1 billion in 2018 and 9% to $44.8 billion in 2017 compared to $41.1 billion in 2016.

23


The average yield earned on average invested assets was 4.47%, 4.46% and 4.51% for 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. The increase in yield earned on average invested assets in 2018 was attributable to the investment of new premiums and portfolio cash flows at rates above the overall portfolio yield and higher yields being earned on our floating rate investments. The decrease in yield earned on average invested assets in 2017 was attributable to investment of new premiums and portfolio cash flows during those periods at rates below the overall portfolio yield. The average yield on fixed income securities purchased and commercial mortgage loans funded was 4.79%, 4.16% and 3.66% for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. The impact from these items was also impacted by non-trendable investment income items which added eight basis points to the average yield on invested assets in 2018 and 2017 and six basis points to the average yield on invested assets in 2016, respectively.
Change in fair value of derivatives consists of call options purchased to fund annual index credits on fixed index annuities, and an interest rate swap and interest rate caps that hedge our floating rate subordinated debentures. The components of change in fair value of derivatives are as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Call options:
 
 
 
 
 
Gain (loss) on option expiration
$
656,953

 
$
1,062,328

 
$
(282,574
)
Change in unrealized gains/losses
(1,435,852
)
 
615,955

 
447,603

Interest rate swap
869

 
255

 
(482
)
Interest rate caps
182

 
(667
)
 
(328
)
 
$
(777,848
)
 
$
1,677,871

 
$
164,219

The differences between the change in fair value of derivatives between years for call options are primarily due to the performance of the indices upon which our call options are based which impacts the fair values and changes in the fair values of those call options between years. A substantial portion of our call options are based upon the S&P 500 Index with the remainder based upon other equity and bond market indices. The range of index appreciation (after applicable caps, participation rates and asset fees) for options expiring during these years is as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
S&P 500 Index
 
 
 
 
 
Point-to-point strategy
0.0 - 13.9%
 
1.0 - 13.3%
 
0.0 - 8.2%
Monthly average strategy
0.0 - 8.1%
 
0.1 - 10.6%
 
0.0 - 8.3%
Monthly point-to-point strategy
0.0 - 17.5%
 
0.0 - 17.0%
 
0.0 - 5.0%
Fixed income (bond index) strategies
0.0 - 5.1%
 
0.0 - 5.9%
 
0.0 - 10.0%
The change in fair value of derivatives is also influenced by the aggregate costs of options purchased. The aggregate cost of options has increased primarily due to an increased amount of fixed index annuities in force as well as an increase in the cost of options for certain index strategies which began during the second half of 2017. The aggregate cost of options is also influenced by the amount of policyholder funds allocated to the various indices and market volatility which affects option pricing. See Critical Accounting Policies - Policy Liabilities for Fixed Index Annuities.
Net realized gains (losses) on investments, excluding OTTI losses include gains and losses on the sale of securities and impairment losses on mortgage loans on real estate which fluctuate from year to year due to changes in the interest rate and economic environment and the timing of the sale of investments, as well as gains (losses) recognized on real estate owned due to any sales and impairments on long-lived assets. See Note 3 to our audited consolidated financial statements for a detailed presentation of the types of investments that generated the gains (losses).
Losses on available for sale fixed maturity securities were realized primarily due to strategies to reposition the fixed maturity security portfolio that resulted in improved net investment income, risk or duration profiles as they pertain to our asset liability management. During 2018 we sold $2.1 billion in book value of lower yielding securities for a yield pick-up of approximately 170 basis points on these investments. As book yields on these securities sold were less than market yields, we recognized losses of approximately $38 million on these sales. In addition, securities were sold at losses in 2018, 2017 and 2016 due to our long-term fundamental concern with the issuers' ability to meet their future financial obligations. See Note 4 to our audited consolidated financial statements for additional discussion of allowance for credit losses recognized on mortgage loans on real estate.

24


Net OTTI losses recognized in operations increased to $36.7 million in 2018 and decreased to $4.6 million in 2017 from $22.7 million in 2016. The increase in impairments recognized in 2018 compared to 2017 is partially related to our strategy to reposition the fixed maturity security portfolio. We sold $384 million in book value of securities in early October and recognized OTTI of $12 million based on our intent to sell such securities as of September 30, 2018. In addition, during 2018 we recognized impairments on certain securities with exposure to various sectors, including the energy and utilities sectors, due to specific credit concerns and/or our intent to sell such securities. The impairments recognized in 2017 were primarily on a corporate security with exposure to the industrial sector in Latin America and additional impairments on previously impaired residential mortgage backed securities. The impairments recognized in 2016 were primarily on three corporate securities with exposure to the telecommunications, materials and energy sectors and two asset-backed securities with exposure to the energy sector. See Financial Condition - Other Than Temporary Impairments and Note 3 to our audited consolidated financial statements for additional discussion of write downs of securities for other than temporary impairments.
Interest sensitive and index product benefits decreased 20% to $1.6 billion in 2018 and increased 179% to $2.0 billion in 2017 from $0.7 billion in 2016. The components of interest sensitive and index product benefits are summarized as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Index credits on index policies
$
1,285,555

 
$
1,594,722

 
$
267,995

Interest credited (including changes in minimum guaranteed interest for fixed index annuities)
221,554

 
257,896

 
276,032

Lifetime income benefit riders
103,726

 
171,050

 
181,445

 
$
1,610,835

 
$
2,023,668

 
$
725,472

The changes in index credits were attributable to changes in the level of appreciation of the underlying indices (see discussion above under Change in fair value of derivatives) and the amount of funds allocated by policyholders to the respective index options. Total proceeds received upon expiration of the call options purchased to fund the annual index credits were $1.3 billion, $1.6 billion and $0.3 billion for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. The decrease in interest credited in 2018 and 2017 was primarily due to a decrease in the average rate credited to the annuity liabilities outstanding receiving a fixed rate of interest. The average amount of annuity liabilities outstanding (net of annuity liabilities ceded under coinsurance agreements) increased 6% to $49.9 billion in 2018 and 8% to $46.8 billion in 2017 from $43.5 billion in 2016. The decrease in benefits recognized for lifetime income benefit riders in 2018 was primarily due to the impact of revisions of assumptions used in determining the liability for lifetime income benefit riders which caused a decrease of $53.6 million in the liability in 2018 as compared to an increase of $21.6 million in the liability in 2017. The decrease in the liability in 2018 due to assumption revisions was partially offset by an increase in the number of policies with lifetime income benefit riders which correlates to the increase in fees discussed in Annuity product charges. The decrease in benefits recognized for lifetime income benefit riders in 2017 was due to the impact of revisions of assumptions used in determining the liability for lifetime income benefit riders being less in 2017 than it was in 2016 which was partially offset by an increase in the number of policies with lifetime income benefit riders which correlates to the increase in fees discussed in Annuity product charges. See Net income above for discussion of the changes in the assumptions used in determining reserves for lifetime income benefit riders for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016.
Amortization of deferred sales inducements, in general, has been increasing each year due to growth in our annuity business and the deferral of sales inducements incurred with respect to sales of premium bonus annuity products. Bonus products represented 81%, 87% and 88% of our net annuity account values at December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. The increases in amortization from these factors have been affected by amortization associated with (1) fair value accounting for derivatives and embedded derivatives utilized in our fixed index annuity business, (2) net realized gains (losses) on investments and net OTTI losses recognized in operations and (3) changes in litigation reserves. Fair value accounting for derivatives and embedded derivatives utilized in our fixed index annuity business creates differences in the recognition of revenues and expenses from derivative instruments including the embedded derivative liabilities in our fixed index annuity contracts. The change in fair value of the embedded derivatives will not correspond to the change in fair value of the derivatives (purchased call options), because the purchased call options are one-year options while the options valued in the fair value of embedded derivatives cover the expected lives of the contracts which typically exceed ten years. Amortization of deferred sales inducements is summarized as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Amortization of deferred sales inducements before gross profit adjustments
$
249,627

 
$
240,562

 
$
274,309

Gross profit adjustments:
 
 
 
 
 
Fair value accounting for derivatives and embedded derivatives
(15,283
)
 
(64,219
)
 
(21,678
)
Net realized gains (losses) on investments, net OTTI losses recognized in operations
     and changes in litigation reserves
(12,143
)
 
269

 
(1,465
)
Amortization of deferred sales inducements after gross profit adjustments
$
222,201

 
$
176,612

 
$
251,166

See Net income and Non-GAAP operating income, a non-GAAP financial measure above and Critical Accounting Policies—Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs and Deferred Sales Inducements for discussion of the impact of unlocking on amortization of deferred sales inducements for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016.

25


Change in fair value of embedded derivatives includes changes in the fair value of our fixed index annuity embedded derivatives (see Notes 5 to our audited consolidated financial statements). The components of change in fair value of embedded derivatives are as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Fixed index annuities - embedded derivatives
$
(2,167,628
)
 
$
174,154

 
$
145,045

Other changes in difference between policy benefit reserves computed using derivative accounting vs. long-duration contracts accounting
778,137

 
745,581

 
398,420

 
$
(1,389,491
)
 
$
919,735

 
$
543,465

The change in fair value of the fixed index annuity embedded derivatives resulted from (i) changes in the expected index credits on the next policy anniversary dates, which are related to the change in fair value of the call options acquired to fund those index credits discussed above in Change in fair value of derivatives; (ii) changes in the discount rate used in estimating our embedded derivative liabilities; and (iii) the growth in the host component of the policy liability. The amounts presented as "Other changes in difference between policy benefit reserves computed using derivative accounting vs. long-duration contracts accounting" represents the total change in the difference between policy benefit reserves for fixed index annuities computed under the derivative accounting standard and the long-duration contracts accounting standard at each balance sheet date, less the change in fair value of our fixed index annuities embedded derivative. See Critical Accounting Policies—Policy Liabilities for Fixed Index Annuities.
The primary reasons for the decrease in the change in fair value of the fixed index annuity embedded derivatives for 2018 were decreases in the expected index credits on the next policy anniversary dates resulting from a decrease in the fair value of the call options acquired to fund these index credits during 2018 as compared to increases in the expected index credits resulting from an increase in the fair value of the call options during 2017 and an increase in the discount rate for 2018 as compared to a decrease in the discount rate for 2017. The primary reasons for the increase in the change in fair value of the fixed index annuity embedded derivatives for 2017 were a higher level of index credits during 2017 as compared to 2016 and a larger decrease in the discount rate used in estimating the fair value of the liability during 2017 as compared to 2016. The discount rate used in estimating our embedded derivative liabilities fluctuates from year to year based on changes in the general level of interest rates and credit spreads.
Interest expense on notes and loan payable decreased 16% to $25.5 million in 2018 and increased 8% to $30.4 million in 2017 from $28.2 million in 2016. Interest expense by debt instrument is as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
2027 Notes
$
25,498

 
$
13,801

 
$

2021 Notes

 
15,024

 
27,540

Term loan due 2019

 
1,543

 
708

 
$
25,498

 
$
30,368

 
$
28,248

The decrease in interest expense in 2018 was due to the repayment of our outstanding $100 million term loan and the redemption of our $400 million 6.625% notes due 2021 with the proceeds from the issuance of $500 million aggregate principal amount of senior unsecured notes due 2027 which bear interest at 5.0% per year and will mature on June 15, 2027 (the "2027 Notes"). This lowered our senior notes costs to 5% from 6.625%. The increase in interest expense in 2017 was attributable to interest expense on the $100 million variable rate term loan originated on September 30, 2016 and prepaid on June 16, 2017 and interest expense on the 2027 Notes issued on June 16, 2017 which were partially offset by a decrease in interest expense as a result of the redemption of the 2021 Notes on July 17, 2017. See Note 9 to our audited consolidated financial statements.

26


Amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs, in general, has been increasing each year due to the growth in our annuity business and the deferral of policy acquisition costs incurred with respect to sales of annuity products. The increases in amortization from these factors have been affected by amortization associated with (1) fair value accounting for derivatives and embedded derivatives utilized in our fixed index annuity business, (2) net realized gains (losses) on investments and net OTTI losses recognized in operations, and (3) changes in litigation reserves. As discussed above, fair value accounting for derivatives and embedded derivatives utilized in our fixed index annuity business creates differences in the recognition of revenues and expenses from derivative instruments including the embedded derivative liabilities in our fixed index annuity contracts. Amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs is summarized as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs before gross profit adjustments
$
358,736

 
$
340,191

 
$
387,089

Gross profit adjustments:
 
 
 
 
 
Fair value accounting for derivatives and embedded derivatives
(14,504
)
 
(84,744
)
 
(11,447
)
Net realized gains (losses) on investments, net OTTI losses recognized in operations
     and changes in litigation reserves
(16,241
)
 
517

 
(1,630
)
Amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs after gross profit adjustments
$
327,991

 
$
255,964

 
$
374,012

See Net income and non-GAAP operating income, a non-GAAP financial measure, above for discussion of the impact of unlocking on amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016. See Critical Accounting Policies—Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs and Deferred Sales Inducements.
Other operating costs and expenses increased 16% to $129.3 million in 2018 and increased 9% to $111.7 million in 2017 from $102.2 million in 2016 and are summarized as follows:
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Salary and benefits
$
71,914

 
$
58,043

 
$
53,479

Risk charges
31,297

 
29,104

 
28,276

Other
26,090

 
24,544

 
20,476

Total other operating costs and expenses
$
129,301

 
$
111,691

 
$
102,231

Salary and benefits expense increased in 2018 as compared to 2017 as a result of an increase in salary and benefits of $5.4 million due to an increased number of employees related to our growth and an increase of $6.8 million related to expense recognized under our equity and cash incentive compensation programs ("incentive compensation programs"). The increases in expense for our incentive compensation programs were primarily due to increases in the actual and expected payouts due to a larger number of employees participating in the programs, higher potential payouts for certain employees participating in the programs and an increase in the percentage of restricted stock units that were earned or expected to be earned. In addition, salary and benefits for 2017 reflected a benefit of $1.3 million related to a retirement agreement with our former executive chairman.
Salary and benefits expense increased in 2017 as compared to 2016 as a result of an increase in salary and benefits of $3.3 million due to an increased number of employees related to our growth, an increase of $3.7 million related to expense recognized under our incentive compensation programs as a result of the short-term incentive compensation program being paid out at a higher percentage of target than in 2016 and an increase of $0.8 million related to a deferred compensation liability that is based on the value of our common stock. These increases were partially offset by a decrease of $3.2 million in expenses related to a retirement agreement with our former executive chairman.
The increases in reinsurance risk charges expense during 2018 and 2017 were due to the growth in our policyholder liabilities subject to a reinsurance agreement pursuant to which we cede excess regulatory reserves to an unaffiliated reinsurer. The increase in risk charge expense in 2017 due to growth in the policyholder liabilities subject to the reinsurance was partially offset by a lower risk charge percentage which was included in an October 1, 2016 amendment to the reinsurance agreement. The regulatory reserves ceded at December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016 were $780.0 million, $737.3 million and $638.1 million, respectively.
Other expenses increased in 2018 primarily as a result of increases in professional and consulting fees, increases in depreciation and maintenance expenses primarily related to software and hardware assets and increases in licensing fees which are based on the level of policyholder funds under management allocated to index strategies. These increases were offset by decreases in commission expense related to the exit of the group life business effective January 1, 2018.
Other expenses increased in 2017 as compared to 2016 due primarily to 2016 benefiting from the release of a litigation liability of $2.8 million and the release of a guaranty fund assessment liability of $2.3 million. Other expenses adjusted for these nonrecurring items from 2016 decreased in 2017 as compared to 2016 due to decreases in general expenses that vary from period to period based on the level of annuity deposits collected that are not eligible for deferral.

27


Income tax expense decreased in 2018 as Tax Reform reduced the statutory federal income tax rate from 35% to 21% effective January 1, 2018. The lower tax rate offset the expected increase in income tax expense from the increase in income before income taxes. Income tax expense increased in 2017 due to an increase in income before income taxes and the impact of Tax Reform discussed below. The effective income tax rates were 19.0%, 44.8% and 36.1% for 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively.
Income tax expense and the resulting effective tax rate are based upon two components of income before income taxes ("pretax income") that are taxed at different tax rates. Life insurance income is generally taxed at an effective rate of approximately 21.6% reflecting the absence of state income taxes for substantially all of the states that the life insurance subsidiaries do business in. The income for the parent company and other non-life insurance subsidiaries (the "non-life insurance group") is generally taxed at an effective tax rate of 29.5% reflecting the combined federal / state income tax rates. Prior to Tax Reform, life insurance income was generally taxed at an effective rate of approximately 35.6% while income for the non-life insurance group was generally taxed at an effective tax rate of 41.5% reflecting the combined federal / state income tax rates. The effective income tax rates resulting from the combination of the income tax provisions for the life / non-life sources of income vary from year to year based primarily on the relative size of pretax income from the two sources.
The effective income tax rate for 2018 was impacted by capital losses being carried back to periods in which a 35% statutory tax rate was in effect. The impact of the higher capital loss carry back rate reduced income tax expense by approximately $2.5 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. In addition, the effective tax rate for the year ended December 31, 2018 benefited from a discrete tax item for a worthless stock deduction related to a wholly-owned subsidiary which reduced income tax expense by approximately $7.4 million.
The effective income tax rate for 2018 and 2017 was impacted by a discrete tax item related to share-based compensation that reduced income tax expense for 2018 and 2017 by approximately $2.7 million and $2.8 million, respectively.
Income tax expense for the year ended December 31, 2017 was increased by $35.9 million related to the revaluation of our net deferred tax assets using the newly enacted federal tax rate as a result of Tax Reform. The effective tax rate for 2017 adjusted to exclude the impact of Tax Reform was 32.3%. The effective tax rate adjusted to exclude the impact of Tax Reform decreased in 2017 as compared to 2016 as the portion of taxable income from the non-life insurance group decreased significantly and the level of permanent tax adjustments, including tax exempt investment income, compared to pretax income increased as compared to 2016.
Financial Condition
Investments
Our investment strategy is to maintain a predominantly investment grade fixed income portfolio, provide adequate liquidity to meet our cash obligations to policyholders and others and maximize current income and total investment return through active investment management. Consistent with this strategy, our investments principally consist of fixed maturity securities and mortgage loans on real estate.
Insurance statutes regulate the type of investments that our life subsidiaries are permitted to make and limit the amount of funds that may be used for any one type of investment. In light of these statutes and regulations and our business and investment strategy, we generally seek to invest in United States government and government-sponsored agency securities, corporate securities, residential and commercial mortgage backed securities, other asset backed securities and United States municipalities, states and territories securities rated investment grade by established nationally recognized statistical rating organizations ("NRSRO's") or in securities of comparable investment quality, if not rated and commercial mortgage loans on real estate.

28


The composition of our investment portfolio is summarized as follows:
 
December 31,
 
2018
 
2017
 
Carrying
Amount
 
Percent
 
Carrying
Amount
 
Percent
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Fixed maturity securities:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
United States Government full faith and credit
$
11,652

 
%
 
$
11,876

 
%
United States Government sponsored agencies
1,138,529

 
2.3
%
 
1,305,017

 
2.6
%
United States municipalities, states and territories
4,126,267

 
8.3
%
 
4,166,812

 
8.3
%
Foreign government obligations
230,274

 
0.5
%
 
239,360

 
0.5
%
Corporate securities
28,371,514

 
57.4
%
 
29,956,012

 
59.6
%
Residential mortgage backed securities
1,202,159

 
2.4
%
 
1,105,567

 
2.2
%
Commercial mortgage backed securities
5,379,003

 
10.9
%
 
5,544,850

 
11.0
%
Other asset backed securities
5,464,329

 
11.1
%
 
3,120,536

 
6.2
%
Total fixed maturity securities
45,923,727

 
92.9
%
 
45,450,030

 
90.4
%
Mortgage loans on real estate
2,943,091

 
6.0
%
 
2,665,531

 
5.3
%
Derivative instruments
205,149

 
0.4
%
 
1,568,380

 
3.1
%
Other investments
355,531

 
0.7
%
 
616,764

 
1.2
%
 
$
49,427,498

 
100.0
%
 
$
50,300,705

 
100.0
%
Fixed Maturity Securities
Our fixed maturity security portfolio is managed to minimize risks such as interest rate changes and defaults or impairments while earning a sufficient and stable return on our investments. The largest portion of our fixed maturity securities are in investment grade (NAIC designation 1 or 2) publicly traded or privately placed corporate securities.
A summary of our fixed maturity securities by NRSRO ratings is as follows:
 
 
December 31,
 
 
2018
 
2017
Rating Agency Rating
 
Carrying
Amount
 
Percent of Fixed Maturity Securities
 
Carrying
Amount
 
Percent of Fixed Maturity Securities
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
Aaa/Aa/A
 
$
27,052,481

 
58.9
%
 
$
27,909,879

 
61.4
%
Baa
 
17,265,590

 
37.6
%
 
16,048,610

 
35.3
%
Total investment grade
 
44,318,071

 
96.5
%
 
43,958,489

 
96.7
%
Ba
 
1,191,772

 
2.6
%
 
1,035,676

 
2.3
%
B
 
139,313

 
0.3
%
 
130,857

 
0.3
%
Caa
 
122,717

 
0.3
%
 
134,586

 
0.3
%
Ca and lower
 
151,854

 
0.3
%
 
190,422

 
0.4
%
Total below investment grade
 
1,605,656

 
3.5
%
 
1,491,541

 
3.3
%
 
 
$
45,923,727

 
100.0
%
 
$
45,450,030

 
100.0
%
The NAIC's Securities Valuation Office ("SVO") is responsible for the day-to-day credit quality assessment and the valuation of fixed maturity securities owned by state regulated insurance companies. The purpose of such assessment and valuation is for determining regulatory capital requirements and regulatory reporting. Insurance companies report ownership to the SVO when such securities are eligible for regulatory filings. The SVO conducts credit analysis on these securities for the purpose of assigning an NAIC designation and/or unit price. Typically, if a security has been rated by a NRSRO, the SVO utilizes that rating and assigns a NAIC designation based upon the following system:
NAIC Designation
 
NRSRO Equivalent Rating
1
 
Aaa/Aa/A
2
 
Baa
3
 
Ba
4
 
B
5
 
Caa
6
 
Ca and lower

29


For most of the bonds held in our portfolio the NAIC designation matches the NRSRO equivalent rating. However, for certain loan-backed and structured securities, as defined by the NAIC, the NAIC rating is not always equivalent to the NRSRO rating presented in the previous table. The NAIC has adopted revised rating methodologies for certain loan-backed and structured securities comprised of non-agency residential mortgage backed securities ("RMBS") and commercial mortgage backed securities ("CMBS"). The NAIC’s objective with the revised rating methodologies for these structured securities is to increase the accuracy in assessing expected losses and use the improved assessment to determine a more appropriate capital requirement for such structured securities. The revised methodologies reduce regulatory reliance on rating agencies and allow for greater regulatory input into the assumptions used to estimate expected losses from structured securities.
The use of this process by the SVO may result in certain non-agency RMBS and CMBS being assigned an NAIC designation that is higher than the equivalent NRSRO rating. The NAIC designations for non-agency RMBS and CMBS are based on security level expected losses as modeled by an independent third party (engaged by the NAIC) and the statutory carrying value of the security, including any purchase discounts or impairment charges previously recognized. Evaluation of non-agency RMBS and CMBS held by insurers using the NAIC rating methodologies is performed on an annual basis.
As stated previously, our fixed maturity security portfolio is managed to minimize risks such as defaults or impairments while earning a sufficient and stable return on our investments. Our strategy has been to invest primarily in investment grade fixed maturity securities. Investment grade is NAIC 1 and 2 securities and Baa3/BBB- and better securities on the NRSRO scale. This strategy meets the objective of minimizing risk while also managing asset capital charges on a regulatory capital basis.
A summary of our fixed maturity securities by NAIC designation is as follows:
 
 
December 31, 2018
 
December 31, 2017
NAIC
Designation
 
Amortized
Cost
 
Fair Value
 
Carrying
Amount
 
Percentage
of Total
Carrying
Amount
 
Amortized
Cost
 
Fair Value
 
Carrying
Amount
 
Percentage
of Total
Carrying
Amount
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
 
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
 
 
1
 
$
26,588,352

 
$
26,921,843

 
$
26,921,843

 
58.6
%
 
$
26,669,427

 
$
28,274,379

 
$
28,274,379

 
62.2
%
2
 
17,901,161

 
17,528,072

 
17,528,072

 
38.2
%
 
15,198,551

 
15,869,219

 
15,869,219

 
34.9
%
3
 
1,396,650

 
1,269,242

 
1,269,242

 
2.8
%
 
1,161,737

 
1,157,420

 
1,158,001

 
2.5
%
4
 
173,987

 
137,991

 
137,991

 
0.3
%
 
134,838

 
117,542

 
117,542

 
0.3
%
5
 
23,836

 
19,453

 
19,453

 
%
 
17,015

 
20,927

 
20,927

 
0.1
%
6
 
47,204

 
47,126

 
47,126

 
0.1
%
 
12,232

 
9,962

 
9,962

 
%
 
 
$
46,131,190

 
$
45,923,727

 
$
45,923,727

 
100.0
%
 
$
43,193,800

 
$
45,449,449

 
$
45,450,030

 
100.0
%
The amortized cost and fair value of fixed maturity securities at December 31, 2018, by contractual maturity are presented in Note 3 to our audited consolidated financial statements in this Form 10-K, which is incorporated by reference in this Item 7.

30


Unrealized Losses
The amortized cost and fair value of fixed maturity securities that were in an unrealized loss position were as follows:
 
Number of
Securities
 
Amortized
Cost
 
Unrealized
Losses
 
Fair Value
 
(Dollars in thousands)
December 31, 2018
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fixed maturity securities, available for sale:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
United States Government full faith and credit
4

 
$
8,650

 
$
(322
)
 
$
8,328

United States Government sponsored agencies
23

 
1,066,544

 
(83,034
)
 
983,510

United States municipalities, states and territories
136

 
518,758

 
(15,658
)
 
503,100

Foreign government obligations
6

 
114,529

 
(4,159
)
 
110,370

Corporate securities:
 
 

 
 
 
 
Finance, insurance and real estate
286

 
3,551,237

 
(164,727
)
 
3,386,510

Manufacturing, construction and mining
231

 
2,515,204

 
(119,607
)
 
2,395,597

Utilities and related sectors
273

 
3,032,710

 
(127,957
)
 
2,904,753

Wholesale/retail trade
103

 
1,308,962

 
(77,554
)
 
1,231,408

Services, media and other
529

 
6,040,083

 
(348,884
)
 
5,691,199

Residential mortgage backed securities
33

 
172,427

 
(4,125
)
 
168,302

Commercial mortgage backed securities
487

 
4,367,221

 
(134,826
)
 
4,232,395

Other asset backed securities
604

 
4,615,477

 
(270,234
)
 
4,345,243

 
2,715

 
$
27,311,802

 
$
(1,351,087
)
 
$
25,960,715

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
December 31, 2017
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fixed maturity securities, available for sale:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
United States Government full faith and credit
4

 
$
8,443

 
$
(147
)
 
$
8,296

United States Government sponsored agencies
18

 
1,035,489

 
(31,730
)
 
1,003,759

United States municipalities, states and territories
48

 
176,831

 
(3,596
)
 
173,235

Foreign government obligations
2

 
64,313

 
(2,025
)
 
62,288

Corporate securities:
 
 

 
 
 
 
Finance, insurance and real estate
92

 
1,090,077

 
(33,178
)
 
1,056,899

Manufacturing, construction and mining
55

 
468,505

 
(14,324
)
 
454,181

Utilities and related sectors
63

 
657,599

 
(13,000
)
 
644,599

Wholesale/retail trade
31

 
344,196

 
(12,620
)
 
331,576

Services, media and other
165

 
1,693,343

 
(72,565
)
 
1,620,778

Residential mortgage backed securities
20

 
75,159

 
(2,471
)
 
72,688

Commercial mortgage backed securities
310

 
2,473,034

 
(69,840
)
 
2,403,194

Other asset backed securities
146

 
996,531

 
(13,405
)
 
983,126

 
954

 
$
9,083,520

 
$
(268,901
)
 
$
8,814,619

Fixed maturity securities, held for investment:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Corporate security:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Insurance
1

 
$
77,041

 
$
(581
)
 
$
76,460

The increase in unrealized losses from December 31, 2017 to 2018 was primarily due to an increase in interest rates in addition to price deterioration due to wider credit spreads during the year ended December 31, 2018. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield rates at December 31, 2018 and 2017 were 2.69% and 2.40%, respectively. The 30-year U.S. Treasury yields at December 31, 2018 and 2017 were 3.02% and 2.74%, respectively.

31


The following table sets forth the composition by credit quality (NAIC designation) of fixed maturity securities with gross unrealized losses:
NAIC Designation
 
Carrying Value of
Securities with
Gross Unrealized
Losses
 
Percent of
Total
 
Gross
Unrealized
Losses
 
Percent of
Total
 
 
(Dollars in thousands)
December 31, 2018
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
$
13,302,253

 
51.2
%
 
$
(552,455
)
 
40.9
%
2
 
11,301,715

 
43.5
%
 
(622,053
)
 
46.0
%
3
 
1,170,941

 
4.5
%
 
(129,441
)
 
9.6
%
4