Ameriprise Financial 12.31.2014
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(D) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2014
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the Transition Period from_______________________to_______________________
Commission File No. 1-32525
AMERIPRISE FINANCIAL, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
1099 Ameriprise Financial Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (612) 671-3131
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
Name on each exchange on which registered
Common Stock (par value $.01 per share)
The New York Stock Exchange, Inc.
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
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 Section 15(d) of the Exchange 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 and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every
Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter)
during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post 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, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large Accelerated Filer x Accelerated Filer o
Non-Accelerated Filer (Do not check if a smaller reporting company) o Smaller reporting company o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes o No x
The aggregate market value, as of June 30, 2014, of voting shares held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $22.5 billion.
Indicate the number of shares outstanding of each of the registrant’s classes of common stock, as of the latest practicable date.
Outstanding at February 13, 2015
Common Stock (par value $.01 per share)
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Part III: Portions of the registrant’s Proxy Statement to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held on April 29, 2015 (“Proxy Statement”).
AMERIPRISE FINANCIAL, INC.
Unresolved Staff Comments
Mine Safety Disclosures
Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Selected Financial Data
Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk
Financial Statements and Supplementary Data
Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure
Controls and Procedures
Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance
Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters
Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence
Principal Accountant Fees and Services
Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules
Condensed Financial Information of Registrant
Item 1. Business
Ameriprise Financial, Inc. is a holding company incorporated in Delaware primarily engaged in business through its subsidiaries. Accordingly, references below to “Ameriprise,” “Ameriprise Financial,” the “Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” may refer to Ameriprise Financial, Inc. exclusively, to our entire family of companies, or to one or more of our subsidiaries. Our headquarters is located at 55 Ameriprise Financial Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55474. We also maintain executive offices in New York City.
Ameriprise Financial is a diversified financial services company with a 120 year history of providing financial solutions. We offer a broad range of products and services designed to achieve the financial objectives of individual and institutional clients. We are America’s leader in financial planning and a leading global financial institution with $806 billion in assets under management and administration as of December 31, 2014.
Our strategy is centered on helping our clients confidently achieve their goals by providing advice and by managing and protecting their assets and income. We utilize two go-to-market approaches in carrying out this strategy: Wealth Management and Asset Management.
Our wealth management capabilities are centered on the long-term, personal relationships between our clients and our financial advisors (our “advisors”). Through our advisors, we offer financial planning, products and services designed to be used as solutions for our clients’ cash and liquidity, asset accumulation, income, protection, and estate and wealth transfer needs. Our focus on personal relationships, as demonstrated by our exclusive Confident Retirement® approach to financial planning, allows us to address the evolving financial and retirement-related needs of our clients, including our primary target market segment, the mass affluent and affluent, which we define as households with investable assets of more than $100,000. The financial product solutions we offer through our advisors include both our own products and services and the products of other companies. Our advisor network is the primary channel through which we offer our own insurance and annuity products and services.
Our network of more than 9,600 advisors is the primary means through which we engage in our wealth management activities. We offer our advisors training, tools, leadership, marketing programs and other field and centralized support to assist them in serving their clients. We believe that our nationally recognized brand and practice vision, local marketing support, integrated operating platform and comprehensive set of products and solutions constitute a compelling value proposition for financial advisors, as evidenced by our strong advisor retention rate and our ability to attract and retain experienced and productive advisors. We have and will continue to invest in and develop capabilities and tools designed to maximize advisor productivity and client satisfaction.
We are in a compelling position to capitalize on significant demographic and market trends driving increased demand for financial advice and solutions. In the U.S., the ongoing transition of baby boomers into retirement, as well as recent economic and financial market crises, continues to drive demand for financial advice and solutions. In addition, the amount of investable assets held by mass affluent and affluent households, our target market, has grown and accounts for over half of U.S. investable assets. We believe our differentiated financial planning model, broad range of products and solutions, as well as our demonstrated financial strength throughout the economic downturn of recent past years, will help us capitalize on these trends.
Our asset management capabilities are increasingly global in scale, with Columbia Management as the primary provider of products and services in the U.S. and Threadneedle Investments as the primary provider of products and services outside of the U.S. We offer a broad spectrum of investment advice and products to individual, institutional and high-net worth investors. These investment products are primarily provided through third parties, though we also provide our asset management products through our advisor channel. Our underlying asset management philosophy is based on delivering consistently strong, competitive investment performance. The quality and breadth of our asset management capabilities are demonstrated by 118 of our mutual funds being rated as four- and five-star funds by Morningstar.
We are positioned to continue to grow our assets under management and to strengthen our asset management offerings to existing and new clients. Our asset management capabilities are well positioned to address mature markets in the U.S. and Europe. We also have the capability to leverage existing strengths to effectively expand into new global and emerging markets. In the past few years, we have expanded beyond our traditional strengths in the U.S. and UK to gather assets in Continental Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Africa. In addition, we continue to pursue opportunities to leverage the collective capabilities of Columbia Management and Threadneedle in order to enhance our current range of investment solutions, to develop new solutions that are responsive to client demand in an increasingly complex marketplace and to maximize the distribution capabilities of our global business.
Financial markets and macroeconomic conditions have had and will continue to have a significant impact on our operating and performance results. In addition, the business and regulatory environment in which we operate remains subject to elevated uncertainty and change. To succeed, we expect to continue focusing on our key strategic objectives. The success of these and other strategies may be affected by the factors discussed below in Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K - “Risk Factors”, and other factors as discussed herein.
The financial results from the businesses underlying our go to market approaches are reflected in our five operating segments:
Advice & Wealth Management;
As a diversified financial services firm, we believe our ability to gather assets across the enterprise is best measured by our assets under management and administration metric. At December 31, 2014, we had $806.2 billion in assets under management and administration compared to $771.3 billion as of December 31, 2013. For a more detailed discussion of assets under management and administration see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included in Part II, Item 7 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Our Principal Brands
We utilize multiple brands for the products and services offered by our businesses. We believe that using distinct brands for these products and services allows us to differentiate them in the marketplace.
We use Ameriprise Financial® as our enterprise brand, as well as the name of our advisor network and certain of our retail products and services. The retail products and services that use the Ameriprise Financial brand include those that we provide through our advisors (e.g., financial planning, investment advisory accounts and retail brokerage services) and products and services that we market directly to consumers or through affinity groups (e.g., personal auto and home insurance).
We currently use Columbia Management® as the primary brand for our U.S. asset management products and services, including retail and institutional asset management products. Although Columbia Management markets certain of its services internationally, we primarily use our Threadneedle Investments® brand for marketing our asset management products and services outside of the U.S. In January 2015, we announced our intention to rebrand our asset management businesses under a common new global brand - Columbia Threadneedle InvestmentsSM. Our use of this new brand is intended to reinforce the strength of both firms in their established markets of the UK, Europe and the U.S. and to help us grow our presence in key markets including Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East.
We use our RiverSource® brand for our annuity and protection products issued by the RiverSource Life companies, including our life and disability income insurance products.
History and Development
Our company has a more than 120 year history of providing financial solutions designed to help clients achieve their financial objectives. Our earliest predecessor company, Investors Syndicate, was founded in 1894 to provide face-amount certificates to consumers with a need for conservative investments. By 1937, Investors Syndicate had expanded its product offerings through Federal Housing Authority mortgages, and later, mutual funds, by establishing Investors Mutual, one of the pioneers in the mutual fund industry. In 1949, Investors Syndicate was renamed Investors Diversified Services, Inc., or IDS. In 1957, IDS added life insurance products, and later, annuity products, through IDS Life Insurance Company (now known as “RiverSource Life Insurance Company”). In 1972, IDS began to expand its network by delivering investment products directly to clients of unaffiliated financial institutions. IDS also introduced its comprehensive financial planning processes to clients, integrating the identification of client needs with the products and services to address those needs in the 1970s, and it introduced fee-based planning in the 1980s.
In 1979, IDS became a wholly owned subsidiary of Alleghany Corporation pursuant to a merger. In 1983, our company was formed as a Delaware corporation in connection with American Express’ acquisition of IDS Financial Services from Alleghany Corporation in 1984. We changed our name to “American Express Financial Corporation” (“AEFC”) and began marketing our products and services under the American Express brand in 1994. To provide retail clients with a more comprehensive set of products and services, we significantly expanded our offering of non-proprietary mutual funds in the late 1990s. And in 2003, we acquired the business of Threadneedle Asset Management Holdings.
On September 30, 2005, American Express consummated a distribution of the shares of AEFC to American Express shareholders, at which time we became an independent, publicly traded company and changed our name to “Ameriprise Financial, Inc.” In 2008, we completed the acquisitions of H&R Block Financial Advisors, Inc. and J. & W. Seligman & Co. Incorporated (“Seligman”). We also initiated the disposition of our institutional trust and custody business and completed that restructuring in early 2009. In 2010, we completed the acquisition of the long-term asset management business of Columbia Management from Bank of America, which significantly enhanced the scale and performance of our retail mutual fund and institutional asset management businesses.
In 2011, we completed the sale of Securities America Financial Corporation and its subsidiaries (“Securities America”) to Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services, Inc. Securities America had provided a platform for the affiliation of independent advisors and
registered representatives to conduct business without utilizing the Ameriprise® brand. The sale allowed us to focus our efforts on servicing and developing our branded advisor network.
In January 2013, we completed the conversion of our federal savings bank subsidiary, Ameriprise Bank, FSB (“Ameriprise Bank”), to a limited powers national trust bank now known as Ameriprise National Trust Bank. In connection with this conversion, we terminated deposit-taking and credit-originating activities of Ameriprise Bank. In addition, Ameriprise Financial was deregistered by the Federal Reserve as a savings and loan holding company and is no longer subject to supervision and regulation as such. We continue to make certain deposit and credit products available to our clients via referral arrangements with respected third-party financial institutions.
The following is a depiction of the organizational structure for our company, showing the primary subsidiaries through which we operate our businesses. The current legal entity names are provided for each subsidiary.
The following is a brief description of the business conducted by each subsidiary noted above, as well as the segment or segments in which it primarily operates.
Threadneedle Asset Management Holdings Sàrl is a Luxembourg-based holding company for the Threadneedle group of companies (“Threadneedle”), our primary provider of investment management products and services outside of the U.S. Threadneedle’s results of operations are included in our Asset Management segment.
Columbia Management Investment Advisers, LLC (“Columbia Management”) serves as the investment adviser for the majority of funds in the Columbia Management family of funds (“Columbia Management funds”) and to U.S. and non-U.S. institutional accounts and private funds. Its results of operations are included in our Asset Management and Corporate & Other segments.
J. & W. Seligman & Co. Incorporated is a holding company for Columbia Management Investment Distributors, Inc. and certain other subsidiaries within our Asset Management segment. Seligman’s results of operations are included in our Asset Management segment.
Columbia Management Investment Distributors, Inc. is a broker-dealer subsidiary that serves as the principal underwriter and distributor for Columbia Management funds. Its results of operations are included in our Asset Management segment.
Columbia Management Investment Services Corp. is a transfer agent that processes client transactions for Columbia Management funds and Ameriprise face-amount certificates. Its results of operations are included in our Asset Management and Advice & Wealth Management segments.
AMPF Holding Corporation is a holding company for certain of our retail brokerage and advisory subsidiaries, including AFSI (defined below) and AEIS (defined below). AMPF Holding Corporation’s results of operations are included in our Advice & Wealth Management segment.
American Enterprise Investment Services Inc. (“AEIS”) is our registered clearing broker-dealer subsidiary. Brokerage transactions for accounts introduced by AFSI are executed, cleared and settled through AEIS. Its results of operations are included in our Advice & Wealth Management segment.
Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (“AFSI”), a registered broker-dealer and registered investment adviser, is our primary financial planning and retail distribution subsidiary. Its results of operations are included in our Advice & Wealth Management segment.
RiverSource Distributors, Inc. (“RiverSource Distributors”) is a broker-dealer subsidiary that serves as the principal underwriter and/or distributor for our RiverSource annuities and insurance products sold through AFSI as well as through third-party channels. Its results of operations are included in our Annuities and Protection segments.
RiverSource Life Insurance Company (“RiverSource Life”) conducts its insurance and annuity business in states other than New York. Its results of operations for our annuities business are included primarily in the Annuities segment, and its results of operations with respect to our life and health insurance products it manufactures are reflected primarily in the Protection segment. Investment income on excess capital is reported in the Corporate & Other segment.
RiverSource Life Insurance Co. of New York (“RiverSource Life of NY”) conducts its insurance and annuity businesses in the State of New York. Its results of operations for our annuities business are included primarily in the Annuities segment, and its results of operations with respect to our life and health insurance products it manufactures are reflected primarily in the Protection segment. Investment income on excess capital is reported in the Corporate & Other segment. RiverSource Life of NY is a wholly owned subsidiary of RiverSource Life. We refer to RiverSource Life and RiverSource Life of NY as the “RiverSource Life companies.”
IDS Property Casualty Insurance Company (“IDS Property Casualty” or “Ameriprise Auto & Home”) provides personal auto, home, travel and excess liability insurance products. Ameriprise Insurance Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of IDS Property Casualty, is also licensed to provide these products. The results of operations of these companies are included in the Protection segment.
Ameriprise Certificate Company issues a variety of face-amount certificates. Its results of operations are included in the Advice & Wealth Management segment.
Ameriprise Trust Company (“ATC”) provides trust services to individuals and businesses. Its results of operations are included in the Asset Management segment.
Ameriprise National Trust Bank (formerly Ameriprise Bank, FSB) offers personal trust and related services. Its results of operations are included in the Advice & Wealth Management segment.
Our Segments - Advice & Wealth Management
Our Advice & Wealth Management segment provides financial planning and advice, as well as full-service brokerage services, primarily to retail clients through our advisors. These services are centered on long-term, personal relationships between our advisors and our clients and focus on helping clients confidently achieve their financial goals. Our advisors provide a distinctive approach to financial planning and have access to a broad selection of both affiliated and non-affiliated products to help clients meet their financial needs.
A significant portion of revenues in this segment is fee-based, driven by the level of client assets, which is impacted by both market movements and net asset flows. We also earn net investment income on owned assets primarily from certificate products. This segment earns revenues (distribution fees) for providing non-affiliated products and intersegment revenues (distribution fees) for providing our affiliated products and services to our retail clients. Intersegment expenses for this segment include expenses for investment management services provided by our Asset Management segment. All intersegment activity is eliminated in our consolidated results.
Our Financial Advisor Platform
We provide clients financial planning, advice and brokerage services through our nationwide advisor network. Advisors can choose to affiliate with us in two ways, with each affiliation offering different levels of support and compensation. The affiliation options are:
Employee Advisors. Under this affiliation, an advisor is an employee of our company and receives a higher level of support, including leadership, training, office space and staff support. We pay compensation that is competitive with other employee advisor models, which is generally lower than that of our franchisee advisors. Employee advisors are also employed in the Ameriprise Advisor Center (“AAC”), our dedicated platform for remote-based sales and service to Ameriprise retail customers. Advisors in the AAC utilize a team model to service retail customers on a remote basis.
Franchisee Advisors. Under this affiliation, an advisor is an independent contractor franchisee who affiliates with our company and has the right to use the Ameriprise brand. We pay our franchisee advisors a higher payout rate than our employee advisors as they are responsible for paying their own overhead, staff compensation and other business expenses. In addition, our franchisee advisors pay a franchise association fee and other fees in exchange for the support we offer and the right to use our brand name. The support we offer to our franchisee advisors includes generalist and specialist leadership support, technology platforms and tools, training and marketing programs.
We are committed to providing our advisors with the resources and support necessary to manage and grow their practices. Our platform offers advisors the flexibility of operating on a commission-based brokerage basis as well as on a fee-based advisory basis. Advisors have access to training and materials reflecting our differentiated financial planning model and Confident Retirement® planning approach, our nationally recognized brand and “Real Questions. Real Answers.” advertising campaign, local marketing support capabilities and our full range of proprietary and non-proprietary product solutions. Our demonstrated financial strength as well as our dedication to our clients also benefits our advisor practices. We expect to continue to invest in the capabilities of and support provided to our advisor platform, with the goal of increasing advisor productivity and improving on our ability to attract and retain advisors.
Our nationwide advisor network consisted of approximately 9,700 advisors as of December 31, 2014, which includes approximately 2,100 employee advisors and 7,600 independent franchisees or employees or contractors of franchisees. Of these advisors, 60% had been with us for more than 10 years, with an average tenure of over 19 years. Among advisors who have been with us for more than 10 years, we have a retention rate of over 95%. We believe our strong advisor retention rate, as well as our ability to recruit experienced advisors, speaks to the value proposition we offer our advisors.
Our advisors can offer clients a diversified set of cash and liquidity, asset accumulation, income, protection, and estate and wealth transfer products and services, as well as a selection of products from other companies, as described below.
Brokerage and Investment Advisory Services
Individual and Family Financial Services
Our personalized financial planning approach is designed to focus on all aspects of our clients’ finances. After understanding our clients’ needs, our advisors seek to identify solutions to address those needs across four cornerstones: cash and liabilities, investments, protection and taxes. We believe this approach helps our clients build a solid financial foundation, persevere through difficult economies and challenging markets, and ultimately achieve their financial goals. We offer a broad array of products and services in each of these categories, including those carrying the Ameriprise Financial, Columbia Management or RiverSource name, as well as solutions offered by unaffiliated firms.
Our advisors deliver financial solutions to our advisory clients principally by building long-term personal relationships through financial planning that is responsive to clients’ evolving needs. We utilize the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.’s defined financial planning process of Engage, Gather, Analyze, Recommend, Implement and Monitor. This process involves gathering relevant financial information, setting life goals, examining clients’ current financial status and determining a strategy or plan for helping clients meet their goals given their current situation and future plans. Once we identify a financial planning client’s objectives, we then recommend a solution set consisting of actions - such as paying down debt, increasing savings and investment, protecting income and assets, creating a will, and including tax-qualified formats in the client’s allocation of savings and investment - as well as offer products to address these objectives with clients accepting what they determine to be an appropriate range and level of risk. Our financial planning relationships with our clients are characterized by an ability to understand their specific needs thoroughly, which enables us to help them meet those needs, achieve high overall client satisfaction, hold more products in their accounts and increase our assets under management.
In 2012, we introduced our Confident Retirement approach, which involves a comprehensive assessment of retirement income sources and assets, a client’s plans and goals for retirement and an analysis of what is needed to fund the four principal types of expenses and liabilities encountered during retirement: covering essentials, ensuring lifestyle, preparing for the unexpected and leaving a legacy. We believe this comprehensive approach to retirement planning allows our advisors to create a plan that best matches our products and services to our clients’ needs. We also believe that this approach results in greater client satisfaction and confidence.
Our financial planning clients pay a fee for the receipt of financial planning services. This fee is based on the complexity of a client’s financial and life situation and his or her advisor’s experience. The fee for financial planning services is not based on or related to actual investment performance; however, our clients may elect to pay a consolidated, asset-based advisory account advisory fee for financial planning and managed account services and administration. If clients elect to implement their financial plan with our company, we and our advisors generally receive a sales commission and/or sales load and other revenues for the products that they purchase from us. These commissions, sales loads and other revenues are separate from, and in addition to, the financial planning and advisory fees we and our advisors may receive.
Brokerage and Other Products and Services
We offer our retail and institutional clients a variety of brokerage and other investment products and services.
Our Ameriprise ONE® Financial Account is a single integrated financial management brokerage account that enables clients to access a single cash account to fund a variety of financial transactions, including investments in mutual funds, individual securities, cash products and margin lending. Additional features include unlimited check writing with overdraft protection, a Visa® debit card through a third-party sponsor, online bill payments and ATM access.
We provide securities execution and clearing services for our retail and institutional clients through our registered broker-dealer subsidiaries. Clients can use our online brokerage service to purchase and sell securities, obtain independent research and information about a wide variety of securities, and use self-directed asset allocation and other financial planning tools. We also offer shares in public non-exchange traded real estate investment trusts, structured notes and other alternative investments issued by unaffiliated companies.
We offer trading and portfolio strategy services across a number of fixed income categories, including treasuries, agencies, municipals, corporate, mortgage- and asset-backed securities. Our retail-focused fixed income trading desk is committed to providing best execution and the efficient facilitation of client orders. In addition, our fixed income portfolio strategy group assists our advisors in evaluating and customizing client fixed income portfolios based on individual investment objectives and risk tolerance.
Ameriprise may from time-to-time participate in syndicate offerings of closed-end funds and preferred securities. Syndicates are groups of investment banks and broker-dealers that jointly underwrite and distribute new security offerings to the investing public. Our clients may purchase for their own account the closed-end fund shares and preferred stock of such primary offerings in which we participate.
Through Ameriprise Achiever Circle, we offer benefits and rewards to clients who have $100,000 or more invested with us. Clients who have $500,000 or more invested with us are eligible for Ameriprise Achiever Circle Elite, which includes additional benefits. To qualify for and maintain Achiever Circle or Achiever Circle Elite status, clients must meet certain eligibility and maintenance requirements. Special benefits of the program may include fee reductions or waivers on Ameriprise IRAs and the Ameriprise ONE Financial Accounts, fee waivers on Ameriprise Financial-branded MasterCard® credit cards issued by Barclays Bank Delaware (“Barclays”) and credit monitoring services.
Fee-based Investment Advisory Accounts
In addition to purchases of mutual funds and other securities on a stand-alone basis, clients may purchase mutual funds, among other securities, in connection with investment advisory fee-based account programs or services. We currently offer both discretionary and non-discretionary investment advisory accounts. In a discretionary advisory account, we (or an unaffiliated investment advisor) choose the underlying investments in the portfolio on behalf of the client, whereas in a non-discretionary advisory account, clients choose the underlying investments in the portfolio based on their financial advisor’s recommendation. Investors in discretionary and non-discretionary advisory accounts generally pay a fee (for investment advice and other services) based on the assets held in that account as well as any related fees or costs associated with the underlying securities held in that account (e.g., underlying mutual fund operating expenses, investment advisory or related fees, Rule 12b-1 fees, etc.). A significant portion of our affiliated mutual fund sales are made through advisory accounts. Client assets held in affiliated mutual funds in an advisory account generally produce higher revenues to us than client assets held in affiliated mutual funds on a stand-alone basis because, as noted above, we receive an investment advisory fee based on the asset values of the assets held in an advisory account in addition to revenues we normally receive for investment management and/or distribution of the funds included in the account.
We offer several types of investment advisory accounts. We sponsor Ameriprise Strategic Portfolio Service (“SPS”) Advantage, a non-discretionary investment advisory account service, as well as SPS - Advisor, a discretionary investment advisory account service. We also sponsor Ameriprise Separate Accounts (a separately managed account (“SMA”) program), which is a discretionary investment advisory account service through which clients invest in strategies managed by us or by affiliated and non-affiliated investment managers. We offer a similar program on an accommodation basis where clients transfer assets to us and do not maintain an investment management relationship with the manager of those assets. We also sponsor Active Portfolios® investments, a discretionary mutual fund investment advisory account service that offers a number of strategic target allocations based on different risk profiles and tax sensitivities. Additionally, we offer discretionary investment advisory account services through which clients may invest in SMAs, mutual funds and exchange traded funds.
Mutual Fund Offerings
In addition to the Columbia Management family of funds (discussed below in “Our Segments - Asset Management - Product and Service Offerings - U.S. Registered Funds”), we offer mutual funds from nearly 300 mutual fund families representing more than 3,500 mutual funds on our brokerage platform and as part of our investment advisory accounts to provide our clients a broad choice of investment products. In 2014, retail sales of other companies’ mutual funds accounted for the majority of our total retail mutual fund sales. Client assets held in mutual funds of other companies on a stand-alone basis generally produce lower total revenues than client assets held in our own mutual funds, as our Asset Management segment does not earn ongoing investment management fees for assets held in the funds of other companies.
Mutual fund families of other companies generally pay us a portion of the revenue generated from the sales of those funds and from the ongoing management of fund assets attributable to our clients’ ownership of shares of those funds. These payments enable us to make the mutual fund families of other companies generally available through our advisors and through our online brokerage platform. We also receive administrative services fees from most mutual funds sold through our advisor network.
Insurance and Annuities
We offer insurance and annuities issued by the RiverSource Life companies (discussed below in “Business - Our Segments - Annuities” and in “Business - Our Segments - Protection”). The RiverSource insurance solutions available to our retail clients include variable and fixed universal life insurance, traditional life insurance and disability income insurance. RiverSource annuities include fixed annuities, as well as variable annuities that allow our clients to choose from a number of underlying investment options, including volatility management options, and to purchase certain guaranteed benefit riders. In addition to RiverSource insurance and annuity products, our advisors offer products of unaffiliated carriers on a limited basis, including variable annuities, life insurance and long term care insurance products issued by a select number of unaffiliated insurance companies.
We receive a portion of the revenue generated from the sale of life and disability insurance policies of unaffiliated insurance companies. We are paid distribution fees on annuities sales of unaffiliated insurance companies based on a portion of the revenue generated from such sales and asset levels. Such insurance companies may also pay us an administrative service fee in connection with the sale of their products.
In January 2013, we completed the conversion of our federal savings bank subsidiary, Ameriprise Bank, to a limited powers national trust bank following our receipt of final regulatory approvals, and we changed the name of the bank to Ameriprise National Trust Bank. As a result of the conversion, Ameriprise National Trust Bank is no longer engaged in deposit-taking or credit-origination activities. In 2012, we liquidated checking, savings and money market accounts and certificates of deposit and returned all funds to our clients. We also sold Ameriprise Bank’s consumer loan portfolio, including first mortgages, home equity loans, home equity lines of credit and loans, to affiliates of Ameriprise Bank and sold Ameriprise Bank’s credit card account portfolio to Barclays.
We continue to offer consumer deposit and credit products through relationships with well-known and respected financial services companies. In connection with the sale of the Ameriprise Bank credit card account portfolio, we entered into a co-branding agreement with Barclays pursuant to which Barclays will continue to issue Ameriprise-branded credit cards. We also entered into a referral agreement with a third party to source mortgages and related products. Finally, the cash management features of the Ameriprise ONE Financial Account remain supported by our brokerage platform, and our clients continue to have access to a variety of other cash solutions, including Ameriprise Certificates, FDIC-insured Brokered CDs issued by third-party banks and deposits placed at third-party banks through Ameriprise Insured Money Market Account (AIMMA) brokerage sweep accounts.
Ameriprise National Trust Bank continues to provide personal trust, custodial, agency and investment management services to help meet estate and wealth transfer needs of our advisors’ individual and corporate clients. The performance of such personal trust services may involve our investment products. Ameriprise National Trust Bank generally receives an asset-based fee for investment advice and other services based on assets managed or custodied, as well as related fees and costs.
We currently issue five types of face-amount certificates through Ameriprise Certificate Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ameriprise Financial that is registered as an investment company under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (“Investment Company Act”). Owners of our certificates invest funds and are entitled to receive at maturity or at the end of a stated term, a determinable amount of money equal to their aggregate investments in the certificate plus interest at rates we determine, less any withdrawals and early withdrawal penalties. For two types of certificate products, the rate of interest is calculated in whole or in part based on any upward movement in a broad-based stock market index up to a maximum return, where the maximum is a fixed rate for a given term, but can be changed at our discretion for prospective terms.
At December 31, 2014, we had $4.2 billion in total certificate reserves underlying our certificate products. Our earnings are based upon the difference, or “spread,” between the interest rates credited to certificate holders and the interest earned on the certificate assets invested. A portion of these earnings is used to compensate the various affiliated entities that provide management, administrative and other services to our company for these products. The certificates compete with investments offered by banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, mutual funds, insurance companies and similar financial institutions. In times of weak performance in the equity markets, certificate sales are generally stronger. In 2014, advisors’ cash sales of our certificates were $2.4 billion.
Financial Wellness Program
We provide workplace financial planning and educational programs to employees of major corporations, small businesses and school district employees through our Financial Wellness Program. Our Financial Wellness Program helps employees of client companies plan for and achieve their long-term financial objectives and it offers financial planning as an employee benefit supported by
educational materials, tools and programs. For example, AFSI has entered into a national Financial Wellness Program with Lowe’s, the world’s second largest home improvement chain. In addition, we provide training and support to financial advisors working on-site at company locations to present educational seminars, conduct one-on-one meetings and participate in client educational events. We also provide financial advice service offerings, such as financial planning and executive financial services, tailored to discrete employee segments.
Strategic Alliances and Other Marketing Arrangements
We use strategic marketing alliances, local marketing programs for our advisors, and on-site workshops through our Business Alliances group to generate new clients for our financial planning and other financial services. An important aspect of our strategy is to create alliances that help us generate new financial services clients within our target market segment, the mass affluent. Our alliance arrangements are generally for a limited duration of one to five years with an option to renew. Additionally, these types of marketing arrangements typically provide that either party may terminate the agreements on short notice, usually within sixty days. We compensate our alliance partners for providing opportunities to market to their clients.
In addition to our alliance arrangements, we have developed a number of local marketing programs for our advisors to use in building their client bases. These include pre-approved seminars, seminar and event training and referral tools and training designed to encourage both prospective and existing clients to refer or bring their friends to an event.
In 2014, we discontinued the offering of retail financial planning and distribution services in India.
Our Segments - Asset Management
Our Asset Management segment provides investment advice and investment products to retail, high net worth and institutional clients on a global scale through Columbia Management and Threadneedle. Columbia Management primarily provides products and services in the U.S., and Threadneedle primarily provides products and services internationally. We provide clients with U.S. domestic individual products through unaffiliated third-party financial institutions and through our Advice & Wealth Management segment, and we provide institutional products and services through our institutional sales force. International retail products are primarily distributed through third-party financial institutions and unaffiliated financial advisors. Individual products include U.S. mutual funds and their non-U.S. equivalents, exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”) and variable product funds underlying insurance and annuity separate accounts. Institutional asset management services are designed to meet specific client objectives and may involve a range of products, including those that focus on traditional asset classes, separately managed accounts, collateralized loan obligations (“CLOs”), hedge fund strategies, collective funds and property funds. CLOs, hedge fund strategies and certain private funds are often classified as alternative assets. Our Asset Management segment also provides all intercompany asset management services for Ameriprise Financial subsidiaries. The fees for such services are reflected within the Asset Management segment results through intersegment transfer pricing. Intersegment expenses for this segment include distribution expenses for services provided by our Advice & Wealth Management, Annuities and Protection segments. All intersegment activity is eliminated in our consolidated results.
Revenues in the Asset Management segment are primarily earned as fees based on managed asset balances, which are impacted by market movements, net asset flows, asset allocation and product mix. We may also earn performance fees from certain accounts where investment performance meets or exceeds certain pre-identified targets. At December 31, 2014, our Asset Management segment had $505.6 billion in managed assets worldwide. Managed assets include managed external client assets and managed owned assets. Managed external client assets include client assets for which we provide investment management services, such as the assets of the Columbia Management and Threadneedle fund families and the assets of institutional clients. Managed external client assets also include assets managed by sub-advisers we select. Our external client assets are not reported on our Consolidated Balance Sheets, although certain investment funds marketed to investors may be consolidated at certain times. See Note 2 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for additional information on consolidation principles. Managed owned assets include certain assets on our Consolidated Balance Sheets (such as the assets of the general account and the variable product funds held in the separate accounts of our life insurance subsidiaries) for which the Asset Management segment provides management services and receives management fees. For additional details regarding our assets under management and administration, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included in Part II, Item 7 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Investment Management Capabilities
The investment management activities of Columbia Management and Threadneedle are conducted through investment management teams located in the U.S. and the UK, with growing operations in Singapore and Malaysia. Each investment management team may focus on particular investment strategies, asset types, products and on services offered and distribution channels utilized. These teams manage the majority of assets in our Columbia Management and Threadneedle fund families, as well as the assets we manage for institutional clients in separately managed accounts, collective funds, hedge funds, the general and separate accounts of the RiverSource Life companies, the assets of IDS Property Casualty, Ameriprise Certificate Company and certain of our other affiliated companies. These investment management teams also manage assets under sub-advisory arrangements.
Our investment management capabilities span a broad range of asset classes and investment styles. The portfolios underlying our product and service offerings may focus on providing solutions to investors through one or more U.S. or non-U.S. equity, fixed income, bank loan, property, multi-asset allocation, alternative (including liquid alternatives) or other asset classes, and the strategies utilized in the management of such portfolios varies depending on the needs and desired outcomes or objectives of individual and institutional investors. We continually assess these capabilities to help ensure our ability to provide product and services offerings that are responsive to the evolving needs of our clients.
Columbia’s investment management activities are conducted by teams located in multiple locations throughout the U.S., including Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Menlo Park and Portland, Oregon. We have implemented a multi-platform approach to equity asset management using individual investment management teams with a combination of dedicated centralized analytical and equity trading resources. The portfolios we manage focus on varying sizes and categories of domestic and global equity securities. Our U.S. fixed income teams are organized by sectors, including investment grade, high yield, municipal, global and structured. This sector-based approach creates focused and accountable teams organized by expertise. Portfolio performance is measured to align client and corporate interests, and asset managers are incented to collaborate, employ best practices and execute in response to changing market and investment conditions consistent with established portfolio management principles.
Columbia’s investment philosophy focuses on delivering consistent and competitive investment performance. To achieve such performance, Columbia’s investment teams use a “5P” process that focuses on the five factors we believe are most significant for delivering results to clients: product definition, investment philosophy, people, investment process and performance expectation. These factors are continuously monitored and provide a framework around which portfolio managers can better define their objectives and the processes through which they plan to achieve them.
Threadneedle’s investment management activities are principally conducted from its London office, with additional investment capabilities in Singapore and Malaysia. Threadneedle’s investment philosophy is to share investment ideas and alpha generation across teams and asset classes. Each investment management team may focus on particular investment strategies, asset types, products and services offered and is subject to an oversight process that involves regular reviews by the chief investment officer of investment performance and other key aspects of the investment process. These teams manage the majority of assets in the Threadneedle family of funds, the assets of Threadneedle’s alternative investment structures and the assets managed for Threadneedle’s institutional clients.
Columbia and Threadneedle have been increasingly working together over the past two years to increase the breadth and depth of their offering to clients. Clients benefit from the depth of our combined research ideas and insights, trading techniques and portfolio strategies. In this regard, Columbia and Threadneedle are leveraging their combined global investment management and research capabilities through research sharing and, for certain assets, through the use of sub-advisory and personnel sharing arrangements. To better reflect the combined capabilities of Columbia and Threadneedle and the collaborative approach which enables them to together provide better investment solutions for the benefit of clients globally, in January, 2015, we announced our intention to rebrand our asset management businesses under a common, new brand - Columbia Threadneedle InvestmentsSM - later this year.
Product and Service Offerings
We offer a broad spectrum of investment advice and products to individual, institutional and high-net worth investors. In an effort to address changing market conditions and the evolving needs of investors, we may from time to time develop and offer new retail and institutional investment products with new and/or innovative investment strategies, including U.S. mutual funds and their non-U.S. equivalents, ETFs, separately managed accounts, hedge funds and other private funds, CLOs, and collective funds. The following is an overview of our Asset Management offerings.
U.S. Registered Funds
We provide investment advisory, distribution and other services to the Columbia Management family of funds. The Columbia Management family of funds includes retail mutual funds, exchange-listed ETFs and U.S. closed-end funds and variable product funds. Retail mutual funds are available through unaffiliated third-party financial institutions and the Ameriprise financial advisor network. Variable product funds are available as underlying investment options in variable annuity and variable life insurance products, including RiverSource products. The Columbia Management family of funds includes domestic and international equity funds, fixed income funds, cash management funds, balanced funds, specialty funds, absolute return and other alternative funds and asset allocation funds, including fund-of-funds, with a variety of investment objectives. At December 31, 2014, our U.S. retail mutual funds, ETFs and U.S. closed-end funds had total managed assets of $165.7 billion in 140 funds. The variable insurance trust funds (“VIT Funds”) that we manage had total managed assets at December 31, 2014 of $72.0 billion in 75 funds.
Columbia Management serves as investment manager for most of our U.S. mutual funds as well as our exchange-listed ETFs and U.S. closed-end funds. Columbia Wanger Asset Management, LLC (“Columbia Wanger”), a subsidiary of Columbia Management, also serves as investment manager for certain funds. In addition, several of our subsidiaries perform related services for the funds, including distribution, accounting, administrative and transfer agency services. Columbia Management and Columbia Wanger perform investment management services pursuant to contracts with the U.S. registered funds that are subject to renewal by the fund boards within two years after initial implementation, and thereafter, on an annual basis.
We earn management fees for managing the assets of the Columbia Management family of mutual funds based on the underlying asset values. We also earn fees by providing related services to the Columbia Management family of funds.
The Columbia Management family of funds also uses sub-advisers to diversify the product offerings it makes available to investors.
Threadneedle offers a fund product range that includes different risk-return options across regions, markets, asset classes and product structures, which include funds that are similar to U.S. mutual funds. These funds are marketed to non-U.S. persons and often referred to as UCITS products (Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities). UCITS and other funds offered by Threadneedle typically are structured as Open Ended Investment Companies (“OEICs”) in the UK, Societes d’Investissement A Capital Variable (“SICAVs”) in Luxembourg, as well as unit trusts and investment trusts. The majority of these offerings are registered in and distributed across multiple jurisdictions. At December 31, 2014, our non-U.S. retail funds had total managed assets of $43.9 billion in 188 funds.
Threadneedle Asset Management Ltd. serves as investment manager for most of our non-U.S. fund products and earns management fees based on underlying asset values for managing the assets of these funds. Certain Threadneedle affiliates also earn fees by providing ancillary services to the funds. In addition, certain non-U.S. funds or portions of the portfolios underlying such funds may receive sub-advisory services, including services provided by both Columbia Management personnel and other unaffiliated advisers.
Separately Managed Accounts
We provide investment management services to a range of clients globally, including pension, profit-sharing, employee savings, sovereign wealth funds and endowment funds, accounts of large- and medium-sized businesses and governmental clients, as well as the accounts of high-net-worth individuals and smaller institutional clients, including tax-exempt and not-for-profit organizations. Our services include investment of funds on a discretionary or non-discretionary basis and related services including trading, cash management and reporting. We offer various fixed income, equity and alternative investment strategies for our institutional clients with separately managed accounts. Columbia Management and Threadneedle distribute products of the other, including Threadneedle’s offering various investment strategies of Columbia Management to non-U.S. clients and Columbia Management’s offering of certain investment strategies of Threadneedle to U.S. clients.
For our investment management services, we generally receive fees based on the market value of managed assets pursuant to contracts the client can terminate on short notice. Clients may also pay us fees based on the performance of their portfolio. At December 31, 2014, Columbia Management managed a total of $42.0 billion in assets under this range of services and Threadneedle managed $100.1 billion.
Management of Enterprise Owned Assets
We provide investment management services and recognize management fees for certain assets on our Consolidated Balance Sheets, such as the assets held in the general account of our RiverSource Life companies and assets held by Ameriprise Certificate Company. Our fixed income team manages the general account assets to produce a consolidated and targeted rate of return on investments based on a certain level of risk. Our fixed income and equity teams also manage separate account assets. The Asset Management segment’s management of institutional owned assets for Ameriprise Financial subsidiaries is reviewed by the boards of directors and staff functions of the applicable subsidiaries consistent with regulatory investment requirements. At December 31, 2014, the Asset Management segment managed $36.1 billion of institutional owned assets.
Management of Collateralized Loan Obligations (“CLOs”)
Columbia Management has a dedicated team of investment professionals who provide collateral management services to special purpose vehicles which primarily invest in syndicated bank loans and issue multiple tranches of securities collateralized by the assets of each pool. By offering multiple tranches of securities, these special purpose vehicles provide investors with various maturity and credit risk characteristics. Scheduled payments to investors are based on the performance of the CLO’s collateral pool. For collateral management of CLOs, we earn fees based on the par value of assets and, in certain instances, we may also receive performance-based fees. At December 31, 2014, we managed $6.6 billion of assets related to CLOs.
Columbia Management provides investment advice and related services to private, pooled investment vehicles organized as limited partnerships, limited liability companies or foreign (non-U.S.) entities. These funds are currently exempt from registration under the Investment Company Act under either Section 3(c)(1) or Section 3(c)(7) or related interpretative relief and are organized as U.S. and non-U.S. funds. These funds are subject to local regulation in the jurisdictions where they are formed or marketed. For investment management services, we generally receive fees based on the market value of assets under management, and we may also receive performance-based fees. As of December 31, 2014, we managed $200 million in private fund assets.
Ameriprise Trust Company - Collective Funds and Separately Managed Accounts
Collective funds are investment funds that are exempt from registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and offered primarily through banks, trust companies and other financial institutions to certain qualified institutional clients such as retirement, pension and profit-sharing plans. Columbia Management currently serves as investment manager to ATC with respect to a series of ATC collective funds covering a broad spectrum of investment strategies for which ATC serves as trustee. We receive fees pursuant to an agreement with ATC for such investment management services that are generally based upon a percentage of assets under management. In addition to its collective funds, ATC serves as investment manager to separately managed accounts for qualified institutional clients.
As of December 31, 2014, we managed $6.7 billion of ATC Funds and separate accounts for ATC clients. This amount does not include the Columbia Management family of funds held in other retirement plans because these assets are included under assets managed for institutional and retail clients and within the “Product and Service Offerings - U.S. Registered Funds” section above.
In addition to providing sub-advisory services to each other, Columbia Management and Threadneedle act as sub-adviser for certain U.S. and non-U.S. funds, private banking individually managed accounts, common trust funds and other portfolios sponsored or advised by other firms. As with our affiliated funds, we earn management fees for these sub-advisory services based on the underlying asset value of the funds and accounts we sub-advise. As of December 31, 2014, we managed over $32.0 billion in assets in a sub-advisory capacity.
Both Columbia Management and Threadneedle maintain distribution teams and capabilities that support the sales, marketing and support of their products and services. These distribution activities are generally organized into two major categories: retail distribution and institutional distribution.
Columbia Management Investment Distributors, Inc. acts as the principal underwriter and distributor of our Columbia Management family of funds. Pursuant to distribution agreements with the funds, we offer and sell fund shares on a continuous basis and pay certain costs associated with the marketing and selling of shares. We earn commissions for distributing the Columbia Management funds through sales charges (front-end or back-end loads) on certain classes of shares and distribution (12b-1) and servicing-related fees based on a percentage of fund assets, and receive intersegment allocation payments. This revenue is impacted by overall asset levels and mix of the funds.
Columbia Management fund shares are sold through both our Advice & Wealth Management segment and through unaffiliated third-party financial intermediaries. Among our third-party distribution arrangements is a strategic distribution agreement entered into in connection with Ameriprise’s acquisition of Columbia Management that provides ongoing access to clients of Bank of America affiliated distributors, including U.S. Trust. Although this acquisition-related agreement is ending on May 1, 2015, we have a series of other contractual arrangements that will remain in place to support our continuing and important business relationship with U.S. Trust. Fees and reimbursements paid to such intermediaries may vary based on sales, redemptions, asset values, asset allocation, product mix, and marketing and support activities provided by the intermediary. Intersegment distribution expenses for services provided by our Advice & Wealth Management Segment are eliminated in our consolidated results.
Threadneedle funds are sold through financial intermediaries and institutions, including banks, life insurance companies, independent financial advisers, wealth managers and platforms offering a variety of investment products. Various Threadneedle affiliates serve as the distributors of these fund offerings and are authorized to engage in such activities in numerous countries across Europe, the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region and Africa. Certain Threadneedle fund offerings, such as its UCITS products, may be distributed on a cross-border basis while others are distributed exclusively in local markets.
Institutional and High Net Worth Distribution
We offer separately managed account services and certain funds to high net worth clients and to a variety of institutional clients, including pension plans, employee savings plans, foundations, sovereign wealth funds, endowments, corporations, banks, trusts, governmental entities, high-net-worth individuals and not-for-profit organizations. We provide investment management services for insurance companies, including our insurance subsidiaries. We also provide, primarily through ATC and one of our broker-dealer subsidiaries, a variety of services for our institutional clients that sponsor retirement plans. We have dedicated institutional and sub-advisory sales teams that market directly to such institutional clients.
We concentrate on establishing strong relationships with institutional clients and leading global and national consultancy firms across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.
Our Segments - Annuities
Our Annuities segment provides RiverSource variable and fixed annuity products to individual clients. The RiverSource Life companies provide variable annuity products through our advisors, and our fixed annuity products are distributed through both affiliated and unaffiliated advisors and financial institutions. These products are designed to help individuals address their asset accumulation and income goals. Revenues for our variable annuity products are primarily earned as fees based on underlying account balances, which are impacted by both market movements and net asset flows. Revenues for our fixed annuity products are primarily earned as net investment income on assets supporting fixed account balances, with profitability significantly impacted by the spread between net investment income earned and interest credited on the fixed account balances. We also earn net investment income on owned assets supporting reserves for immediate annuities and for certain guaranteed benefits offered with variable annuities and on capital supporting the business. Intersegment revenues for this segment reflect fees paid by our Asset Management segment for marketing support and other services provided in connection with the availability of VIT Funds under the variable annuity contracts. Intersegment expenses for this segment include distribution expenses for services provided by our Advice & Wealth Management segment, as well as expenses for investment management services provided by our Asset Management segment. All intersegment activity is eliminated in our consolidated results.
Our annuity products include deferred variable and fixed annuities, in which assets accumulate until the contract is surrendered, the contractholder (or in some contracts, the annuitant) dies or the contractholder or annuitant begins receiving benefits under an annuity payout option. We also offer immediate annuities, in which payments begin within one year of issue and continue for life or for a fixed period of time. The relative proportion between fixed and variable annuity sales is generally driven by the relative performance of the equity and fixed income markets. Fixed sales are generally stronger when yields available in the fixed income markets are relatively high than when yields are relatively low. Variable sales are generally stronger in times of superior performance in equity markets than in times of weak performance in equity markets. The relative proportion between fixed and variable annuity sales is also influenced by product design and other factors. In addition to the revenues we generate on these products, we also receive fees charged on assets allocated to our separate accounts to cover administrative costs and a portion of the management fees from the underlying investment accounts in which assets are invested, as discussed below under “Variable Annuities.” Investment management performance is critical to the profitability of our RiverSource annuity business.
A variable annuity provides a contractholder with investment returns linked to underlying investment accounts of the contractholder’s choice. These underlying investment options may include the VIT Funds previously discussed (see “Business - Our Segments - Asset Management - Product and Service Offerings - U.S. Registered Funds,” above) as well as variable portfolio funds of other companies. RiverSource variable annuity products in force offer a fixed account investment option with guaranteed minimum interest crediting rates ranging up to 4% at December 31, 2014.
Contract purchasers can choose to add optional benefit provisions to their contracts to meet their needs, including guaranteed minimum death benefit (“GMDB”), guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit (“GMWB”) and guaranteed minimum accumulation benefit (“GMAB”) provisions. Approximately 98% of RiverSource Life’s overall variable annuity assets include either an optional or a standard GMDB provision and approximately 58% of RiverSource Life’s overall variable annuity assets include a GMWB or GMAB provision. In general, these features can help protect contractholders and beneficiaries from a shortfall in death or living benefits due to a decline in the value of their underlying investment accounts.
In 2012, we introduced the SecureSource 3® living benefit rider, an optional GMWB rider that can be added to new purchases of RiverSource variable annuities for a fee. The SecureSource 3 benefit ensures a specified withdrawal amount annually for life. Clients who purchase this benefit are invested in one or more of four of our Portfolio Stabilizer (managed volatility) funds of funds that are designed to pursue total return while seeking to mitigate exposure to market volatility. This rider provides clients with the security of guaranteed lifetime income, an opportunity for a less volatile investment experience and an opportunity for guaranteed income growth. Clients purchasing a new variable annuity with the optional GMAB living benefit rider are also invested in one or more of four of our Portfolio Stabilizer funds of funds. Columbia Management serves as investment advisor for the funds of funds and all of the underlying funds in which the funds of funds invest.
Our Portfolio Navigator (traditional asset allocation) program funds are available for new sales of our variable annuities, but as of April 2012, were no longer available for sale with a living benefit rider. Portfolio Navigator funds allow clients to allocate their contract value to one of five funds of funds, each of which invests in various underlying funds. Portfolio Navigator funds are designed to allow a contract purchaser to select investment options based on the purchaser’s investment time horizon, risk tolerance and investment goals. Portfolio Navigator funds were designed to help a contract purchaser tailor the performance of annuities and life insurance policies to their specific needs and to keep investment allocations on track over time. Columbia Management, our investment management subsidiary, serves as investment adviser for the funds of funds and all of the underlying funds in which the Portfolio Navigator funds of funds invest. Our Portfolio Stabilizer funds of funds offering is available for new sales of variable annuities sold without a living benefit rider.
In addition to SecureSource 3® we have continued to expand our overall product mix to include new guaranteed income solutions and income management tools. We introduced our Income Guide service late in 2014 to aid clients in managing income through an adaptive withdrawal strategy. The service is available in our current suite of variable annuities where a living benefit rider has not been elected. We also enhanced our annuitization options and immediate annuity products to provide increased flexibility by allowing for greater liquidity once payments commence. These new income options can assist clients by providing a guaranteed income stream while at the same time allowing some access to the underlying value of remaining payments which can aid when unexpected expenses arise during retirement.
The general account assets of our life insurance subsidiaries support the contractual obligations under the guaranteed benefit the Company offers (see “Business - Our Segments - Asset Management - Product and Service Offerings - Management of Enterprise Owned Assets” above). As a result, we bear the risk that protracted under-performance of the financial markets could result in guaranteed benefit payments being higher than what current account values would support. Our exposure to risk from guaranteed benefits generally will increase when equity markets decline. The persistent low interest rate environment has also had a negative effect, resulting in an increase in our guaranteed benefit reserves in the current period.
RiverSource variable annuities provide us with fee-based revenue in the form of mortality and expense risk fees, marketing support and administrative fees, fees charged for optional features elected by the contractholder, and other contract charges. We receive marketing support payments from the VIT Funds underlying our variable annuity products as well as Rule 12b-1 distribution and servicing-related fees from the VIT Funds and the underlying funds of other companies. In addition, we receive marketing support payments from the affiliates of other companies’ funds included as investment options in our RiverSource variable annuity products.
RiverSource fixed annuity products provide a contractholder with cash value that increases by a fixed or indexed interest rate. We periodically reset rates at our discretion subject to certain policy terms establishing guaranteed minimum interest crediting rates. Our earnings from fixed annuities are based upon the spread between rates earned on assets purchased with fixed annuity deposits and the rates at which interest is credited to our RiverSource fixed annuity contracts.
RiverSource fixed annuity contracts in force provide guaranteed minimum interest crediting rates ranging from 1% to 5% at December 31, 2014. New contracts issued provide guaranteed minimum interest rates in compliance with state laws.
In 2007, we discontinued new sales of equity indexed annuities, although we continue to service existing policies.
Our RiverSource Distributors subsidiary is a registered broker-dealer that serves both as the principal underwriter and distributor of RiverSource variable and fixed annuities through AFSI and as the distributor of fixed annuities through third-party channels such as banks and broker-dealer networks. Our advisors are the largest distributors of RiverSource annuity products, although they can offer variable annuities from selected unaffiliated insurers as well.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, RiverSource Life companies discontinued the sale of variable annuity products through third-party channels in order to focus on the distribution of variable annuity products within our Advice & Wealth Management segment. We continue to provide RiverSource fixed annuity products through third-party channels. In 2014, we had total cash sales for fixed annuity products through third-party channels of $15 million. As of December 31, 2014, we had distribution agreements for RiverSource fixed annuity products in place with more than 110 third-party firms.
Liabilities and Reserves for Annuities
We maintain adequate financial reserves to cover the risks associated with guaranteed benefit provisions added to variable annuity contracts in addition to liabilities arising from fixed and variable annuity base contracts. You can find a discussion of liabilities and reserves related to our annuity products in Part II, Item 7A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K - “Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk”, as well as in Note 2, Note 10, Note 11 and Note 16 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Financial Strength Ratings
Our insurance company subsidiaries that issue RiverSource annuity products receive ratings from independent rating organizations. Ratings are important to maintain public confidence in our insurance subsidiaries and our protection and annuity products. For a discussion of the financial strength ratings of our insurance company subsidiaries, see the “Our Segments - Protection - Financial Strength Ratings” section, below.
Our Segments - Protection
Our Protection segment provides a variety of products to address the protection and risk management needs of our retail clients, including life, disability income and property casualty insurance. These products are designed to provide a lifetime of solutions that allow clients to protect income, grow assets and give to loved ones or charity.
Life and disability income products are primarily provided through our advisors. Our property casualty products are sold primarily through affinity relationships. We issue insurance policies through our life insurance subsidiaries and the Property Casualty companies (as defined below under “Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance Products”). The primary sources of revenues for this segment are premiums, fees and charges we receive to assume insurance-related risk. We earn net investment income on owned assets supporting insurance reserves and capital supporting the business. We also receive fees based on the level of assets supporting variable universal life separate account balances. This segment earns intersegment revenues from fees paid by our Asset Management segment for marketing support and other services provided in connection with the availability of VIT Funds under the variable universal life contracts. Intersegment expenses for this segment include distribution expenses for services provided by our Advice & Wealth Management segment, as well as expenses for investment management services provided by our Asset Management segment. All intersegment activity is eliminated in consolidation.
RiverSource Insurance Products
Through the RiverSource Life companies, we issue both variable and fixed (including indexed) universal life insurance, traditional life insurance and disability income insurance. These solutions are designed to help clients protect their income, grow assets and give to those individuals or causes that they care most about. Universal life insurance is a form of permanent life insurance characterized by flexible premiums, flexible death benefits and unbundled pricing factors (i.e., mortality, interest and expenses). Variable universal life insurance combines the premium and death benefit flexibility of universal life with underlying fund investment flexibility and the risks associated therewith. Traditional life insurance refers to whole and term life insurance policies. While traditional life insurance typically pays a specified sum to a beneficiary upon death of the insured for a fixed premium, we also offer a term life insurance product that will generally pay the death benefit in the form of a monthly income stream to a date specified at issue. We also offer a chronic care rider, AdvanceSource® rider, on our new permanent insurance products. This rider allows its policyholder to accelerate a portion of the life insurance death benefit in the event of a qualified chronic care need.
Our sales of RiverSource individual life insurance in 2014, as measured by scheduled annual premiums, lump sum and excess premiums and single premiums, consisted of 75% fixed universal life, 22% variable universal life and 3% traditional life. Our RiverSource Life companies issue only non-participating life insurance policies that do not pay dividends to policyholders from the insurer’s earnings.
Assets supporting policy values associated with fixed account life insurance and annuity products, as well as those assets associated with fixed account investment options under variable insurance and annuity products (collectively referred to as the “fixed accounts”), are part of the RiverSource Life companies’ general accounts. Under fixed accounts, the RiverSource Life companies bear the investment risk. More information on the RiverSource Life companies’ general accounts is found under “Business - Our Segments - Asset Management - Product and Service Offerings - Management of Enterprise Owned Assets” above.
Variable Universal Life Insurance
Variable universal life insurance provides life insurance coverage along with investment returns linked to underlying investment accounts of the policyholder’s choice. Options may include VIT Funds discussed above, Portfolio Navigator funds of funds, as well as variable portfolio funds of other companies. Our Portfolio Stabilizer funds of funds offering is available for new sales of variable universal life insurance products. RiverSource variable universal life insurance products in force offer a fixed account investment option with guaranteed minimum interest crediting rates ranging from 2.0% to 4.5% at December 31, 2014.
Fixed Universal Life Insurance and Traditional Whole Life Insurance
Fixed universal life and traditional whole life insurance policies do not subject the policyholder to the investment risks associated with variable universal life insurance.
RiverSource fixed universal life insurance products provide life insurance coverage and cash value that increases by a fixed interest rate. The rate is periodically reset at the discretion of the issuing company subject to certain policy terms relative to minimum interest crediting rates. RiverSource fixed universal life insurance policies in force provide guaranteed minimum interest crediting rates ranging from 2% to 5% at December 31, 2014. Certain fixed universal life policies offered by RiverSource Life provide secondary guarantee benefits. The secondary guarantee ensures that, subject to specified conditions, the policy will not terminate and will continue to provide a death benefit even if there is insufficient policy value to cover the monthly deductions and charges. In 2009, we discontinued new sales of traditional whole life insurance, however, we continue to service existing policies. Our in-force traditional whole life insurance policies combine a death benefit with a cash value that generally increases gradually over a period of years.
RiverSource indexed universal life insurance (“IUL”) provides lifetime insurance protection and efficient asset growth through index-linked interest crediting, without the impact of negative market returns. IUL is similar to universal life insurance in that it provides life insurance coverage and cash value that increases as a result of credited interest. In addition, as with universal life insurance, there is a minimum guaranteed credited rate of interest. Unlike universal life insurance, the rate of credited interest above the minimum guarantee for funds allocated to the indexed account is linked to the performance of the S&P 500 Index® (subject to a cap and floor). The policyholder may allocate all or a portion of the policy value to a fixed or indexed account. In 2014, we expanded our IUL
offerings by adding a new multi-indexed universal life insurance product. This new IUL product includes an S&P 500 Index account option and a blended multi-index account comprised of the S&P 500 Index, the MSCI EAFE Index and MSCI EM Index. Both options offer two crediting durations, one-year and two-year. The product includes minimum guarantees and index linked interest crediting, subject to caps and floors.
In 2013, we introduced RiverSource TrioSourceSM universal life insurance with long term care benefits. The base feature of the RiverSource TrioSource product is a fixed universal life insurance policy that provides a guaranteed death benefit and a guaranteed return of premium (“ROP”). ROP is 90% of the premium in years one and two and 100% of the premium in years three and later and is net of any partial surrenders, outstanding policy loans or long term care benefits paid. The Accelerated Benefit Rider (“ABR”) for Long-Term Care allows for the acceleration of the death benefit to pay for covered long term care expenses. In addition, clients may purchase an optional rider which extends benefits for a specified time period after ABR benefits have been exhausted. Any long term care benefit paid reduces the death benefit, cash value and ROP. Additional riders, including an inflation protection option, are available for an additional charge.
Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance provides a death benefit, but it does not build up cash value. The policyholder chooses the term of coverage with guaranteed premiums at the time of issue. During the chosen term, we cannot raise premium rates even if claims experience deteriorates. At the end of the chosen term, coverage may continue with higher premiums until the maximum age is attained, or the policy expires with no value. We also offer a term life insurance product that pays the death benefit in the form of a monthly income stream.
Disability Income Insurance
Disability income insurance provides monthly benefits to individuals who are unable to earn income either at their occupation at time of disability (“own occupation”) or at any suitable occupation (“any occupation”) for premium payments that are guaranteed not to change. Depending upon occupational and medical underwriting criteria, applicants for disability income insurance can choose “own occupation” and “any occupation” coverage for varying benefit periods. In some states, applicants may also choose various benefit provisions to help them integrate individual disability income insurance benefits with Social Security or similar benefit plans and to help them protect their disability income insurance benefits from the risk of inflation.
Long Term Care Insurance
As of December 31, 2002, the RiverSource Life companies discontinued underwriting stand-alone long term care insurance. However, our advisors sell long term care insurance issued by other companies, including Genworth Life Insurance Company, John Hancock Life Insurance Company, Transamerica Life Insurance Company and Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company.
In 2004, the RiverSource Life companies began to file for approval to implement rate increases on most of their existing blocks of nursing home-only indemnity long term care insurance policies. Implementation of these rate increases began in early 2005 and continues. We have received approval for some or all requested increases in the 50 states where increases have been requested, with an average approved cumulative rate increase of 97.4% of premium on all such policies where an increase was requested.
In 2007, the RiverSource Life companies began to file for approval to implement rate increases on most of their existing blocks of comprehensive reimbursement long term care insurance policies. Implementation of these rate increases began in late 2007 and continues. We have received approval for some or all requested increases in 48 states, with an average approved cumulative rate increase of 34.9% of premium on all such policies where an increase was requested.
We intend to seek additional rate increases with respect to these and other existing blocks of long term care insurance policies, subject to regulatory approval.
Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance Products
We offer personal auto, home, excess personal liability, travel and specialty insurance products through IDS Property Casualty and its subsidiary, Ameriprise Insurance Company (the “Property Casualty companies”). We offer a range of coverage options under each product category. Our Property Casualty companies provide personal auto, home and liability coverage to clients in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
Distribution and Marketing Channels
Our Property Casualty companies do not have field agents; rather, we use co-branded direct marketing to sell our personal auto, home and travel insurance products through alliances with commercial institutions and affinity groups, and directly to our clients and the general public. We also receive referrals through our financial advisor network. Our Property Casualty companies’ multi-year contract with Costco Insurance Agency, Inc. and Costco’s affiliated insurance agency expires on March 31, 2015, and the parties are currently in discussions for a renewal of the arrangement. Costco members represented 58% of all new policy sales of our Property Casualty companies in 2014. Through other alliances, we market our property casualty products to customers of Ford Motor Credit Company and offer personal home insurance products to customers of the Progressive Group.
We offer RiverSource life insurance products almost exclusively through our advisors. Our advisors offer insurance products issued predominantly by the RiverSource Life companies, though they may also offer insurance products of unaffiliated carriers, subject to certain qualifications.
We reinsure a portion of the insurance risks associated with our life, disability income, long term care and property casualty insurance products through reinsurance agreements with unaffiliated reinsurance companies. We use reinsurance to limit losses, reduce exposure to large and catastrophic risks and provide additional capacity for future growth. To manage exposure to losses from reinsurer insolvencies, we evaluate the financial condition of reinsurers prior to entering into new reinsurance treaties and on a periodic basis during the terms of the treaties. Our insurance companies remain primarily liable as the direct insurers on all risks reinsured.
For most new life insurance policies, we reinsure 90% of the death benefit liability. We began reinsuring risks at this level in 2001 for term life insurance and 2002 for individual fixed and variable universal life insurance. Policies issued prior to these dates are not subject to these reinsurance levels.
However, for IUL policies issued after September 1, 2013 and VUL policies issued after January 1, 2014, RiverSource Life generally reinsures 50% of the death benefit liability. Similarly, RiverSource Life reinsures 50% of the death benefit and morbidity liabilities related to the RiverSource TrioSourceSM universal life product launched in 2013.
The maximum amount of life insurance risk the Company will retain is $10 million on a single life and $10 million on any flexible premium survivorship life policy; however reinsurance agreements are in place such that retaining more than $1.5 million of insurance risk on a single life or a flexible premium survivorship life policy is very unusual. Risk on fixed and variable universal life policies is reinsured on a yearly renewable term basis. Risk on most term life policies starting in 2001 (2002 for RiverSource Life of NY) is reinsured on a coinsurance basis, a type of reinsurance in which the reinsurer participates proportionally in all material risks and premiums associated with a policy.
For existing LTC policies, RiverSource Life ceded 50% of the risk on a coinsurance basis to Genworth and retained the remaining risk. For RiverSource Life of NY, this reinsurance arrangement applies for 1996 and later issues only. As of December 31, 2014, RiverSource Life’s credit exposure to Genworth under this reinsurance arrangement was approximately $1.8 billion. Genworth also serves as claims administrator for RiverSource Life’s LTC policies.
Generally, RiverSource Life retains at most $5,000 per month of risk per life on DI policies sold on policy forms introduced in most states in 2007 (2010 for RiverSource Life of NY) and reinsures the remainder of the risk on a coinsurance basis with unaffiliated reinsurance companies. RiverSource Life retains all risk for new claims on DI contracts sold on other policy forms. RiverSource Life also retains all risk on accidental death benefit claims and substantially all risk associated with waiver of premium provisions.
RiverSource Life also has life insurance and fixed annuity risk previously assumed under reinsurance arrangements with unaffiliated insurance companies. As of December 31, 2014, the liability related to assumed reinsurance arrangements was $575 million.
We also reinsure a portion of the risks associated with our personal auto, home and excess liability insurance products through three types of reinsurance agreements with unaffiliated reinsurance companies, as follows:
We purchase reinsurance with a limit of $5 million per loss, and we retain $750,000 per loss.
We purchase catastrophe reinsurance that, for 2014, had a limit of $125 million per event and we retained $20 million per event. For 2015, our catastrophe reinsurance has a limit of $155 million per event and we retain $20 million per event.
We purchase reinsurance that limits our personal liability insurance exposure to 20% of any loss. This 80% quota share treaty uses the same reinsurers as our excess of loss treaty.
See Note 7 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for additional information on reinsurance.
Liabilities and Reserves
We maintain adequate financial reserves to cover the insurance risks associated with the insurance products we issue. Generally, reserves represent estimates of the invested assets that our insurance companies need to hold to provide adequately for future benefits and expenses and applicable state insurance laws generally require us to assess and submit an opinion regarding the adequacy of our reserves on an annual basis. For a discussion of liabilities and reserves related to our insurance products, see Note 2 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Financial Strength Ratings
Independent rating organizations evaluate the financial soundness and claims-paying ability of insurance companies continually, and they base their ratings on a number of different factors, including market position in core products and market segments, risk-adjusted capitalization and the quality of the company’s investment portfolios. More specifically, the ratings assigned are developed from an evaluation of a company’s balance sheet strength, operating performance and business profile. Balance sheet strength reflects a
company’s ability to meet its current and ongoing obligations to its contractholders and policyholders and includes analysis of a company’s capital adequacy. The evaluation of operating performance centers on the stability and sustainability of a company’s sources of earnings. The business profile component of the rating considers a company’s mix of business, market position and depth and experience of management.
Our insurance subsidiaries’ ratings are important to maintain public confidence in our protection and annuity products. Lowering of our insurance subsidiaries’ ratings could have a material adverse effect on our ability to market our protection and annuity products and could lead to increased surrenders of these products. We list our ratings on our website at ir.ameriprise.com. For the most current ratings information, please see the individual rating agency’s website.
Our Segments - Corporate & Other
Our Corporate & Other segment consists of net investment income or loss on corporate level assets, including excess capital held in our subsidiaries and other unallocated equity and other revenues as well as unallocated corporate expenses.
We operate in a highly competitive global industry. As a diversified financial services firm, we compete directly with a variety of financial institutions, including registered investment advisors, securities brokers, asset managers, banks and insurance companies. Our competitors may have greater financial resources, broader and deeper distribution capabilities and products and services than we do. We compete directly with these for the provision of products and services to clients, as well as for our financial advisors and investment management personnel.
Our Advice & Wealth Management segment competes with securities broker-dealers, independent broker-dealers, financial planning firms, registered investment advisors, insurance companies and other financial institutions to attract and retain financial advisors and their clients. Competitive factors influencing our ability to attract and retain financial advisors include compensation structures, brand recognition and reputation, product offerings and technology and service capabilities and support. Further, our financial advisors compete for clients with a range of other advisors, broker-dealers and direct channels, including wirehouses, regional broker-dealers, independent broker-dealers, insurers, banks, asset managers, registered investment advisers and direct distributors. Competitive factors influencing our ability to attract and retain clients include quality of advice provided, price, reputation, product offerings and technology and service quality.
Our Asset Management segment competes on a global basis to acquire and retain managed and administered assets against a substantial number of firms, including those in the categories listed above. Such competitors may have achieved greater economies of scale, offer a broader array of products and services, offer products with a stronger performance record and have greater distribution capabilities. Competitive factors influencing our performance in this industry include investment performance, product offerings and innovation, product ratings, fee structures, advertising, service quality, brand recognition and reputation and the ability to attract and retain investment personnel. The ability to create and maintain and deepen relationships with distributors and clients also plays a significant role in our ability to acquire and retain managed and administered assets. The impact of these factors on our business may vary from country to country and certain competitors may have certain competitive advantage in certain jurisdictions. Additional detail regarding the nature and effects of competition in the Asset Management segment is provided below in Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K - “Risk Factors.”
Competitors of our Annuities and Protection segments consist of both stock and mutual insurance companies. Competitive factors affecting the sale of annuity and insurance products include distribution capabilities, price, product features, hedging capability, investment performance, commission structure, perceived financial strength, claims-paying ratings, service, brand recognition and financial strength ratings from rating agencies such as A.M. Best. Competitive factors affecting the sale of property casualty insurance products also include brand recognition and distribution capabilities.
We have an integrated customer management system that serves as the hub of our technology platform. In addition, we have specialized product engines that manage individual brokerage, mutual fund, insurance and face amount certificate accounts. Over the years we have updated our platform to include new product lines such as brokerage, deposit, credit and products of other companies, investment advisory accounts and e-commerce capabilities for our financial advisors and clients. We also use a proprietary suite of processes, methods and tools for our financial planning services. We update our technological capabilities regularly to help maintain an adaptive platform design that aims to enhance the productivity of our advisors to allow for faster, lower-cost responses to emerging business opportunities, compliance requirements and marketplace trends.
Most of our applications run on a technology infrastructure managed on an outsourced basis by IBM since 2002. Under this arrangement, IBM is responsible for all mainframe, mid-range, computing network and storage operations, which includes a portion of our web hosting operations. Also, we outsource our voice network operations to AT&T. In addition to these two arrangements, we outsourced our internal help desk, production support and a substantial portion of the development and maintenance of our computer applications to other firms. In 2012, we completed a major replacement of our brokerage and clearing platforms involving the transition of all of our all advisors and clients to the new technology platform.
We have developed and maintain a comprehensive business continuity plan that covers business disruptions of varying severity and scope and addresses the loss of a geographic area, building, staff, data systems and/or telecommunications capabilities. We review and test our business continuity plan on an ongoing basis and update it as necessary. We require our key technology vendors and service providers to do the same. Under our business continuity plan, we expect to be able to continue doing business and to resume operations with minimal service impacts. However, under certain scenarios, the time that it would take for us to recover and resume operations may significantly increase depending on the extent and geographic scope of the disruption and the number of personnel affected.
For years ended December 31, 2014, 2013 and 2012, approximately 89%, 89% and 89%, respectively, of our long-lived assets were located in the United States and approximately 89%, 92% and 94%, respectively, of our net revenues were generated in the United States. The majority of our foreign operations are conducted through Threadneedle, as described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K under “Business - Our Segments - Asset Management.”
At December 31, 2014, we had 12,209 employees, including 2,083 employee advisors (which does not include our franchisee advisors, who are not employees of our company). We are not subject to collective bargaining agreements, and we believe that our employee relations are strong.
We rely on a combination of contractual rights and copyright, trademark, patent and trade secret laws to establish and protect our intellectual property. In the United States and other jurisdictions, we have established and registered or filed applications to register certain service marks and brand names that we consider important to the marketing of our products and services, including but not limited to Ameriprise Financial, Columbia Management, Threadneedle, RiverSource and Columbia Threadneedle Investments. We have in the past and will in the future take action to establish and protect our intellectual property.
Virtually all aspects of our business, including the activities of the parent company and our subsidiaries, are subject to various federal, state and foreign laws and regulations. These laws and regulations provide broad regulatory, administrative and enforcement powers to supervisory agencies and other bodies, including U.S. federal and state regulatory agencies, foreign government agencies or regulatory bodies and U.S. and foreign securities exchanges. The costs of complying with such laws and regulations can be significant, and the consequences for the failure to comply may include civil or criminal charges, fines, censure, the suspension of individual employees, restrictions on or prohibitions from engaging in certain lines of business as well as reputational damage.
The regulatory environment in which our businesses operate remains subject to change and heightened regulatory scrutiny. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) provided for sweeping changes in the supervision and regulation of the financial services industry. Certain elements of the Dodd-Frank Act have since taken effect, though the details of many provisions remain subject to additional studies and the adoption of final rules by applicable regulatory agencies. Subsequent regulatory developments both in and outside of the U.S. have also resulted or are expected to result in greater regulatory oversight and internal compliance obligations for firms across the financial services industry. These legal and regulatory changes have impacted and may in the future impact the manner in which we are regulated and the manner in which we operate and govern our businesses.
The discussion set forth below provides a general framework of the laws and regulations impacting our businesses. Certain of our subsidiaries may be subject to one or more elements of this regulatory framework depending on the nature of their business, the products and services they provide and the geographic locations in which they operate. To the extent the discussion includes references to statutory and regulatory provisions, it is qualified in its entirety by reference to these statutory and regulatory provisions.
Broker-Dealer and Securities Regulation
Certain of our subsidiaries are registered with the SEC as broker-dealers under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and with certain states, the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories. Our broker-dealer subsidiaries are also members of self-regulatory organizations, including the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), and are subject to the regulations of these organizations. The SEC and FINRA have stringent rules with respect to the net capital requirements and the marketing and trading activities of broker-dealers. Our broker-dealer subsidiaries, as well as our financial advisors and other personnel, must obtain all required state and FINRA licenses and registrations to engage in the securities business and take certain steps to maintain such registrations in good standing. SEC regulations also impose notice requirements and capital limitations on the payment of dividends by a broker-dealer to a parent.
Other agencies, exchanges and self-regulatory organizations of which certain of our broker-dealer subsidiaries are members, and subject to applicable rules and regulations of, include the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”), the National Futures Association (“NFA”) and various stock exchanges. AFSI is registered with the CFTC and is thus subject to the requirements of the Commodity Exchange Act. AEIS is a member of the Boston Stock Exchange and is a stockholder in the Chicago Stock Exchange. In
addition, certain subsidiaries may also be registered as investment advisers or insurance agencies and subject to the regulations described in the following sections.
Ameriprise Certificate Company, our face-amount certificate company, is regulated as an investment company under the Investment Company Act. As a registered investment company, Ameriprise Certificate Company must observe certain governance, disclosure, record-keeping, operational and marketing requirements. Investment companies are required by the SEC to adopt and implement written policies and procedures designed to prevent violations of the federal securities laws and to designate a chief compliance officer. Ameriprise Certificate Company pays dividends to the parent company and is subject to capital requirements under applicable law and understandings with the SEC and the Minnesota Department of Commerce (Banking Division).
In connection with the cessation of financial planning and distribution services in India, Ameriprise India Insurance Brokers Services Private Limited (“AIIBSPL”) has received conditional approval from India’s Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (“IRDA”) to surrender its license as a direct insurance broker. It remains subject to regulation by the Indian Registrar of Companies, although we intend to take steps to dissolve AIIBSPL. In addition, Ameriprise India Private Limited (“AIPL”) surrendered its investment adviser registration certificate from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) and is no longer regulated by the SEBI.
Our financial advisors are subject to various regulations that impact how they operate their practices, including those related to supervision, sales methods, trading practices, record-keeping and financial reporting. As a result of the Dodd-Frank Act, our financial advisors may in the future become subject to a fiduciary standard of conduct in connection with their broker-dealer activities that is no less stringent than what is currently applied to investment advisers under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”). Ameriprise Financial and our financial advisors service clients who hold assets in IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plan accounts. ERISA and related provisions of the Internal Revenue Code impose duties on persons who are fiduciaries under ERISA, and prohibit certain transactions involving the assets of IRA and ERISA plan clients and certain transactions by the fiduciaries to the plans and IRAs. The Department of Labor continues to pursue regulations that would significantly expand the scope of who is considered an ERISA fiduciary and what activity constitutes acting as an ERISA fiduciary, while prohibiting certain additional types of transactions conducted by persons who are considered fiduciaries.
In addition, because our independent contractor advisor platform is structured as a franchise system, we are also subject to Federal Trade Commission and state franchise requirements. Compliance with these and other regulatory requirements adds to the cost and complexity of operating our business. We maintain franchise standards and requirements for our franchisees regardless of location. We have made and expect to continue to make significant investments in our compliance processes, enhancing policies, procedures and oversight to monitor our compliance with the numerous legal and regulatory requirements applicable to our business.
Investment Adviser and Asset Management Regulation
In the U.S., certain of our subsidiaries are registered as investment advisers under the Advisers Act and subject to regulation by the SEC. The Advisers Act imposes numerous obligations on registered investment advisers, including fiduciary duties, disclosure obligations and record-keeping, and operational and marketing restrictions. Investment advisers are required by the SEC to adopt and implement written policies and procedures designed to prevent violations of the Advisers Act and to designate a chief compliance officer responsible for administering these policies and procedures. Our registered investment advisers may also be subject to certain obligations of the Investment Company Act based on their status as investment advisers to investment companies that we, or third parties, sponsor. The SEC is authorized to institute proceedings and impose sanctions for violations of either the Advisers Act or the Investment Company Act, which may include fines, censure or the suspension or termination of an investment adviser’s registration. As an outcome of the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress is considering whether to increase the frequency of examinations of SEC-registered investment advisers, including the authorization of one or more self-regulatory organizations to examine, subject to SEC oversight, SEC-registered investment advisers.
In connection with rules adopted by the CFTC, certain of our subsidiaries are registered with the CFTC as a commodity trading advisor and commodity pool operator and are also members of the NFA, a self-regulatory body under CFTC jurisdiction. These rules adopted by the CFTC eliminated or limited previously available exemptions and exclusions from many CFTC requirements and impose additional registration and reporting requirements for operators of certain registered investment companies and certain other pooled vehicles that use or trade in futures, swaps and other derivatives that are subject to CFTC regulation. The CFTC or the NFA may institute proceedings and impose sanctions for violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and applicable rules relating to commodities and commodity-related instruments (including stock index futures); sanctions may include fines, censure or the suspension or termination of registration or NFA membership. In 2014, U.S. prudential banking regulators and the CFTC proposed rules on margin requirements for uncleared swaps. If implemented, the proposed rules would impose new requirements upon us related to initial and variation margin. The final rules are expected to be issued in the second half of 2015.
Outside of the U.S., our Threadneedle group is primarily authorized to conduct its financial services business in the UK under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. Threadneedle is currently regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (“PRA”). FCA and PRA rules impose certain capital, operational and compliance requirements and allow for disciplinary action in the event of noncompliance.
In addition to the above, certain of our asset management subsidiaries, such as Threadneedle’s UK and other European subsidiaries, are required to comply with pan-European directives issued by the European Commission, as adopted by E.U. member states. For example, Threadneedle and certain of our other asset management subsidiaries are required to comply with the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (“AIFMD”) and European Market Infrastructure Regulation (“EMIR”). These regulations are impacting the way we manage assets and place, settle and report on trades for our clients, as well as market to clients and prospects. EMIR is the EU equivalent of Title VII Dodd-Frank (and provides a framework for the regulation of over the counter and exchange-traded derivative markets). EMIR is being implemented in a number of phases that began in August 2012. We have been engaging with clients, counterparties, trade repositories, trading platforms and intermediaries to implement the documentation, operational procedures and arrangements needed to facilitate EMIR compliance for our asset management clients.
In Singapore, our asset management subsidiary Threadneedle Investments Singapore (Pte.) Ltd. (“Threadneedle Singapore”) is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) under the Securities and Futures Act. Threadneedle Singapore holds a capital markets services license with MAS, and employees of Threadneedle Singapore engaging in regulated activities are also required to be licensed. MAS rules impose certain capital, operational and compliance requirements and allow for disciplinary action in the event of noncompliance.
Threadneedle companies and activities are also subject to other local country regulations in Europe, Dubai, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, the U.S., South Korea and Australia. Additionally, many of our subsidiaries, including Columbia Management, are also subject to foreign, state and local laws with respect to advisory services that are offered and provided by these subsidiaries, including services provided to government pension plans. Foreign and state governments may also institute proceedings and impose sanctions for violations of their local laws, which may include fines, censure or the suspension or termination of the right to do certain types of business in a state or country.
ATC is primarily regulated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce (Banking Division) and is subject to capital adequacy requirements under Minnesota law. It may not accept deposits or make personal or commercial loans. As a provider of products and services to tax-qualified retirement plans and IRAs, certain aspects of our business, including the activities of our trust company, fall within the compliance oversight of the U.S. Departments of Labor and Treasury, particularly regarding the enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”), and the tax reporting requirements applicable to such accounts. ATC, as well as our investment adviser subsidiaries, may be subject to ERISA, and the regulations thereunder, insofar as they act as a “fiduciary” under ERISA with respect to certain ERISA clients.
Our insurance subsidiaries are subject to supervision and regulation by states and other territories where they are domiciled or otherwise licensed to do business. The primary purpose of this regulation and supervision is to protect the interests of contractholders and policyholders. In general, state insurance laws and regulations govern standards of solvency, capital requirements, the licensing of insurers and their agents, premium rates, policy forms, the nature of and limitations on investments, periodic reporting requirements and other matters. In addition, state regulators conduct periodic examinations into insurer market conduct and compliance with insurance and securities laws. The Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, and the New York State Department of Financial Services (the “Domiciliary Regulators”) regulate certain of the RiverSource Life companies, and the Property Casualty companies depending on each company’s state of domicile. In addition to being regulated by their Domiciliary Regulators, our RiverSource Life companies and Property Casualty companies are regulated by each of the insurance regulators in the states where each is authorized to transact business. Financial regulation of our RiverSource Life companies and Property Casualty companies is extensive, and their financial transactions (such as intercompany dividends and investment activity) are often subject to pre-notification and continuing evaluation by the Domiciliary Regulators.
Virtually all states require participation in insurance guaranty associations, which assess fees to insurance companies in order to fund claims of policyholders and contractholders of insolvent insurance companies subject to statutory limits. These assessments are generally based on a member insurer’s proportionate share of all premiums written by member insurers in the state during a specified period prior to an insurer’s insolvency. See Note 23 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for additional information regarding guaranty association assessments.
Certain variable annuity and variable life insurance policies offered by the RiverSource Life companies constitute and are registered as securities under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. As such, these products are subject to regulation by the SEC and FINRA. Securities regulators have recently increased their focus on the adequacy of disclosure regarding complex investment products, including variable annuities and life insurance, and have announced that they will continue to review actions by life insurers to improve profitability and reduce risks under in force annuity and insurance products with guaranteed benefits. In reviewing such actions, regulators examine, among other factors, potential conflicts between an insurer’s financial interests and the interests of the contract owners, as well as perceived inconsistencies between an insurer’s actions and the expectations of investors at the time a product was sold.
The Dodd-Frank Act created the Federal Insurance Office (“FIO”) within the Department of Treasury. The FIO does not have substantive regulatory responsibilities, though it is tasked with monitoring the insurance industry and the effectiveness of its
regulatory framework and providing periodic reports to the President and Congress. We monitor the FIO’s activity to identify and assess emerging regulatory priorities with potential application to our business.
In October 2012, RiverSource Life purchased a block of residential mortgage loans from Ameriprise Bank, FSB. As an owner and servicer of residential mortgages, RiverSource Life must comply with applicable federal and state lending and foreclosure laws and is subject to the jurisdiction of the federal Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and certain state regulators relative to these mortgage loans.
Each of our insurance subsidiaries is subject to risk-based capital (“RBC”) requirements designed to assess the adequacy of an insurance company’s total adjusted capital in relation to its investment, insurance and other risks. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (“NAIC”) has established RBC standards that all state insurance departments have adopted. The RBC requirements are used by the NAIC and state insurance regulators to identify companies that merit regulatory actions designed to protect policyholders. Our RiverSource Life companies and Property Casualty companies are subject to various levels of regulatory intervention should their total adjusted statutory capital fall below defined RBC action levels. At the “company action level,” defined as total adjusted capital level between 100% and 75% of the RBC requirement, an insurer must submit a plan for corrective action with its primary state regulator. The “regulatory action level,” which is between 75% and 50% of the RBC requirement, subjects an insurer to examination, analysis and specific corrective action prescribed by the primary state regulator. If a company’s total adjusted capital falls between 50% and 35% of its RBC requirement, referred to as “authorized control level,” the insurer’s primary state regulator may place the insurer under regulatory control. Insurers with total adjusted capital below 35% of the requirement will be placed under regulatory control.
RiverSource Life, RiverSource Life of NY, IDS Property Casualty and Ameriprise Insurance Company maintain capital levels well in excess of the company action level required by state insurance regulators. For RiverSource Life, the company action level RBC was $595 million as of December 31, 2014, and the corresponding total adjusted capital was $3.6 billion, which represents 607% of company action level RBC. For RiverSource Life of NY, the company action level RBC was $59 million as of December 31, 2014, and the corresponding total adjusted capital was $312 million, which represents 533% of company action level RBC. As of December 31, 2014, the company action level RBC was $98 million for IDS Property Casualty and $447,594 for Ameriprise Insurance Company. As of December 31, 2014, IDS Property Casualty had $560 million of total adjusted capital, or 572% of the company action level RBC, and Ameriprise Insurance Company had $45 million of total adjusted capital, or 10,084% of the company action level RBC.
Ameriprise Financial, as a direct and indirect owner of its insurance subsidiaries, is subject to the insurance holding companies laws of the states where its insurance subsidiaries are domiciled. These laws generally require insurance holding companies to register with the insurance department of the insurance company’s state of domicile and to provide certain financial and other information about the operations of the companies within the holding company structure. In addition, transactions between an insurance company and other companies within the same holding company structure must be on terms that are considered to be fair and reasonable.
As part of its Solvency Modernization Initiative, in 2010 the NAIC adopted revisions to its Insurance Holding Company System Regulatory Act (“Holding Company Act”) to enhance insurer group supervision and create a new Risk Management and Own Risk and Solvency Assessment (“ORSA”) Model Act. The Holding Company Act revisions focus on the overall insurance holding company system, establish a framework of regulator supervisory colleges, enhancements to corporate governance, and require the annual filing of an Enterprise Risk Management Report. The ORSA Model Act requires that an insurer create and file, annually, its Own Risk Solvency Assessment, which is a complete self-assessment of its risk management functions and capital adequacy. These laws have now been enacted by the domiciliary states of RiverSource Life and the Property Casualty companies: Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin. The reports will be completed and filed as required by the laws and regulations of those states.
Federal Banking Regulation
In January 2013, Ameriprise Bank received approval for and completed the conversion from a federal savings bank to a limited powers national trust bank, which was renamed Ameriprise National Trust Bank. As a limited powers national association, Ameriprise National Trust Bank remains subject to supervision under various laws and regulations enforced by the OCC, including those related to capital adequacy, liquidity and conflicts of interest, and to a limited extent, by the FDIC.
Prior to the conversion, Ameriprise Financial, as the sole owner of Ameriprise Bank, was subject to consolidated regulation, supervision and examination by the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System (“FRB”) as a savings and loan holding company. In addition, Ameriprise Financial had previously elected to be classified as a financial holding company subject to regulation under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 (as amended), which election imposed certain restrictions on the activities of Ameriprise Financial and required both Ameriprise Financial and Ameriprise Bank to remain well capitalized, well managed and to have a sufficient standing under the Community Reinvestment Act. Following the conversion of Ameriprise Bank, Ameriprise Financial deregistered as a savings and loan holding company and is no longer subject to consolidated regulation or supervision by the FRB as such, nor is it subject to the additional FRB requirements applicable to financial holding companies.
Parent Company Regulation
Ameriprise Financial is a publicly traded company that is subject to SEC and New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) rules and regulations regarding public disclosure, financial reporting, internal controls and corporate governance. The adoption of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 as well as the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act have significantly enhanced these rules and regulations.
We have operations in a number of geographical regions outside of the U.S. through Threadneedle and certain of our other subsidiaries. We monitor developments in European Union (“EU”) legislation, as well as in the other markets in which we operate, to ensure that we comply with all applicable legal requirements, including EU directives applicable to financial institutions as implemented in the various member states. Because of the mix of business activities we conduct, we assess the impact of, and monitor our status under, the EU Financial Conglomerates Directive, which contemplates that certain financial conglomerates involved in banking, insurance and investment activities among other things, implement measures to prevent excessive leverage and multiple leveraging of capital and maintain internal control processes to address risk concentrations as well as risks arising from significant intragroup transactions.
Many aspects of our business are subject to comprehensive legal requirements by a multitude of different functional regulators concerning the use and protection of personal information, including client and employee information. This includes rules adopted pursuant to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, an ever increasing number of state laws, EU data protection legislation as domestically implemented in the respective EU member states, and data protection rules in the other regions outside the U.S. and the EU in which we operate. We have also implemented policies and procedures in response to such requirements. We continue our efforts to safeguard the data entrusted to us in accordance with applicable laws and our internal data protection policies, including taking steps to reduce the potential for identity theft or other improper use or disclosure of personal information, while seeking to collect only the data that is necessary to properly achieve our business objectives and to best serve our clients.
As the owner and operator of real property, we are subject to federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations. Inherent in owning and operating real property are the risks of environmental liabilities and the potential expenses for required clean-ups. We periodically conduct environmental reviews on our own real estate as well as investment real estate to assess and ensure our compliance with these laws and regulations.
USA Patriot Act
The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, commonly referred to as the USA Patriot Act, was enacted in October 2001 in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The USA Patriot Act broadened existing anti-money laundering legislation and the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the United States substantially. In response, we enhanced our existing anti-money laundering programs and developed new procedures and programs. For example, we implemented a customer identification program applicable to many of our businesses and enhanced our “know your customer” and “due diligence” programs. In addition, we will continue to comply with anti-money laundering legislation in the UK derived from applicable EU directives and international initiatives adopted in other jurisdictions in which we conduct business.
Securities Exchange Act Reports and Additional Information
We maintain an Investor Relations website at ir.ameriprise.com. Investors can also access the website through our main website at ameriprise.com by clicking on the “Investor Relations” link located at the bottom of our homepage. We use our Investor Relations website to announce financial and other information to investors and to make available SEC filings, press releases, public conference calls and webcasts. Investors and others interested in the company are encouraged to visit the investor relations website from time to time, as information is updated and new information is posted. The website also allows users to sign up for automatic notifications in the event new materials are posted. The information found on the website is not incorporated by reference into this report or in any other report or document the Company furnishes or files with the SEC.
Segment Information and Classes of Similar Services
You can find financial information about our operating segments and classes of similar services in Note 26 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
Our operations and financial results are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including those described below, that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations and could cause the trading price of our common stock to decline. We believe that the following information identifies the material factors affecting our company based on the information we currently know. However, the risks and uncertainties our company faces are not limited to those described below.
Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently believe to be immaterial may also adversely affect our business.
Risks Relating to Our Business and Operations
Our financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected by market fluctuations and by economic, political and other factors.
Our financial condition and results of operations may be materially affected by market fluctuations and by economic and other factors. Such factors, which can be global, national or local in nature, include: political, social, economic and market conditions; the availability and cost of capital; the level and volatility of equity prices, commodity prices and interest rates, currency values and other market indices; technological changes and events; U.S. and foreign government fiscal and tax policies; U.S. and foreign government ability, real or perceived, to avoid defaulting on government securities; the availability and cost of credit; inflation; investor sentiment and confidence in the financial markets; terrorism and armed conflicts; and natural disasters such as weather catastrophes and widespread health emergencies. Furthermore, changes in consumer economic variables, such as the number and size of personal bankruptcy filings, the rate of unemployment, decreases in property values, and the level of consumer confidence and consumer debt, may substantially affect consumer loan levels and credit quality, which, in turn, could impact client activity in all of our businesses. These factors also may have an impact on our ability to achieve our strategic objectives.
Declines and volatility in U.S. and global market conditions have impacted our businesses in the past and may do so again. Our businesses have been, and in the future may be, adversely affected by U.S. and global capital market and credit crises, the repricing of credit risk, equity market volatility and decline and stress or recession in the U.S. and global economies generally. Each of our segments operates in these markets with exposure for us and our clients in securities, loans, derivatives, alternative investments, seed capital and other commitments. It is difficult to predict when, how long and to what extent the aforementioned adverse conditions may exist, which of our markets, products and businesses will be directly affected in terms of revenues, management fees and investment valuations and earnings, and to what extent our clients may seek to bring claims arising out of investment performance that is affected by these conditions. As a result, these factors could materially adversely impact our financial condition and results of operations.
Our revenues are largely dependent upon the level and mix of assets we have under management and administration, which are subject to fluctuation based on market conditions and client activity. Downturns and volatility in equity markets can have, and have had, an adverse effect on the revenues and returns from our asset management services, retail advisory accounts and variable annuity contracts. Because the profitability of these products and services depends on fees related primarily to the value of assets under management, declines in the equity markets will reduce our revenues because the value of the investment assets we manage will be reduced. In addition, market downturns and volatility may cause, and have caused, potential new purchasers of our products to limit purchases of or to refrain from purchasing products such as mutual funds, OEICs, variable annuities and variable universal life insurance. Downturns may also cause current shareholders in our mutual funds, OEICs, SICAVs, unit trusts and investment trusts, contractholders in our annuity products and policyholders in our protection products to withdraw cash values from those products.
Some of our variable annuity products contain guaranteed minimum death benefits and guaranteed minimum withdrawal and accumulation benefits. A significant equity market decline or volatility in equity markets could result in guaranteed minimum benefits being higher than what current account values would support, which would adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. Although we have hedged a portion of the guarantees for the variable annuity contracts to mitigate the financial loss of equity market declines or volatility, there can be no assurance that such a decline or volatility would not materially impact the profitability of certain products or product lines or our financial condition or results of operations. Further, the cost of hedging our liability for these guarantees has increased as a result of low interest rates and volatility in the equity markets. In addition, heightened volatility creates greater uncertainty for future hedging effectiveness.
We believe that investment performance is an important factor in the success of many of our businesses. Poor investment performance could impair our revenues and earnings, as well as our prospects for growth. A significant portion of our revenue is derived from investment management agreements with the Columbia Management family of mutual funds that are terminable on 60 days’ notice. In addition, although some contracts governing investment management services are subject to termination for failure to meet performance benchmarks, institutional and individual clients can terminate their relationships with us or our financial advisors at will or on relatively short notice. Our clients can also reduce the aggregate amount of managed assets or shift their funds to other types of accounts with different rate structures, for any number of reasons, including investment performance, changes in prevailing interest rates, changes in investment preferences, changes in our (or our advisors’) reputation in the marketplace, changes in client management or ownership, loss of key investment management personnel and financial market performance. A reduction in managed assets, and the associated decrease in revenues and earnings, could have a material adverse effect on our business. Moreover, if our money market funds experience a decline in market value, we may choose to contribute capital to those funds without consideration, which would result in a loss.
During periods of unfavorable or stagnating market or economic conditions, the level of individual investor participation in the global markets may also decrease, which would negatively impact the results of our retail businesses. Concerns about current market and economic conditions, declining real estate values and decreased consumer confidence have caused, and in the future may cause,
some of our clients to reduce the amount of business they do with us. Fluctuations in global market activity could impact the flow of investment capital into or from assets under management and the way customers allocate capital among money market, equity, fixed maturity or other investment alternatives, which could negatively impact our Asset Management, Advice & Wealth Management and Annuities businesses. If we are unable to offer appropriate product alternatives which encourage customers to continue purchasing in the face of actual or perceived market volatility, our sales and management fee revenues could decline. Uncertain economic conditions and heightened market volatility may also increase the likelihood that clients or regulators present or threaten legal claims, that regulators may increase the frequency and scope of their examinations of us or the financial services industry generally, and that lawmakers may enact new requirements or taxation which can have a material impact on our revenues, expenses or statutory capital requirements.
Changes in interest rates and prolonged periods of low interest rates may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Certain of our insurance and annuity products and certain of our investment products are sensitive to interest rate fluctuations, and future impacts associated with such variations may differ from our historical costs. In addition, interest rate fluctuations could result in fluctuations in the valuation of certain minimum guaranteed benefits contained in some of our variable annuity products. Although we typically hedge to mitigate some of the effect of such fluctuations, significant changes in interest rates could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations.
During periods of increasing market interest rates, we offer higher crediting rates on interest-sensitive products, such as fixed universal life insurance, fixed annuities and face-amount certificates, and we increase crediting rates on in-force products to keep these products competitive. Because returns on invested assets may not increase as quickly as current interest rates, we may have to accept a lower spread and thus lower profitability or face a decline in sales and greater loss of existing contracts and related assets. In addition, increases in market interest rates may cause increased policy surrenders, withdrawals from life insurance policies and annuity contracts and requests for policy loans, as policyholders and contractholders seek to shift assets to products with perceived higher returns. This process may lead to an earlier than expected outflow of cash from our business. These withdrawals and surrenders may require investment assets to be sold at a time when the prices of those assets are lower because of the increase in market interest rates, which may result in realized investment losses. Also, increases in market interest rates may result in extension of certain cash flows from structured mortgage assets. Increases in crediting rates, as well as surrenders and withdrawals, could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. An increase in policy surrenders and withdrawals also may require us to accelerate amortization of deferred acquisition costs (“DAC”) or other intangibles or cause an impairment of goodwill, which would increase our expenses and reduce our net earnings.
During periods of falling interest rates or stagnancy of low interest rates, our spread may be reduced or could become negative, primarily because some of our products have guaranteed minimum crediting rates. Due to the long-term nature of the liabilities associated with certain of our businesses, such as long term care and fixed universal life with secondary guarantees as well as fixed annuities and guaranteed benefits on variable annuities, sustained declines in or stagnancy of low long-term interest rates may subject us to reinvestment risks and increased hedging costs. In addition, reduced or negative spreads may require us to accelerate amortization of DAC, which would increase our expenses and reduce our net earnings.
Interest rate fluctuations also could have an adverse effect on the results of our investment portfolio. During periods of declining market interest rates or stagnancy of low interest rates, the interest we receive on variable interest rate investments decreases. In addition, during those periods, we are forced to reinvest the cash we receive as interest or return of principal on our investments in lower-yielding high-grade instruments or in lower-credit instruments to maintain comparable returns. Issuers of certain callable fixed income securities also may decide to prepay their obligations in order to borrow at lower market rates which increases the risk that we may have to invest the cash proceeds of these securities in lower-yielding or lower-credit instruments.
Adverse capital and credit market conditions may significantly affect our ability to meet liquidity needs, our access to capital and our cost of capital.
The capital and credit markets may experience, and have experienced, varying degrees of volatility and disruption. In some cases, the markets have exerted downward pressure on availability of liquidity and credit capacity for certain issuers. We need liquidity to pay our operating expenses, interest expenses and dividends on our capital stock. Without sufficient liquidity, we could be required to curtail our operations and our business would suffer.
Our liquidity needs are satisfied primarily through our reserves and the cash generated by our operations. We believe the level of cash and securities we maintain when combined with expected cash inflows from investments and operations, is adequate to meet anticipated short-term and long-term benefit and expense payment obligations. In the event current resources are insufficient to satisfy our needs, we may access financing sources such as bank debt. The availability of additional financing would depend on a variety of factors such as market conditions, the general availability of credit, the volume of trading activities, the overall availability of credit to the financial services industry, our credit ratings and credit capacity, as well as the possibility that our shareholders, customers or lenders could develop a negative perception of our long- or short-term financial prospects if we incur large investment losses or if the
level of our business activity decreases due to a market downturn. Similarly, our access to funds may be rendered more costly or impaired if regulatory authorities or rating organizations take actions against us.
Disruptions, uncertainty or volatility in the capital and credit markets may also limit our access to capital required to operate our business. Such market conditions may limit our ability to satisfy statutory capital requirements, generate fee income and market-related revenue to meet liquidity needs and access the capital necessary to grow our business. As such, we may be forced to delay raising capital, issue different types of capital than we would otherwise, less effectively deploy such capital, or bear an unattractive cost of capital which could decrease our profitability and significantly reduce our financial flexibility.
A downgrade or a potential downgrade in our financial strength or credit ratings could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Financial strength ratings, which various ratings organizations publish as a measure of an insurance company’s ability to meet contractholder and policyholder obligations, are important to maintain public confidence in our products, the ability to market our products and our competitive position. A downgrade in our financial strength ratings, or the announced potential for a downgrade, could have a significant adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations in many ways, including: reducing new sales of insurance and annuity products and investment products; adversely affecting our relationships with our advisors and third-party distributors of our products; materially increasing the number or amount of policy surrenders and withdrawals by contractholders and policyholders; requiring us to reduce prices for many of our products and services to remain competitive; and adversely affecting our ability to obtain reinsurance or obtain reasonable pricing on reinsurance.
A downgrade in our credit ratings could also adversely impact our future cost and speed of borrowing and have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and liquidity.
In view of the difficulties experienced in recent years by many financial institutions, including our competitors in the insurance industry, the ratings organizations have heightened the level of scrutiny that they apply to such institutions and have requested additional information from the companies that they rate. They may increase the frequency and scope of their credit reviews, adjust upward the capital and other requirements employed in the ratings organizations’ models for maintenance of ratings levels, or downgrade ratings applied to particular classes of securities or types of institutions.
Ratings organizations may also become subject to tighter laws, regulations or scrutiny governing ratings, which may in turn impact ratings assigned to financial institutions.
We cannot predict what actions rating organizations may take, or what actions we may take in response to the actions of rating organizations, which could adversely affect our business. As with other companies in the financial services industry, our ratings could be changed at any time and without any notice by the ratings organizations.
Intense competition and the economics of changes in our product revenue mix and distribution channels could negatively impact our ability to maintain or increase our market share and profitability.
Our businesses operate in intensely competitive industry segments. We compete based on a number of factors, including name recognition, service, the quality of investment advice, investment performance, product offerings and features, price, perceived financial strength, claims-paying ability and credit ratings. Our competitors include broker-dealers, banks, asset managers, insurers and other financial institutions. Many of our businesses face competitors that have greater market share, offer a broader range of products, have greater financial resources, or have higher claims-paying ability or credit ratings than we do. Some of our competitors may possess or acquire intellectual property rights that could provide a competitive advantage to them in certain markets or for certain products, which could make it difficult for us to introduce new products and services. Some of our competitors’ proprietary products or technology could be similar to our own, and this could result in disputes that could impact our financial condition or results of operations. In addition, over time certain sectors of the financial services industry have become considerably more concentrated, as financial institutions involved in a broad range of financial services have been acquired by or merged into other firms. This convergence could result in our competitors gaining greater resources, and we may experience pressures on our pricing and market share as a result of these factors and as some of our competitors seek to increase market share by reducing prices.
The offerings available to our advisor network include not only products issued by our RiverSource Life companies, but also products issued by unaffiliated insurance companies. As a result of this and further openings of our advisor network to the products of other companies, we could experience lower sales of our companies’ products, higher surrenders, or other developments which might not be fully offset by higher distribution revenues or other benefits, possibly resulting in an adverse effect on our results of operations. In addition, some of our products, such as certain products of our Property Casualty companies, are made available through alliances with unaffiliated third parties. We could experience lower sales or incur higher distribution costs or other developments which could have an adverse effect on our results of operations if alliance relationships are discontinued or if the terms of our alliances change.
We face intense competition in attracting and retaining key talent.
Our continued success depends to a substantial degree on our ability to attract and retain qualified people. We are dependent on our network of advisors for a significant portion of the sales of our mutual funds, annuities, face-amount certificates and insurance products. In addition, the investment performance of our asset management products and services and the retention of our products
and services by our clients are dependent upon the strategies and decisioning of our portfolio managers and analysts. The market for these financial advisors and portfolio managers is extremely competitive, as are the markets for qualified and skilled executives and marketing, finance, legal, compliance and other professionals. If we are unable to attract and retain qualified individuals or our recruiting and retention costs increase significantly, our financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely impacted.
The impairment or negative performance of other financial institutions could adversely affect us.
We have exposure to many different industries and counterparties, and we routinely execute transactions with counterparties in the financial services industry, including broker-dealers, commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds, insurers, reinsurers, investment funds and other institutions. The operations of U.S. and global financial services institutions are interconnected and a decline in the financial condition of one or more financial services institutions may expose us to credit losses or defaults, limit our access to liquidity or otherwise disrupt the operations of our businesses. While we regularly assess our exposure to different industries and counterparties, the performance and financial strength of specific institutions are subject to rapid change, the timing and extent of which cannot be known.
Many transactions with and investments in the products and securities of other financial institutions expose us to credit risk in the event of default of our counterparty. With respect to secured transactions, our credit risk may be exacerbated when the collateral we hold cannot be realized upon or is liquidated at prices insufficient to recover the full amount of the loan or derivative exposure due to it. We also have exposure to financial institutions in the form of unsecured debt instruments, derivative transactions (including with respect to derivatives hedging our exposure on variable annuity contracts with guaranteed benefits), reinsurance, repurchase and underwriting arrangements and equity investments. There can be no assurance that any such losses or impairments to the carrying value of these assets would not materially and adversely impact our business and results of operations.
Downgrades in the credit or financial strength ratings assigned to the counterparties with whom we transact or other adverse reputational impacts to such counterparties could create the perception that our financial condition will be adversely impacted as a result of potential future defaults by such counterparties. Additionally, we could be adversely affected by a general, negative perception of financial institutions caused by the downgrade or other adverse impact to the reputation of other financial institutions. Accordingly, ratings downgrades or other adverse reputational impacts for other financial institutions could affect our market capitalization and could limit access to or increase our cost of capital.
A number of the products and services we make available to our clients are those offered by third parties, for which we may generate revenue based on the level of assets under management, the number of client transactions or otherwise. The poor performance of such products and services, or negative perceptions of the firms offering such products and services, may adversely impact our sales of such products and services and reduce our revenue. In addition, such failures or poor performance of products and services offered by other financial institutions could adversely impact consumer confidence in products and services that we offer. Negative perceptions of certain financial products and services, or the financial industry in general, may increase the number of withdrawals and redemptions or reduce purchases made by our clients, which would adversely impact the levels of our assets under management, revenues and liquidity position.
A drop in our investment performance as compared to that of our competitors could negatively impact our revenues and profitability.
Investment performance is a key competitive factor for our retail and institutional asset management products and services. Strong investment performance helps to ensure the retention of our products and services by our clients and creates new sales of products and services. It may also result in higher ratings by ratings services such as Morningstar or Lipper, which may compound the foregoing effects. Strong investment performance and its effects are important elements to our stated goals of growing assets under management and achieving economies of scale.
There can be no assurance as to how future investment performance will compare to our competitors or that historical performance will be indicative of future returns. Any drop or perceived drop in investment performance as compared to our competitors could cause a decline in sales of our mutual funds and other investment products, an increase in redemptions and the termination of institutional asset management relationships. These impacts may reduce our aggregate amount of assets under management and reduce management fees. Poor investment performance could also adversely affect our ability to expand the distribution of our products through unaffiliated third parties. Further, any drop in market share of mutual funds sales by our advisors may further reduce profits as sales of other companies’ mutual funds are less profitable than sales of our proprietary funds.
We may not be able to maintain our unaffiliated third-party distribution channels or the terms by which unaffiliated third parties sell our products.
We distribute certain of our investment products and fixed annuities through unaffiliated third-party advisors and financial institutions. Maintaining and deepening relationships with these unaffiliated distributors is an important part of our growth strategy, as strong third-party distribution arrangements enhance our ability to market our products and to increase our assets under management, revenues and profitability. There can be no assurance that the distribution relationships we have established will continue, as our distribution partners may cease to operate or otherwise terminate their relationship with us. Any such reduction in access to third-party distributors
may have a material adverse effect on our ability to market our products and to generate revenue in our Asset Management and Annuities segments.
Access to distribution channels is subject to intense competition due to the large number of competitors and products in the investment advisory and annuities industries. Relationships with distributors are subject to periodic negotiation that may result in increased distribution costs and/or reductions in the amount of our products marketed. Any increase in the costs to distribute our products or reduction in the type or amount of products made available for sale may have a material effect on our revenues and profitability.
We face risks arising from acquisitions and divestitures.
We have made acquisitions and divestitures in the past and may pursue similar strategic transactions in the future. Risks in acquisition transactions include difficulties in the integration of acquired businesses into our operations, difficulties in assimilating and retaining employees and intermediaries, difficulties in retaining the existing customers of the acquired entities, assumed or unforeseen liabilities that arise in connection with the acquired businesses, the failure of counterparties to satisfy any obligations to indemnify us against liabilities arising from the acquired businesses, and unfavorable market conditions that could negatively impact our growth expectations for the acquired businesses. Risks in divestiture transactions include difficulties in the separation of the disposed business, retention or obligation to indemnify certain liabilities, the failure of counterparties to satisfy payment obligations, unfavorable market conditions that may impact any earnout or contingency payment due to us and unexpected difficulties in losing employees of the disposed business. These risks may prevent us from realizing the expected benefits from acquisitions or divestitures and could result in the failure to realize the full economic value of a strategic transaction or the impairment of goodwill and/or intangible assets recognized at the time of an acquisition.
Third-party defaults, bankruptcy filings, legal actions and other events may limit the value of or restrict our access and our clients’ access to cash and investments.
Capital and credit market volatility can exacerbate, and has exacerbated, the risk of third-party defaults, bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, legal actions and other events that may limit the value of or restrict our access and our clients’ access to cash and investments. Although we are not required to do so, we have elected in the past, and we may elect in the future, to compensate clients for losses incurred in response to such events, provide clients with temporary credit or liquidity or other support related to products that we manage, or provide credit liquidity or other support to the financial products we manage. Any such election to provide support may arise from factors specific to our clients, our products or industry-wide factors. If we elect to provide additional support, we could incur losses from the support we provide and incur additional costs, including financing costs, in connection with the support. These losses and additional costs could be material and could adversely impact our results of operations. If we were to take such actions we may also restrict or otherwise utilize our corporate assets, limiting our flexibility to use these assets for other purposes, and may be required to raise additional capital.
Defaults in our fixed maturity securities portfolio or consumer credit holdings could adversely affect our earnings.
Issuers of the fixed maturity securities that we own may default on principal and interest payments. As of December 31, 2014, 6% of our invested assets had ratings below investment-grade. Moreover, economic downturns and corporate malfeasance can increase the number of companies, including those with investment-grade ratings, which default on their debt obligations. Default-related declines in the value of our fixed maturity securities portfolio or consumer credit holdings could cause our net earnings to decline and could also cause us to contribute capital to some of our regulated subsidiaries, which may require us to obtain funding during periods of unfavorable market conditions.
Our valuation of fixed maturity and equity securities may include methodologies, estimations and assumptions which are subject to differing interpretations and could result in changes to investment valuations that may materially adversely impact our results of operations or financial condition.
Fixed maturity, equity, trading securities and short-term investments, which are reported at fair value on the consolidated balance sheets, represent the majority of our total cash and invested assets. The determination of fair values by management in the absence of quoted market prices is based on: (i) valuation methodologies; (ii) securities we deem to be comparable; and (iii) assumptions deemed appropriate given the circumstances. The fair value estimates are made at a specific point in time, based on available market information and judgments about financial instruments, including estimates of the timing and amounts of expected future cash flows and the credit standing of the issuer or counterparty. Factors considered in estimating fair value include: coupon rate, maturity, estimated duration, call provisions, sinking fund requirements, credit rating, industry sector of the issuer, interest rates, credit spreads, and quoted market prices of comparable securities. The use of different methodologies and assumptions may have a material effect on the estimated fair value amounts.
During periods of market disruption, including periods of significantly rising or high interest rates and rapidly widening credit spreads or illiquidity, it may be difficult to value certain of our securities. There may be certain asset classes that were in active markets with significant observable data that become illiquid due to the financial environment. In such cases, the valuation of certain securities may require additional subjectivity and management judgment. As such, valuations may include inputs and assumptions that are less observable or require greater estimation as well as valuation methods that are more sophisticated or require greater estimation, thereby resulting in values which may be less than the value at which the investments may be ultimately sold. Further, rapidly changing and
unexpected credit and equity market conditions could materially impact the valuation of securities as reported within our consolidated financial statements and the period-to-period changes in value could vary significantly. Decreases in value may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
The determination of the amount of allowances and impairments taken on certain investments is subject to management’s evaluation and judgment and could materially impact our results of operations or financial position.
The determination of the amount of allowances and impairments vary by investment type and is based upon our periodic evaluation and assessment of inherent and known risks associated with the respective asset class. Such evaluations and assessments are revised as conditions change and new information becomes available. Management updates its evaluations regularly and reflects changes in allowances and impairments in operations as such evaluations are revised. Historical trends may not be indicative of future impairments or allowances.
The assessment of whether impairments have occurred is based on management’s case-by-case evaluation of the underlying reasons for the decline in fair value that considers a wide range of factors about the security issuer or borrower, and management uses its best judgment in evaluating the cause of the decline in the estimated fair value of the security or loan and in assessing the prospects for recovery. Inherent in management’s evaluation of the security or loan are assumptions and estimates about the operations of the issuer and its future earnings potential.
Some of our investments are relatively illiquid.
We invest a portion of our owned assets in certain privately placed fixed income securities, mortgage loans, policy loans and limited partnership interests, all of which are relatively illiquid. These asset classes represented 18% of the carrying value of our investment portfolio as of December 31, 2014. If we require significant amounts of cash on short notice in excess of our normal cash requirements, we may have difficulty selling these investments in a timely manner or be forced to sell them for an amount less than we would otherwise have been able to realize, or both, which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
The failure of other insurers could require us to pay higher assessments to state insurance guaranty funds.
Our insurance companies are required by law to be members of the guaranty fund association in every state where they are licensed to do business. In the event of insolvency of one or more unaffiliated insurance companies, our insurance companies could be adversely affected by the requirement to pay assessments to the guaranty fund associations. Uncertainty and volatility in the U.S. economy and financial markets in recent years, plus the repercussions of a heightened regulatory environment, have weakened or may weaken the financial condition of numerous insurers, including insurers currently in receiverships, increasing the risk of triggering guaranty fund assessments. For more information regarding assessments from guaranty fund associations, see Note 23 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
If the counterparties to our reinsurance arrangements or to the derivative instruments we use to hedge our business risks default, we may be exposed to risks we had sought to mitigate, which could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
We use reinsurance to mitigate our risks in various circumstances as described in Item 1 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K - “Business - Our Segments - Protection - Reinsurance.” Reinsurance does not relieve us of our direct liability to our policyholders and contractholders, even when the reinsurer is liable to us. Accordingly, we bear credit and performance risk with respect to our reinsurers. A reinsurer’s insolvency or its inability or unwillingness to make payments under the terms of our reinsurance agreement could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. See Notes 2 and 7 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
In addition, we use a variety of derivative instruments (including options, forwards, and interest rate and currency swaps) with a number of counterparties to hedge business risks. The amount and breadth of exposure to derivative counterparties, as well as the cost of derivative instruments, have increased significantly in connection with our strategies to hedge guaranteed benefit obligations under our variable annuity products. If our counterparties fail to honor their obligations under the derivative instruments in a timely manner, our hedges of the related risk will be ineffective. That failure could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. This risk of failure of our hedge transactions from counterparty default may be increased by capital market volatility.
If our reserves for future policy benefits and claims or for future certificate redemptions and maturities are inadequate, we may be required to increase our reserve liabilities, which would adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
We establish reserves as estimates of our liabilities to provide for future obligations under our insurance policies, annuities and investment certificate contracts. Reserves do not represent an exact calculation but, rather, are estimates of contract benefits and related expenses we expect to incur over time. The assumptions and estimates we make in establishing reserves require certain judgments about future experience and, therefore, are inherently uncertain. We cannot determine with precision the actual amounts that we will pay for contract benefits, the timing of payments, or whether the assets supporting our stated reserves will increase to the levels we estimate before payment of benefits or claims. We monitor our reserve levels continually. If we were to conclude that our
reserves are insufficient to cover actual or expected contract benefits, we would be required to increase our reserves and incur income statement charges for the period in which we make the determination, which would adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. For more information on how we set our reserves, see Note 2 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Morbidity rates, mortality rates or the severity or frequency of other insurance claims that differ significantly from our pricing expectations could negatively affect profitability.
We set prices for RiverSource life insurance and some annuity products based upon expected claim payment patterns, derived from assumptions we make about our policyholders and contractholders, including morbidity and mortality rates. The long-term profitability of these products depends upon how our actual experience compares with our pricing assumptions. For example, if morbidity rates are higher, or mortality rates are lower, than our pricing assumptions, we could be required to make greater payments under disability income insurance policies, chronic care riders and immediate annuity contracts than we had projected. The same holds true for long term care policies we previously underwrote to the extent of the risks that we retained. If mortality rates are higher than our pricing assumptions, we could be required to make greater payments under our life insurance policies and annuity contracts with guaranteed minimum death benefits than we have projected.
The risk that our claims experience may differ significantly from our pricing assumptions is particularly significant for our long term care insurance products notwithstanding our ability to implement future price increases with regulatory approvals. As with life insurance, long term care insurance policies provide for long-duration coverage and, therefore, our actual claims experience will emerge over many years. However, as a relatively new product in the market, long term care insurance does not have the extensive claims experience history of life insurance and, as a result, our ability to forecast future claim rates for long term care insurance is more limited than for life insurance. We have sought to moderate these uncertainties to some extent by partially reinsuring long term care policies at the time the policies were underwritten and by limiting our present long term care insurance offerings to policies underwritten fully by unaffiliated third-party insurers, and we have also implemented rate increases on certain in-force policies as described in Item 1 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K - “Business - Our Segments - Protection - RiverSource Insurance Products - Long Term Care Insurance.” We may be required to implement additional rate increases in the future and may or may not receive regulatory approval for the full extent and timing of any rate increases that we may seek.
Unexpected changes in the severity or frequency of claims may affect the profitability of our Property and Casualty business. Recorded claim reserves in the Property & Casualty business are based on our best estimates of losses, both reported and incurred but not reported claims reserves ("IBNR"), after considering known facts and interpretations of circumstances. Internal factors are considered including our experience with similar cases, actual claims paid, historical trends involving claim payment patterns, pending levels of unpaid claims, loss management programs, product mix and contractual terms. External factors are also considered, such as court decisions and changes in law, regulatory requirements, litigation trends, and price levels of medical services, auto and home repairs, and other economic conditions. Because reserves are estimates of the unpaid portion of losses that have occurred, including IBNR losses, the establishment of appropriate reserves, including reserves for catastrophes, is an inherently uncertain and complex process. Increases in claim severity or frequency can also arise from unexpected events that are inherently difficult to predict. Although we pursue various loss management initiatives in our Property and Casualty business in order to mitigate future increases in claim severity, there can be no assurances that these initiatives will successfully identify or reduce the effect of future increases in claim severity or frequency. To address adverse claims trends we may seek additional rate increases for our Property and Casualty business in the future and may or may not receive regulatory approval for the full extent and timing of any rate increases that we may seek.
We may face losses if there are significant deviations from our assumptions regarding the future persistency of our insurance policies and annuity contracts.
The prices and expected future profitability of our life insurance and deferred annuity products are based in part upon assumptions related to persistency, which is the probability that a policy or contract will remain in force from one period to the next. Economic and market dislocations may occur and future consumer persistency behaviors could vary materially from the past. The effect of persistency on profitability varies for different products. For most of our life insurance and deferred annuity products, actual persistency that is lower than our persistency assumptions could have an adverse impact on profitability, especially in the early years of a policy or contract, primarily because we would be required to accelerate the amortization of expenses we deferred in connection with the acquisition of the policy or contract.
For our long term care insurance and universal life insurance policies with secondary guarantees, as well as variable annuities with guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefits, actual persistency that is higher than our persistency assumptions could have a negative impact on profitability. If these policies remain in force longer than we assumed, we could be required to make greater benefit payments than we had anticipated when we priced or partially reinsured these products. Some of our long term care insurance policies have experienced higher persistency and poorer loss experience than we had assumed, which led us to increase premium rates on certain policies.
Because our assumptions regarding persistency experience are inherently uncertain, reserves for future policy benefits and claims may prove to be inadequate if actual persistency experience is different from those assumptions. Although some of our products permit us to increase premiums during the life of the policy or contract, we cannot guarantee that these increases would be sufficient to maintain profitability. Additionally, some of these pricing changes require regulatory approval, which may not be forthcoming. Moreover, many of our products do not permit us to increase premiums or limit those increases during the life of the policy or contract, while premiums on certain other products (primarily long term care insurance) may not be increased without prior regulatory approval. Significant deviations in experience from pricing expectations regarding persistency could have an adverse effect on the profitability of our products.
We may be required to accelerate the amortization of DAC, which would increase our expenses and reduce profitability.
DAC represent the portion of costs which are incremental and direct to the acquisition of new or renewal business, principally direct sales commissions and other distribution and underwriting costs that have been deferred on the sale of annuity, life and disability income insurance and, to a lesser extent, direct marketing expenses for personal auto and home insurance, and distribution expenses for certain mutual fund products. For annuity and universal life products, DAC are amortized based on projections of estimated gross profits over amortization periods equal to the approximate life of the business. For other insurance products, DAC are generally amortized as a percentage of premiums over amortization periods equal to the premium-paying period. For certain mutual fund products, we generally amortize DAC over fixed periods on a straight-line basis, adjusted for redemptions.
Our projections underlying the amortization of DAC require the use of certain assumptions, including interest margins, mortality rates, persistency rates, maintenance expense levels and customer asset value growth rates for variable products. We periodically review and, where appropriate, adjust our assumptions. When we change our assumptions, we may be required to accelerate the amortization of DAC or to record a charge to increase benefit reserves.
For more information regarding DAC, see Part II, Item 7 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K under the heading “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Critical Accounting Policies - Deferred Acquisition Costs and Deferred Sales Inducement Costs” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Recent Accounting Pronouncements.”
Misconduct by our employees and advisors is difficult to detect and deter and could harm our business, results of operations or financial condition.
Misconduct by our employees and advisors could result in violations of law, regulatory sanctions and/or serious reputational or financial harm. Misconduct can occur in each of our businesses and could include: binding us to transactions that exceed authorized limits; hiding unauthorized or unsuccessful activities resulting in unknown and unmanaged risks or losses; improperly using, disclosing or otherwise compromising confidential information; recommending transactions that are not suitable; engaging in fraudulent or otherwise improper activity, including the misappropriation of funds; engaging in unauthorized or excessive trading to the detriment of customers; or otherwise not complying with laws, regulations or our control procedures.
We cannot always deter misconduct by our employees and advisors, and the precautions we take to prevent and detect this activity may not be effective in all cases. Preventing and detecting misconduct among our franchisee advisors who are not employees of our company present additional challenges. We cannot also assure that misconduct by our employees and advisors will not lead to a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations or financial condition.
A failure to protect our reputation could adversely affect our businesses.
Our reputation is one of our most important assets. Our ability to attract and retain customers, investors, employees and advisors is highly dependent upon external perceptions of our company. Damage to our reputation could cause significant harm to our business and prospects and may arise from numerous sources, including litigation or regulatory actions, failing to deliver minimum standards of service and quality, compliance failures, any perceived or actual weakness in our financial strength or liquidity, technological, cybersecurity, or other security breaches resulting in improper disclosure of client or employee personal information, unethical behavior and the misconduct of our employees, advisors and counterparties. Negative perceptions or publicity regarding these matters could damage our reputation among existing and potential customers, investors, employees and advisors. Adverse developments with respect to our industry may also, by association, negatively impact our reputation or result in greater regulatory or legislative scrutiny or litigation against us.
Our reputation is also dependent on our continued identification of and mitigation against conflicts of interest. As we have expanded the scope of our businesses and our client base, we increasingly have to identify and address potential conflicts of interest, including those relating to our proprietary activities and those relating to our sales of non-proprietary products from manufacturers that have agreed to provide us marketing, sales and account maintenance support. For example, conflicts may arise between our position as a provider of financial planning services and as a manufacturer and/or distributor or broker of asset accumulation, income or insurance products that one of our advisors may recommend to a financial planning client. We have procedures and controls that are designed to identify, address and appropriately disclose perceived conflicts of interest. However, identifying and appropriately addressing conflicts of interest is complex, and our reputation could be damaged if we fail, or appear to fail, to address conflicts of interest appropriately.
In addition, the SEC and other federal and state regulators have increased their scrutiny of potential conflicts of interest. It is possible that potential or perceived conflicts could give rise to litigation or enforcement actions. It is possible also that the regulatory scrutiny of, and litigation in connection with, conflicts of interest will make our clients less willing to enter into transactions in which such a conflict may occur, and will adversely affect our businesses.
Our operational systems and networks have been, and will continue to be, subject to evolving cybersecurity or other technological risks, which could result in the disclosure of confidential client information, loss of our proprietary information, damage to our reputation, additional costs to us, regulatory penalties and other adverse impacts.
Our business is reliant upon internal and third party technology systems and networks to process, transmit and store information, including sensitive client and proprietary information, and to conduct many of our business activities and transactions with our clients, advisors, vendors and other third parties. Maintaining the integrity of these systems and networks is critical to the success of our business operations, including the retention of our advisors and clients, and to the protection of our proprietary information and our clients’ personal information. To date, we have not experienced any material breaches of or interference with our systems and networks, however, we routinely encounter and address such threats. For example, in 2014 we and other financial institutions experienced distributed denial of service attacks intended to disrupt our clients’ online access. While we were able to detect and respond to these incidents without loss of client assets or information, we have since implemented additional security capabilities and will continue to assess our ability to monitor and respond to such threats. In addition to the foregoing, our experiences with cybersecurity and technology threats have included phishing scams, introductions of malware, attempts at electronic break-ins, and unauthorized payment requests. Any such breaches or interference by third parties or by our advisors or employees that may occur in the future could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We are subject to international, federal and state regulations, and in some cases contractual obligations, that require us to establish and maintain policies and procedures designed to protect sensitive client, employee, contractor and vendor information. We have implemented and maintain security measures designed to protect against breaches of security and other interference with our systems and networks resulting from attacks by third parties, including hackers, and from employee or advisor error or malfeasance. We also contractually require third-party vendors who, in the provision of services to us are provided with or process information pertaining to our business or our clients, to meet certain information security standards. Changes in our client base, the mix of assets under management or administration and business model or technology platform changes, such as an evolution to accommodate mobile computing, virtual interface and multi-device functionality, may also require corresponding changes in our systems, networks and data security measures. In addition, the increasing reliance on technology systems and networks and the occurrence and potential adverse impact of attacks on such systems and networks, both generally and in the financial services industry, have enhanced government and regulatory scrutiny of the measures taken by companies to protect against cybersecurity threats. As these threats, and government and regulatory oversight of associated risks, continue to evolve, we may be required to expend additional resources to enhance or expand upon the security measures we currently maintain.
Despite the measures we have taken and may in the future take to address and mitigate cybersecurity and technology risks, we cannot assure that our systems and networks will not be subject to breaches or interference. Any such event may result in operational disruptions as well as unauthorized access to or the disclosure or loss of our proprietary information or our clients’ personal information, which in turn may result in legal claims, regulatory scrutiny and liability, reputational damage, the incurrence of costs to eliminate or mitigate further exposure, the loss of clients or advisors or other damage to our business. While we maintain cyber liability insurance that provides both third-party liability and first-party liability coverages, this insurance may not be sufficient to protect us against all losses. In addition, the trend toward broad consumer and general public notification of such incidents could exacerbate the harm to our business, financial condition or results of operations. Even if we successfully protect our technology infrastructure and the confidentiality of sensitive data, we may incur significant expenses in connection with our responses to any such attacks as well as the adoption, implementation and maintenance of appropriate security measures. We could also suffer harm to our business and reputation if attempted security breaches are publicized. We cannot be certain that advances in criminal capabilities, discovery of new vulnerabilities, attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in our systems, data thefts, physical system or network break-ins or inappropriate access, or other developments will not compromise or breach the technology or other security measures protecting the networks and systems used in connection with our business.
Protection from system interruptions and operating errors is important to our business. If we experience a sustained interruption to our telecommunications or data processing systems, or other failure in operational execution, it could harm our business.
Operating errors and system or network interruptions could delay and disrupt our ability to develop, deliver or maintain our products and services, causing harm to our business and reputation and resulting in loss of our advisors, clients or revenue. Interruptions could be caused by operational failures arising from employee or advisor error or malfeasance, interference by third parties, including hackers, our implementation of new technology, as well as from our maintenance of existing technology. Our financial, accounting, data processing or other operating systems and facilities may fail to operate or report data properly, experience connectivity disruptions or otherwise become disabled as a result of events that are wholly or partially beyond our control, adversely affecting our ability to process transactions or provide products and services to our clients. These interruptions can include fires, floods, earthquakes
and other natural disasters, power losses, equipment failures, attacks by third parties, failures of internal or vendor software or systems and other events beyond our control.
We rely on third-party service providers and vendors for certain communications, technology and business functions, and we face the risk of operational failure (including, without limitation, failure caused by an inaccuracy, untimeliness or other deficiency in data reporting), termination or capacity constraints of any of the clearing agents, exchanges, clearing houses or other third-party service providers that we use to facilitate or are component providers to our securities transactions and other product manufacturing and distribution activities. These risks are heightened by our deployment in response to both investor interest and evolution in the financial markets of increasingly sophisticated products, such as those which incorporate automatic asset re-allocation, long/short trading strategies or multiple portfolios or funds, and business-driven hedging, compliance and other risk management or investment or financial management strategies. Any such failure, termination or constraint could adversely impact our ability to effect transactions, service our clients, manage our exposure to risk, or otherwise achieve desired outcomes.
Risk management policies and procedures may not be fully effective in identifying or mitigating risk exposure in all market environments or against all types of risk, including employee and financial advisor misconduct.
We have devoted significant resources to develop our risk management policies and procedures and will continue to do so. Nonetheless, our policies and procedures to identify, monitor and manage risks may not be fully effective in mitigating our risk exposure in all market environments or against all types of risk. Many of our methods of managing risk and exposures are based upon our use of observed historical market behavior or statistics based on historical models. During periods of market volatility or due to unforeseen events, the historically derived correlations upon which these methods are based may not be valid. As a result, these methods may not predict future exposures accurately, which could be significantly greater than what our models indicate. This could cause us to incur investment losses or cause our hedging and other risk management strategies to be ineffective. Other risk management methods depend upon the evaluation of information regarding markets, clients, catastrophe occurrence or other matters that are publicly available or otherwise accessible to us, which may not always be accurate, complete, up-to-date or properly evaluated.
Moreover, we are subject to the risks of errors and misconduct by our employees and advisors, such as fraud, non-compliance with policies, recommending transactions that are not suitable, and improperly using or disclosing confidential information. These risks are difficult to detect in advance and deter, and could harm our business, results of operations or financial condition. We are further subject to the risk of nonperformance or inadequate performance of contractual obligations by third-party vendors of products and services that are used in our businesses. Management of operational, legal and regulatory risks requires, among other things, policies and procedures to record properly and verify a large number of transactions and events, and these policies and procedures may not be fully effective in mitigating our risk exposure in all market environments or against all types of risk. Insurance and other traditional risk-shifting tools may be held by or available to us in order to manage certain exposures, but they are subject to terms such as deductibles, coinsurance, limits and policy exclusions, as well as risk of counterparty denial of coverage, default or insolvency.
As a holding company, we depend on the ability of our subsidiaries to transfer funds to us to pay dividends and to meet our obligations.
We act as a holding company for our subsidiaries, through which substantially all of our operations are conducted. Dividends from our subsidiaries and permitted payments to us under our intercompany arrangements with our subsidiaries are our principal sources of cash to pay shareholder dividends and to meet our other financial obligations. These obligations include our operating expenses and interest and principal on our borrowings. If the cash we receive from our subsidiaries pursuant to dividend payment and intercompany arrangements is insufficient for us to fund any of these obligations, we may be required to raise cash through the incurrence of additional debt, the issuance of additional equity or the sale of assets. If any of this happens, it could adversely impact our financial condition and results of operations.
Insurance and securities laws and regulations regulate the ability of many of our subsidiaries (such as our insurance and brokerage subsidiaries and our face-amount certificate company) to pay dividends or make other permitted payments. See Item 1 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K - “Regulation” as well as the information contained in Part II, Item 7 under the heading “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Liquidity and Capital Resources.” In addition to the various regulatory restrictions that constrain our subsidiaries’ ability to pay dividends or make other permitted payments to our company, the rating organizations impose various capital requirements on our company and our insurance company subsidiaries in order for us to maintain our ratings and the ratings of our insurance subsidiaries. The value of assets on the company-level balance sheets of our subsidiaries is a significant factor in determining these restrictions and capital requirements. As asset values decline, our and our subsidiaries’ ability to pay dividends or make other permitted payments can be reduced. Additionally, the various asset classes held by our subsidiaries, and used in determining required capital levels, are weighted differently or are restricted as to the proportion in which they may be held depending upon their liquidity, credit risk and other factors. Volatility in relative asset values among different asset classes can alter the proportion of our subsidiaries’ holdings in those classes, which could increase required capital and constrain our and our subsidiaries’ ability to pay dividends or make other permitted payments. The regulatory capital requirements and dividend-paying ability of our subsidiaries may also be affected by a change in the mix of products sold by such subsidiaries. For example, fixed annuities typically require more capital than variable annuities, and an increase in the proportion of fixed annuities sold
in relation to variable annuities could increase the regulatory capital requirements of our life insurance subsidiaries. This may reduce the dividends or other permitted payments which could be made from those subsidiaries in the near term without the rating organizations viewing this negatively. Further, the capital requirements imposed upon our subsidiaries may be impacted by heightened regulatory scrutiny and intervention, which could negatively affect our and our subsidiaries’ ability to pay dividends or make other permitted payments. Additionally, in the past we have found it necessary to provide support to certain of our subsidiaries in order to maintain adequate capital for regulatory or other purposes and we may provide such support in the future. The provision of such support could adversely affect our excess capital, liquidity, and the dividends or other permitted payments received from our subsidiaries.
The operation of our business in foreign markets and our investments in non-U.S. denominated securities and investment products subjects us to exchange rate and other risks in connection with earnings and income generated overseas.
While we are a U.S.-based company, a significant portion of our business operations occurs outside of the U.S. and some of our investments are not denominated in U.S. dollars. As a result, we are exposed to certain foreign currency exchange risks that could reduce U.S. dollar equivalent earnings as well as negatively impact our general account and other proprietary investment portfolios. Appreciation of the U.S. dollar could unfavorably affect net income from foreign operations, the value of non-U.S. dollar denominated investments and investments in foreign subsidiaries. In comparison, depreciation of the U.S. dollar could positively affect our net income from foreign operations and the value of non-U.S. dollar denominated investments, though such depreciation could also diminish investor, creditor and rating organizations’ perceptions of our company compared to peer companies that have a relatively greater proportion of foreign operations or investments.
We may seek to mitigate these risks by employing various hedging strategies including entering into derivative contracts. Currency fluctuations, including the effect of changes in the value of U.S. dollar denominated investments that vary from the amounts ultimately needed to hedge our exposure to changes in the U.S. dollar equivalent of earnings and equity of these operations, may adversely affect our results of operations, cash flows or financial condition.
The occurrence of natural or man-made disasters and catastrophes could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
The occurrence of natural disasters and catastrophes, including earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires, blackout, severe winter weather, explosions, pandemic disease and man-made disasters, including acts of terrorism, insurrections and military actions, could adversely affect our results of operations or financial condition. Such disasters and catastrophes may damage our facilities, preventing our employees and financial advisors from performing their roles or otherwise disturbing our ordinary business operations and by impacting insurance claims, as described below. These impacts could be particularly severe to the extent they affect our computer-based data processing, transmission, storage and retrieval systems and destroy or release valuable data. Such disasters and catastrophes may also impact us indirectly by changing the condition and behaviors of our customers, business counterparties and regulators, as well as by causing declines or volatility in the economic and financial markets.
The potential effects of natural and man-made disasters and catastrophes on certain of our businesses include but are not limited to the following: a catastrophic loss of life may materially increase the amount of or accelerate the timing in which benefits are paid under our insurance policies; significant widespread property damage may materially increase the amount of claims submitted under our property casualty insurance policies; an increase in claims and any resulting increase in claims reserves caused by a disaster may harm the financial condition of our reinsurers, thereby impacting the cost and availability of reinsurance and the probability of default on reinsurance recoveries; and declines and volatility in the financial markets may decrease the value of our assets under management and administration, which could harm our financial condition and reduce our management fees.
We cannot predict the timing and frequency with which natural and man-made disasters and catastrophes may occur, nor can we predict the impact that changing climate conditions may have on the frequency and severity of natural disasters or on overall economic stability and sustainability. As such, we cannot be sure that our actions to identify and mitigate the risks associated with such disasters and catastrophes, including predictive modeling, establishing liabilities for expected claims, acquiring insurance and reinsurance and developing business continuity plans, will be effective.
Legal, Regulatory and Tax Risks
Legal and regulatory actions are inherent in our businesses and could result in financial losses or harm our businesses.
We are, and in the future may be, subject to legal and regulatory actions in the ordinary course of our operations, both domestically and internationally. Actions brought against us may result in awards, settlements, penalties, injunctions or other adverse results, including reputational damage. In addition, we may incur significant expenses in connection with our defense against such actions regardless of their outcome. Various regulatory and governmental bodies have the authority to review our products and business practices and those of our employees and independent financial advisors and to bring regulatory or other legal actions against us if, in their view, our practices, or those of our employees or advisors, are improper. Pending legal and regulatory actions include proceedings relating to aspects of our businesses and operations that are specific to us and proceedings that are typical of the industries and businesses in which we operate. Some of these proceedings have been brought on behalf of various alleged classes of complainants. In certain of these matters, the plaintiffs are seeking large and/or indeterminate amounts, including punitive or
exemplary damages. See Item 3 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K - “Legal Proceedings.” In or as a result of turbulent times, the volume of claims and amount of damages sought in litigation and regulatory proceedings generally increase.
Our businesses are regulated heavily, and changes to the laws and regulations applicable to our businesses may have an adverse effect on our operations, reputation and financial condition.
Virtually all aspects of our business, including the activities of our parent company and our various subsidiaries, are subject to various federal, state and international laws and regulations. For a discussion of the regulatory framework in which we operate, see Item 1 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K - “Business - Regulation.” Compliance with these applicable laws and regulations is time-consuming and personnel-intensive, and we have invested and will continue to invest substantial resources to ensure compliance by our parent company and our subsidiaries, directors, officers, employees, registered representatives and agents. Any enforcement actions, investigations or other proceedings brought against us or our subsidiaries, directors, employees or advisors by our regulators may result in fines, injunctions or other disciplinary actions that could harm our reputation or impact our results of operations. Further, any changes to the laws and regulations applicable to our businesses, as well as changes to the interpretation and enforcement of such laws and regulations, may affect our operations and financial condition. Such changes may impact our operations and profitability and the practices of our advisors, including with respect to the scope of products and services provided, the manner in which products and services are marketed and sold and the incurrence of additional costs of doing business. Ongoing changes to regulation and oversight of the financial industry may produce results, the full impact of which cannot be immediately ascertained. In addition, we expect the worldwide demographic trend of population aging will cause policymakers to continue to focus on the framework of U.S. and non-U.S. retirement systems, which may drive additional changes regarding the manner in which individuals plan for and fund their retirement, the extent of government involvement in retirement savings and funding, the regulation of retirement products and services and the oversight of industry participants. Any incremental requirements, costs and risks imposed on us in connection with such current or future legislative or regulatory changes may constrain our ability to market our products and services to potential customers, and could negatively impact our profitability and make it more difficult for us to pursue our growth strategy.
Certain examples of legislative and regulatory changes that may impact our businesses are described below.
Some of the changes resulting from rules and regulations called for under the Dodd-Frank Act could present operational challenges and increase costs. For example, in the area of derivatives, higher margin and capital requirements, coupled with more restrictive collateral rules, could impact our ability to effectively manage and hedge risk. Ultimately these complexities and increased costs could have an impact on our ability to offer cost-effective and innovative insurance products to our clients.
As a result of our deregistration as a savings and loan holding company, we are no longer subject to regulation, supervision and examination as such by the Board of Governors for the FRB. However, the Dodd-Frank Act authorizes the Financial Stability Oversight Committee (“FSOC”) to designate certain non-bank institutions as systemically important financial institutions subject to regulation as such by the FRB. In the event we are so designated in the future, we would again be subject to enhanced supervision and prudential standards, including requirements related to risk-based capital, leverage, liquidity, credit exposure, stress-testing, resolution plans, early remediation, and certain risk management requirements. Any such designation could cause us to alter our business practices or otherwise adversely impact our results of operation.
In September 2013, at the FSOC’s request, the OFR issued a report entitled “Asset Management and Financial Stability” discussing whether the asset-management industry of selected firms should be subject to enhanced prudential standards and functional supervision. Although the report remains under significant scrutiny, the scope of the FSOC’s focus on the asset management industry continues to evolve, and our asset management businesses are currently under the illustrative assets under management thresholds mentioned in the report as possible triggers for increased supervision, potential impacts on our asset management businesses could include additional reporting requirements, redemption restrictions, imposition of standardized risk management practices, imposition of securities lending and cash collateral reinvestment practices, personnel compensation restrictions, and consolidated supervision of asset managers and their parent companies, any of which could adversely affect our results of operations.
Any mandated reductions or restructuring of the fees we charge for our products and services resulting from regulatory initiatives or proceedings could reduce our revenues and earnings. In the years ended December 31, 2014, 2013, and 2012, we earned $1.9 billion, $1.8 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively, in distribution fees. Our own Columbia Management family of mutual funds paid a significant portion of these revenues to us in accordance with plans and agreements of distribution adopted under Rule 12b-1 promulgated under the Investment Company Act. We believe that these fees are a critical element in the distribution of our own mutual funds. The SEC has in the past and could again propose measures that would establish a new framework to repeal Rule 12b-1. Any industry-wide reduction or restructuring of Rule 12b-1 fees, or other servicing fees, could have a material adverse effect on our ability to distribute our own mutual funds and the fees we receive for distributing other companies’ mutual funds, which could, in turn, have a material adverse effect on our revenues and earnings.
The Department of Labor continues to pursue regulations seeking to change the definition of who is an investment advice fiduciary under ERISA and how such advice can be provided to account holders in 401(k) plans and IRAs. These regulations are expected to focus on conflicts of interest related to recommendations made by financial advisors to clients holding qualified accounts and also on how financial advisors are able to solicit IRA rollovers. Qualified accounts, specifically IRAs, make up a significant portion of our
assets under management and administration. These proposed regulations will again be subject to a public comment period upon their release. We cannot predict whether or when the regulations may be finalized, or how any final regulations may differ from the previously proposed regulations. If the regulations were to be issued with provisions substantially similar to those of previous drafts, they could impact how we receive fees, how we compensate our advisors, how we are able to retain advisors, and how we design our investments and services for qualified accounts, any of which could negatively impact our results of operations.
Our insurance companies are subject to state regulation and must comply with statutory reserve and capital requirements. State regulators, as well as the NAIC, continually review and update these requirements and other requirements relating to the business operations of insurance companies, including their underwriting and sales practices and their use of affiliated captive insurers. Changes in these requirements that are made for the benefit of the consumer sometimes lead to additional expense for the insurer and, thus, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. In December 2012, the NAIC adopted a new reserve valuation manual that applies principles-based reserve standards to life insurance products. The valuation manual becomes the effective reserve valuation method when adopted by 42 jurisdictions that account for at least 75% of U.S. insurance premiums combined. To date, 20 states have adopted the valuation manual. The requirement for principles-based life insurance reserves may result in statutory reserves being more sensitive to changes in interest rates, policyholder behavior and other market factors. It is not possible at this time to estimate the potential impact of future changes in statutory reserve and capital requirements on our insurance businesses. Further, we cannot predict the effect that proposed federal legislation, such as the option of federally chartered insurers or a mandated federal systemic risk regulator, or future initiatives of the FIO within the Department of the Treasury, may have on our insurance businesses or competitors. For additional discussion on the role and activities of the FIO, see the information provided under the heading “Regulation - Insurance Regulation” contained in Part I, Item 1 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Changes in the supervision and regulation of the financial industry, both domestically and internationally, could materially impact our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity.
The Dodd-Frank Act, enacted into law in 2010, called for sweeping changes in the supervision and regulation of the financial services industry designed to provide for greater oversight of financial industry participants, reduce risk in banking practices and in securities and derivatives trading, enhance public company corporate governance practices and executive compensation disclosures, and provide greater protections to individual consumers and investors. Certain elements of the Dodd-Frank Act became effective immediately, though the details of other provisions remain subject to additional studies and will not be known until regulatory agencies adopt final rules. The full impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on our company, the financial industry and the economy cannot be known until the rules and regulations called for under the Act have been finalized, and, in some cases, implemented over time.
Accordingly, while certain elements of these reforms have yet to be finalized and implemented, the Act has impacted and is expected to further impact the manner in which we market our products and services, manage our company and its operations and interact with regulators, all of which could materially impact our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity. Certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that may impact our business include but are not limited to the establishment of a fiduciary standard for broker-dealers, the resolution authority granted to the FDIC, changes in regulatory oversight and greater oversight over derivatives instruments and trading. We will need to respond to changes to the framework for the supervision of U.S. financial institutions, including the actions of the FSOC. To the extent the Dodd-Frank Act or other new regulation of the financial services industry impacts the operations, financial condition, liquidity and capital requirements of unaffiliated financial institutions with whom we transact business, those institutions may seek to pass on increased costs, reduce their capacity to transact, or otherwise present inefficiencies in their interactions with us.
It is uncertain whether the Dodd-Frank Act, the rules and regulations developed thereunder, or any future legislation designed to stabilize the financial markets, the economy generally, or provide better protections to consumers, will have the intended effect. Any new domestic or international legislation or regulatory changes could require us to change certain business practices, impose additional costs, or otherwise adversely affect our business operations, regulatory reporting relationships, results of operations or financial condition. Consequences may include substantially higher compliance costs as well as material effects on fee rates, interest rates and foreign exchange rates, which could materially impact our investments, results of operations and liquidity in ways that we cannot predict. In addition, prolonged government support for, and intervention in the management of, private institutions could distort customary and expected commercial behavior on the part of those institutions, adversely impacting us.
In recent years, other national and international authorities have also proposed measures intended to increase the intensity of regulation of financial institutions, requiring greater coordination among regulators and efforts to harmonize regulatory regimes. These measures have included enhanced risk-based capital requirements, leverage limits, liquidity and transparency requirements, single counterparty exposure limits, governance requirements for risk management, stress-test requirements, debt-to-equity limits for certain companies, early remediation procedures, resolution and recovery planning and guidance for maintaining appropriate risk culture. Our international operations and our worldwide consolidated operations are subject to the jurisdiction of certain of these non-U.S. authorities and may be materially adversely affected by their actions and decisions. Potential measures taken by foreign and international authorities also include the nationalization or expropriation of assets, the imposition of limits on foreign ownership of local companies, changes in laws (including tax laws and regulations) and in their application or interpretation, imposition of large
fines, political instability, dividend limitations, price controls, changes in applicable currency, currency exchange controls, or other restrictions that prevent us from transferring funds from these operations out of the countries in which they operate or converting local currencies we hold to U.S. dollars or other currencies. Any of these changes or actions may negatively affect our business. A further result of our non-U.S. operations is that we are subject to regulation by non-U.S. regulators and U.S. regulators such as the Department of Justice and the SEC with respect to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. We expect the scope and extent of regulation outside the U.S., as well as general regulatory oversight, to continue to increase.
We may not be able to protect our intellectual property and may be subject to infringement claims.
We rely on a combination of contractual rights and copyright, trademark, patent and trade secret laws to establish and protect our intellectual property. Although we use a broad range of measures to protect our intellectual property rights, third parties may infringe or misappropriate our intellectual property. We may have to litigate to enforce and protect our copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets and know-how or to determine their scope, validity or enforceability, which represents a diversion of resources that may be significant in amount and may not prove successful. The loss of intellectual property protection or the inability to secure or enforce the protection of our intellectual property assets could have a material adverse effect on our business and our ability to compete.
We also may be subject to costly litigation in the event that another party alleges our operations or activities infringe upon or constitute misappropriation of such other party’s intellectual property rights. Third parties may have, or may eventually be issued, patents or other protections that could be infringed by our products, methods, processes or services or could otherwise limit our ability to offer certain product features. Any party that holds such a patent could make a claim of infringement against us. We may also be subject to claims by third parties for breach of copyright, trademark, license usage rights, or misappropriation of trade secret rights. Any such claims and any resulting litigation could result in significant liability for damages. If we were found to have infringed or misappropriated a third-party patent or other intellectual property rights, we could incur substantial liability, and in some circumstances could be enjoined from providing certain products or services to our customers or utilizing and benefiting from certain methods, processes, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets or licenses, or alternatively could be required to enter into costly licensing arrangements with third parties, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Changes in and the adoption of accounting standards or inaccurate estimates or assumptions in applying accounting policies could have a material impact on our financial statements.
Our accounting policies and methods are fundamental to how we record and report our financial condition and results of operations. Some of these policies require use of estimates and assumptions that may affect the reported value of our assets or liabilities and results of operations and are critical because they require management to make difficult, subjective, and complex judgments about matters that are inherently uncertain. If those assumptions, estimates or judgments were incorrectly made, we could be required to correct and restate prior-period financial statements.
We prepare our financial statements in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. From time to time, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the SEC and other regulators may change the financial accounting and reporting standards governing the preparation of our financial statements. In some cases, we could be required to apply a new or revised standard retroactively, resulting in our restating prior period financial statements. These changes are difficult to predict, and could impose additional governance, internal control and disclosure demands. It is possible that such changes could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in U.S. federal income or estate tax law could make some of our products less attractive to clients.
Many of the products we issue or on which our businesses are based (including both insurance products and non-insurance products) enjoy favorable treatment under current U.S. federal income or estate tax law. Changes in U.S. federal income or estate tax law could reduce or eliminate the tax advantages of certain of our products and thus make such products less attractive to clients.
Changes in corporate tax laws and regulations and in the interpretation of such laws and regulations, as well as adverse determinations regarding the application of such laws and regulations, could adversely affect our earnings.
We are subject to the income tax laws of the U.S., its states and municipalities and those of the foreign jurisdictions in which we have significant business operations. These tax laws are complex and may be subject to different interpretations. We must make judgments and interpretations about the application of these inherently complex tax laws when determining the provision for income taxes and must also make estimates about when in the future certain items affect taxable income in the various tax jurisdictions. Disputes over interpretations of the tax laws may be settled with the taxing authority upon examination or audit. In addition, changes to the Internal Revenue Code, administrative rulings or court decisions could increase our provision for income taxes and reduce our earnings.
It is possible there will be corporate tax reform in the next few years. While impossible to predict, corporate tax reform is likely to include a reduction in the corporate tax rate coupled with reductions in tax preferred items. Potential tax reform may also affect the U.S. tax rules regarding international operations. Any changes could have a material impact on our income tax expense and deferred tax balances.
Risks Relating to Our Common Stock
The market price of our shares may fluctuate.
The market price of our common stock may fluctuate widely, depending upon many factors, some of which may be beyond our control, including: changes in expectations concerning our future financial performance and the future performance of the financial services industry in general, including financial estimates and recommendations by securities analysts; differences between our actual financial and operating results and those expected by investors and analysts; our strategic moves and those of our competitors, such as acquisitions, divestitures or restructurings; changes in the regulatory framework of the financial services industry and regulatory action; changes in and the adoption of accounting standards and securities and insurance rating agency processes and standards applicable to our businesses and the financial services industry; and changes in general economic or market conditions.
Stock markets in general have experienced volatility that has often been unrelated to the operating performance of a particular company. These broad market fluctuations may adversely affect the trading price of our common stock.
Provisions in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws and of Delaware law may prevent or delay an acquisition of our company, which could decrease the market value of our common stock.
Our certificate of incorporation and bylaws and Delaware law contain provisions intended to deter coercive takeover practices and inadequate takeover bids by making them unacceptably expensive to the raider and to encourage prospective acquirers to negotiate with our board of directors rather than to attempt a hostile takeover. These provisions include, among others: elimination of the right of our shareholders to act by written consent; rules regarding how shareholders may present proposals or nominate directors for election at shareholder meetings, either directly or through proxies; the right of our board of directors to issue preferred stock without shareholder approval; and limitations on the rights of shareholders to remove directors.
Delaware law also imposes some restrictions on mergers and other business combinations between us and any holder of 15% or more of our outstanding common stock.
We believe these provisions protect our shareholders from coercive or otherwise unfair takeover tactics by requiring potential acquirers to negotiate with our board of directors and by providing our board of directors time to assess any acquisition proposal. They are not intended to make our company immune from takeovers. However, these provisions apply even if the offer may be considered beneficial by some shareholders and could delay or prevent an acquisition that our board of directors determines is not in the best interests of our company and our shareholders.
The issuance of additional shares of our common stock or other equity securities may result in a dilution of interest or adversely affect the price of our common stock.
Our certificate of incorporation allows our directors to authorize the issuance of additional shares of our common stock, as well as other forms of equity or securities that may be converted into equity securities, without shareholder approval. We have in the past and may in the future issue additional equity or convertible securities in order to raise capital, in connection with acquisitions or for other purposes. Any such issuance may result in a significant dilution in the interests of our current shareholders and adversely impact the market price of our common stock.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 2. Properties
We operate our business from two principal locations, both of which are located in Minneapolis, Minnesota: the Ameriprise Financial Center, an 848,000 square foot building that we lease, and our 885,000 square foot Client Service Center, which we own. Each of these principal locations meets high environmental standards recognized by superior energy performance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarding both buildings with Energy Star certification. Our lease term for the Ameriprise Financial Center began in November 2000 and extends for 20 years, with several options to extend the term. Our aggregate annual rent for the Ameriprise Financial Center is $15 million. Ameriprise Financial, Inc. also: owns the 171,000 square foot Oak Ridge Conference Center, a training facility and conference center in Chaska, Minnesota, which can also serve as a disaster recovery site, if necessary; owns a 99,000 square foot service center in Las Vegas, Nevada that houses certain Ameriprise Advisor Center, Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance, service delivery, technology and human resources employees.
Our property and casualty subsidiary, Ameriprise Auto and Home Insurance, leases approximately 132,000 square feet at its corporate headquarters in DePere, Wisconsin, a suburb of Green Bay. The lease has a twenty-year term expiring in 2024 with an option to renew the lease for up to six renewal terms of five years each. Ameriprise Auto and Home Insurance also leases a 34,000 square foot office space in Phoenix, Arizona with a lease term expiring in 2019.
Threadneedle leases one office facility in London, England and one in Swindon, England. Before year end it signed agreements to surrender the lease on its existing office facility and to move to new office space in London in early 2015 where it will occupy approximately 65,000 square feet of a shared building under a lease expiring in 2029. Threadneedle also leases property in Germany,
Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Singapore, Madrid, Dubai, Taiwan and South Korea and rents offices in a number of other European cities, to support its global operations.
Columbia Management leases offices in Boston containing approximately 156,000 square feet under a lease that expires in 2021 and facilities in New York City containing approximately 90,000 square feet under a lease expiring in 2019. In addition, Seligman occupies a space of 11,425 square feet in Menlo Park, California under a lease that expires in 2023, and Columbia Wanger leases 48,000 square feet in Chicago, Illinois under a lease that expires in 2019.
AFSI leases offices containing approximately 12,000 square feet in Troy, Michigan, under a lease expiring in 2017.
Generally, we lease the premises we occupy in other locations, including the executive offices that we maintain in New York City and branch offices for our employee advisors throughout the United States. In Gurgaon, India we lease offices containing approximately 106,000 square feet which are used primarily in the support of our businesses in the United States. We believe that the facilities owned or occupied by our company suit our needs and are well maintained.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
The Company and its subsidiaries are involved in the normal course of business in legal, regulatory and arbitration proceedings, including class actions, concerning matters arising in connection with the conduct of its activities as a diversified financial services firm. These include proceedings specific to the Company as well as proceedings generally applicable to business practices in the industries in which it operates. The Company can also be subject to litigation arising out of its general business activities, such as its investments, contracts, leases and employment relationships. Uncertain economic conditions, heightened and sustained volatility in the financial markets and significant financial reform legislation may increase the likelihood that clients and other persons or regulators may present or threaten legal claims or that regulators increase the scope or frequency of examinations of the Company or the financial services industry generally.
As with other financial services firms, the level of regulatory activity and inquiry concerning the Company’s businesses remains elevated. From time to time, the Company receives requests for information from, and/or has been subject to examination or claims by, the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the UK Financial Conduct Authority, state insurance and securities regulators, state attorneys general and various other domestic or foreign governmental and quasi-governmental authorities on behalf of themselves or clients concerning the Company’s business activities and practices, and the practices of the Company’s financial advisors. The Company has numerous pending matters which include information requests, exams or inquiries that the Company has received during recent periods regarding certain matters, including: sales and distribution of mutual funds, annuities, equity and fixed income securities, investment personnel’s potential access and use of material non-public information, real estate investment trusts, insurance products, and financial advice offerings; supervision of the Company’s financial advisors; administration of insurance claims; security of client information; and front office systems and controls at the Company’s UK subsidiary. The Company is also responding to regulatory audits, market conduct examinations and other state inquiries relating to an industry-wide investigation of unclaimed property and escheatment practices and procedures. The number of reviews and investigations has increased in recent years with regard to many firms in the financial services industry, including Ameriprise Financial. The Company has cooperated and will continue to cooperate with the applicable regulators regarding their inquiries.
These legal and regulatory proceedings and disputes are subject to uncertainties and, as such, it is inherently difficult to determine whether any loss is probable or even possible, or to reasonably estimate the amount of any loss. The Company cannot predict with certainty if, how or when any such proceedings will be initiated or resolved or what the eventual settlement, fine, penalty or other relief, if any, may be, particularly for proceedings that are in their early stages of development or where plaintiffs seek indeterminate damages. Numerous issues may need to be resolved, including through potentially lengthy discovery and determination of important factual matters, and by addressing unsettled legal questions relevant to the proceedings in question, before a loss or range of loss can be reasonably estimated for any proceeding. An adverse outcome in one or more proceeding could eventually result in adverse judgments, settlements, fines, penalties or other sanctions, in addition to further claims, examinations or adverse publicity that could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s consolidated financial condition, results of operations or liquidity.
In accordance with applicable accounting standards, the Company establishes an accrued liability for contingent litigation and regulatory matters when those matters present loss contingencies that are both probable and can be reasonably estimated. In such cases, there still may be an exposure to loss in excess of any amounts reasonably estimated and accrued. When a loss contingency is not both probable and estimable, the Company does not establish an accrued liability, but continues to monitor, in conjunction with any outside counsel handling a matter, further developments that would make such loss contingency both probable and reasonably estimable. Once the Company establishes an accrued liability with respect to a loss contingency, the Company continues to monitor the matter for further developments that could affect the amount of the accrued liability that has been previously established, and any appropriate adjustments are made each quarter.
Certain legal and regulatory proceedings are described below.
In October 2011, a putative class action lawsuit entitled Roger Krueger, et al. vs. Ameriprise Financial, et al. was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota against the Company, certain of its present or former employees and directors, as
well as certain fiduciary committees on behalf of participants and beneficiaries of the Ameriprise Financial 401(k) Plan. The alleged class period is from October 1, 2005 to the present. The action alleges that Ameriprise breached fiduciary duties under ERISA, by selecting and retaining primarily proprietary mutual funds with allegedly poor performance histories, higher expenses relative to other investment options and improper fees paid to Ameriprise Financial or its subsidiaries. The action also alleges that the Company breached fiduciary duties under ERISA because it paid excessive record-keeping fees, used its affiliate Ameriprise Trust Company as the Plan trustee and record-keeper and improperly reaped profits from the sale of the record-keeping business to Wachovia Bank, N.A. Plaintiffs allege over $20 million in damages. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on February 7, 2012. On April 11, 2012, the Company filed its motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint, which was denied on November 20, 2012. On July 3, 2013, the Company moved for summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds. On March 20, 2014, the Court filed its decision, granting in part and denying in part the motion. On October 1, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their Motion to Certify Class Action, and by order dated May 23, 2014, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion. The case is scheduled to begin trial on April 13, 2015. The Company cannot reasonably estimate the range of loss, if any, that may result from this matter due to the procedural status of the case, the difficulty of predicting the likelihood of success on the merits of any of plaintiffs’ claims, and plaintiffs’ failure to allege any specific, evidence-based damages.
In October 2012, a putative class action lawsuit entitled Jeffers vs. Ameriprise Financial Services, et al. was filed against the Company in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois relating to its sales of the Inland Western (now known as Retail Properties of America, Inc. (“RPAI”)) REIT. The action also names as defendants RPAI, several of RPAI’s executives, and several members of RPAI’s board. The action alleges that the Company failed to perform required due diligence and misrepresented various aspects of the REIT including fees charged to clients, risks associated with the product, and valuation of the shares on client account statements. Plaintiffs seek unspecified damages. The Company was served in December 2012, and, on April 19, 2013, moved to dismiss the complaint. On June 10, 2014, the Court granted the Company’s motion to dismiss. On July 10, 2014, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, naming only Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. as a defendant. On August 11, 2014, the Company moved to dismiss the amended complaint. Briefing is complete. The Company is awaiting the Court’s ruling. The Company cannot reasonably estimate the range of loss, if any, that may result from this matter due to the early procedural status of the case, the absence of class certification, the lack of a formal demand on the Company by the plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ failure to allege any specific, evidence-based damages.
In September 2011, the California Department of Insurance (“CA DOI”) issued an Order to Show Cause administrative action against the Company’s life insurance subsidiary alleging that certain claims handling practices reviewed in connection with a 2007-2008 market conduct exam did not comply with applicable law. In August 2014, the Company’s life insurance subsidiary and the CA DOI reached an agreement in principle to settle all pending allegations for $800,000, with the exception of a single allegation related to certain coverage determinations made under long term care insurance policies issued between 1989 and 1992. An administrative hearing on this remaining allegation concluded in November 2014. The Company cannot reasonably estimate the range of loss, if any, that may result from this matter given the procedural status of the matter, the lack of evidence supporting the CA DOI's penalty allegations, and the difficulty of predicting outcomes in these administrative proceedings which involve multiple phases and appellate procedures.
In November 2014, a lawsuit was filed against the Company’s London-based asset management affiliate in England’s High Court of Justice Commercial Court, entitled Otkritie Capital International Ltd and JSC Otkritie Holding v. Threadneedle Asset Management Ltd. and Threadneedle Management Services Ltd. (“Threadneedle Defendants”). Claimants allege that the Threadneedle Defendants should be held liable for the wrongful acts of one of its former employees, who in February 2014 was held jointly and severally liable with several other parties for conspiracy and dishonest assistance in connection with a fraud perpetrated against Claimants in 2011. Claimants allege they were harmed by that fraud in the amount of $120 million. The Threadneedle Defendants have applied to the Court for an Order dismissing the proceedings as an abuse of process of the court. The Company cannot reasonably estimate the range of loss, if any, that may result from this matter due to the early procedural status of the case and the failure to allege any specific, evidence based damages.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.
Our common stock trades principally on The New York Stock Exchange under the trading symbol AMP. As of February 13, 2015, we had approximately 16,440 common shareholders of record. Price and dividend information concerning our common shares may be found in Note 26 to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Information regarding our equity compensation plans can be found in Part III, Item 12 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Information comparing the cumulative total shareholder return on our common stock to the cumulative total return for certain indices is set forth under the heading “Performance Graph” provided in our 2014 Annual Report to Shareholders and is incorporated herein by reference.
We are primarily a holding company and, as a result, our ability to pay dividends in the future will depend on receiving dividends from our subsidiaries. For information regarding our ability to pay dividends, see the information set forth under the heading “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources” contained in Part II, Item 7 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
The following table presents the information with respect to purchases made by or on behalf of Ameriprise Financial, Inc. or any “affiliated purchaser” (as defined in Rule 10b-18(a)(3) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934), of our common stock during the fourth quarter of 2014:
Total Number of Shares Purchased
Average Price Paid Per Share
Total Number of Shares Purchased as part of Publicly Announced Plans or Programs(1)
Approximate Dollar Value of Shares that May Yet Be Purchased Under the Plans or Programs(1)
October 1 to October 31, 2014
Share repurchase program(1)
November 1 to November 30, 2014
Share repurchase program(1)
December 1 to December 31, 2014
Share repurchase program(1)
Share repurchase program(1)
N/A Not applicable.
(1) On April 28, 2014, we announced that our board of directors authorized us to repurchase up to $2.5 billion worth of our common stock through April 28, 2016. The share repurchase program does not require the purchase of any minimum number of shares, and depending on market conditions and other factors, these purchases may be commenced or suspended at any time without prior notice. Acquisitions under the share repurchase program may be made in the open market, through privately negotiated transactions or block trades or other means.
(2) Includes restricted shares withheld pursuant to the terms of awards under the Company’s share-based compensation plans to offset tax withholding obligations that occur upon vesting and release of restricted shares. The value of the restricted shares withheld is the closing price of common stock of Ameriprise Financial, Inc. on the date the relevant transaction occurs. Also includes shares withheld pursuant to the net settlement of Non-Qualified Stock Option (“NQSO”) exercises to offset tax withholding obligations that occur upon exercise and to cover the strike price of the NQSO. The value of the shares withheld pursuant to the net settlement of NQSO exercises is the closing price of common stock of Ameriprise Financial, Inc. on the day prior to the date the relevant transaction occurs.
Item 6. Selected Financial Data
The following table sets forth selected consolidated financial information derived from our audited Consolidated Financial Statements as of December 31, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 and for the five-year period ended December 31, 2014. On April 30, 2010, we acquired the long-term asset management business of Columbia Management Group. Results presented below include the results of this business after the date of acquisition. The selected financial data presented below should be read in conjunction with our Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes included elsewhere in this report and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”
Years Ended December 31,
(in millions, except per share data)
Income Statement Data:
Total net revenues
Income from continuing operations
Loss from discontinued operations, net of tax
Less: Net income (loss) attributable to noncontrolling interests
Net income attributable to Ameriprise Financial
Earnings Per Share Attributable to Ameriprise Financial, Inc. Common Shareholders:
Income from continuing operations
Loss from discontinued operations
Income from continuing operations
Loss from discontinued operations
Cash Dividends Declared Per Common Share
Balance Sheet Data:
Separate account assets
Policyholder account balances, future policy benefits and claims
Separate account liabilities
Total Ameriprise Financial, Inc. shareholders’ equity
Noncontrolling interests’ equity
(1) Represents amounts before consolidated investment entities, as reported on our Consolidated Balance Sheets.
Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
The following discussion and analysis of our consolidated financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with the “Forward-Looking Statements,” our Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes that follow and the “Consolidated Five-Year Summary of Selected Financial Data” and the “Risk Factors” included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K. Certain reclassifications of prior year amounts have been made to conform to the current presentation. References below to “Ameriprise Financial,” “Ameriprise,” the “Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” refer to Ameriprise Financial, Inc. exclusively, to our entire family of companies, or to one or more of our subsidiaries.
Ameriprise Financial is a diversified financial services company with a 120 year history of providing financial solutions. We offer a broad range of products and services designed to achieve the financial objectives of individual and institutional clients. We are America’s leader in financial planning and a leading global financial institution with more than $806 billion in assets under management and administration as of December 31, 2014.
Our strategy is centered on helping our clients confidently achieve their goals by providing advice and managing their assets and protecting their assets and income. We utilize two go-to-market approaches in carrying out this strategy: Wealth Management and Asset Management.
Our wealth management capabilities are centered on the long-term, personal relationships between our clients and our financial advisors and registered representatives (our “advisors”). Through our advisors, we offer financial planning, products and services designed to be used as solutions for our clients’ cash and liquidity, asset accumulation, income, protection, and estate and wealth transfer needs. Our focus on personal relationships, together with our discipline in financial planning and strengths in product development and advice, allow us to address the evolving financial and retirement-related needs of our clients, including our primary target market segment, the mass affluent and affluent, which we define as households with investable assets of more than $100,000. The financial product solutions we offer through our advisors include both our own products and services and the products of other companies. Our advisor network is the primary channel through which we offer our affiliated insurance and annuity products and services.
Our network of approximately 9,700 advisors is the primary means through which we engage in our wealth management activities. We offer our advisors training, tools, leadership, marketing programs and other field and centralized support to assist them in delivering advice and product solutions. We believe that our nationally recognized brand and practice vision, local marketing support, integrated operating platform and comprehensive set of products and solutions constitute a compelling value proposition for financial advisors, as evidenced by our strong advisor retention rate and our ability to attract and retain experienced and productive advisors. We have and will continue to invest in and develop capabilities and tools designed to maximize advisor productivity and client satisfaction.
We are in a compelling position to capitalize on significant demographic and market trends driving increased demand for financial advice and solutions. In the U.S., the ongoing transition of baby boomers into retirement, as well as recent economic and financial market crises, continues to drive demand for financial advice and solutions. In addition, the amount of investable assets held by mass affluent and affluent households, our target market, has grown and accounts for over half of U.S. investable assets. We believe our differentiated financial planning model, broad range of products and solutions, as well as our demonstrated financial strength throughout the economic downturn of recent past years, will help us capitalize on these trends.
Our asset management capabilities are increasingly global in scale, with Columbia Management Investment Advisers, LLC (“Columbia” or “Columbia Management”) as the primary provider of products and services in the U.S. and Threadneedle Asset Management Holdings Sàrl (“Threadneedle”) as the primary provider of products and services outside of the U.S. We offer a broad spectrum of investment advice and products to individual, institutional and high-net worth investors. These investment products are primarily provided through third parties, though we also provide our asset management products through our advisor channel. Our underlying asset management philosophy is based on delivering consistently strong and competitive investment performance. The quality and breadth of our asset management capabilities are demonstrated by 118 of our mutual funds, including 51 Columbia Management funds and 67 Threadneedle funds, being rated as four- and five-star funds by Morningstar.
We are positioned to continue to grow our assets under management and to strengthen our asset management offerings to existing and new clients. Our asset management capabilities are well positioned to address mature markets in the U.S. and Europe. We also have the capability to leverage existing strengths to effectively expand into new global and emerging markets. In the past few years, we have expanded beyond our traditional strengths in the U.S. and UK to gather assets in Continental Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Africa. In addition, we continue to pursue opportunities to leverage the collective capabilities of Columbia Management and Threadneedle to enhance our current range of investment solutions, to develop new solutions that are responsive to client demand in an increasingly complex marketplace and to maximize the distribution capabilities of our global business.
The financial results from the businesses underlying our go-to-market approaches are reflected in our five operating segments:
Advice & Wealth Management;
In the first quarter of 2014, we made the following changes to our previously reported segment data:
Ameriprise interest and debt expense was allocated to all segments to more accurately reflect management’s assessment of capital allocation.
Interest accretion income from the intercompany transfer of former bank assets was eliminated for segment reporting resulting in this accretion no longer being allocated to the Annuities and Protection segments. The corresponding offset is no longer reported in the Corporate & Other segment.
Certain fixed wholesaling costs were reclassified from distribution expenses to general and administrative expense to improve consistency in our presentation of wholesaling distribution expense across all segments. This change also impacted the Consolidated Statements of Income.
The reallocations and reclassifications did not result in any changes to our previously reported consolidated net income or shareholders’ equity.
Our operating segments are aligned with the financial solutions we offer to address our clients’ needs. The products and services we provide retail clients and, to a lesser extent, institutional clients, are the primary source of our revenues and net income. Revenues and net income are significantly affected by investment performance and the total value and composition of assets we manage and administer for our retail and institutional clients as well as the distribution fees we receive from other companies. These factors, in turn, are largely determined by overall investment market performance and the depth and breadth of our individual client relationships.
Financial markets and macroeconomic conditions have had and will continue to have a significant impact on our operating and performance results. In addition, the business and regulatory environment in which we operate remains subject to elevated uncertainty and change. To succeed, we expect to continue focusing on our key strategic objectives. The success of these and other strategies may be affected by the factors discussed in Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K — “Risk Factors.”
Equity price, credit market and interest rate fluctuations can have a significant impact on our results of operations, primarily due to the effects they have on the asset management and other asset-based fees we earn, the “spread” income generated on our fixed annuities, fixed insurance, deposit products and the fixed portion of variable annuities and variable insurance contracts, the value of deferred acquisition costs (“DAC”) and deferred sales inducement costs (“DSIC”) assets, the values of liabilities for guaranteed benefits associated with our variable annuities and the values of derivatives held to hedge these benefits.
Earnings, as well as operating earnings, will continue to be negatively impacted by the ongoing low interest rate environment. In addition to continuing spread compression in our interest sensitive product lines, a sustained low interest rate environment may result in increases to our reserves and changes in various rate assumptions we use to amortize DAC and DSIC, which may negatively impact our operating earnings. For additional discussion on our interest rate risk, see Item 7A. “Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.”
In the third quarter of the year, we conduct our annual review of life insurance and annuity valuation assumptions relative to current experience and management expectations. To the extent that expectations change as a result of this review, we update valuation assumptions and the impact is reflected as part of our annual review of life insurance and annuity valuation assumptions and modeling changes (“unlocking”). The unlocking impact for the year ended December 31, 2014 primarily reflected the difference between our previously assumed interest rates versus the continued low interest rate environment, partially offset by a benefit from updating our variable annuity living benefit withdrawal utilization assumption. The unlocking impact for the year ended December 31, 2013 primarily reflected the impact of assumed interest rates and changes in assumed policyholder behavior. See our Consolidated and Segment Results of Operations sections below for the pretax impacts on our revenues and expenses attributable to unlocking and additional discussion of the drivers of the unlocking impact.
In January 2013, we completed the conversion of our federal savings bank subsidiary, Ameriprise Bank, FSB, to a limited powers national trust bank, which conversion included changing the name of this subsidiary to Ameriprise National Trust Bank (references herein to “Ameriprise Bank” pertain to this same subsidiary whether before or after its conversion). In connection with this conversion, deposit-taking and credit-originating activities of Ameriprise Bank were terminated. In addition, Ameriprise Financial was deregistered by the Federal Reserve as a savings and loan holding company and is no longer subject to supervision and regulation as such. We continue to make certain deposit and credit products available to our clients via referral arrangements with respected third party financial institutions. The transition released approximately $375 million of formerly required capital, which we used to repurchase shares of our common stock. The transition reduced our annual earnings by approximately $49 million in 2013. At the enterprise level, the earnings per share impact was neutralized by the end of 2013, as we redeployed the excess capital to shareholders through share repurchases.
We consolidate certain collateralized loan obligations (“CLOs”) and property funds (pooled investment vehicles) for which we provide asset management services. These entities are defined as consolidated investment entities (“CIEs”). While the consolidation of the CIEs impacts our balance sheet and income statement, our exposure to these entities is unchanged and there is no impact to the underlying business results. For further information on CIEs, see Note 4 to our Consolidated Financial Statements. Changes in the valuation of the CIE assets and liabilities impact pretax income. The net income (loss) of the CIEs is reflected in net income (loss) attributable to noncontrolling interests. The results of operations of the CIEs are reflected in the Corporate & Other segment. On a consolidated basis, the management fees we earn for the services we provide to the CIEs and the related general and administrative expenses are eliminated and the changes in the assets and liabilities related to the CIEs, primarily syndicated loans and debt, are reflected in net investment income. We continue to include the fees from these entities in the management and financial advice fees line within our Asset Management segment.
While our consolidated financial statements are prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”), management believes that operating measures, which exclude net realized gains or losses; the market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits, net of hedges and the related DSIC and DAC amortization; the market impact on indexed universal life benefits, net of hedges and the related DAC amortization, unearned revenue amortization and the reinsurance accrual; integration and restructuring charges; income (loss) from discontinued operations; and the impact of consolidating CIEs, best reflect the underlying performance of our core operations and facilitate a more meaningful trend analysis. Management uses certain of these non-GAAP measures to evaluate our financial performance on a basis comparable to that used by some securities analysts and investors. Also, certain of these non-GAAP measures are taken into consideration, to varying degrees, for purposes of business planning and analysis and for certain compensation-related matters. Throughout our Management’s Discussion and Analysis, these non-GAAP measures are referred to as operating measures.
It is management’s priority to increase shareholder value over a multi-year horizon by achieving our on-average, over-time financial targets.
Our financial targets are:
Operating total net revenue growth of 6% to 8%,
Operating earnings per diluted share growth of 12% to 15%, and
Operating return on equity excluding accumulated other comprehensive income (“AOCI”) of 19% to 23%.
The following tables reconcile our GAAP measures to operating measures:
Years Ended December 31,
Total net revenues
Less: Revenue attributable to CIEs
Less: Net realized gains
Less: Market impact on indexed universal life benefits
Operating total net revenues
Years Ended December 31,
Per Diluted Share
Years Ended December 31,
(in millions, except per share amounts)
Less: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests
Net income attributable to Ameriprise Financial
Less: Loss from discontinued operations, net of tax
Net income from continuing operations attributable to Ameriprise Financial
Add: Integration/restructuring charges, net of tax(1)
Add: Market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits, net of tax(1)
Add: Market impact on indexed universal life benefits, net of tax(1)
Less: Net realized gains, net of tax(1)
Weighted average common shares outstanding:
(1) Calculated using the statutory tax rate of 35%.
The following table reconciles the trailing twelve months' sum of net income attributable to Ameriprise Financial to operating earnings and the five-point average of quarter-end equity to operating equity:
Years Ended December 31,
Net income attributable to Ameriprise Financial
Less: Loss from discontinued operations, net of tax
Net income from continuing operations attributable to Ameriprise Financial
Total Ameriprise Financial, Inc. shareholders’ equity
Less: AOCI, net of tax
Total Ameriprise Financial, Inc. shareholders’ equity, excluding AOCI
Less: Equity impacts attributable to CIEs
Return on equity from continuing operations, excluding AOCI
Operating return on equity, excluding AOCI(2)
(1) Adjustments reflect the trailing twelve months’ sum of after-tax net realized gains/losses; the market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits, net of hedges and related DSIC and DAC amortization; the market impact on indexed universal life benefits, net of hedges and the related DAC amortization, unearned revenue amortization, and the reinsurance accrual; and integration and restructuring charges. After-tax is calculated using the statutory tax rate of 35%.
(2) Operating return on equity, excluding AOCI, is calculated using the trailing twelve months of earnings excluding the after-tax net realized gains/losses; market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits, net of hedges and related DSIC and DAC amortization; the market impact on indexed universal benefits, net of hedges and the related DAC amortization, unearned revenue amortization, and the reinsurance accrual; integration and restructuring charges; and discontinued operations in the numerator, and Ameriprise Financial shareholders’ equity, excluding AOCI and the impact of consolidating investment entities using a five-point average of quarter-end equity in the denominator. After-tax is calculated using the statutory rate of 35%.
Critical Accounting Policies
The accounting and reporting policies that we use affect our Consolidated Financial Statements. Certain of our accounting and reporting policies are critical to an understanding of our consolidated results of operations and financial condition and, in some cases, the application of these policies can be significantly affected by the estimates, judgments and assumptions made by management during the preparation of our Consolidated Financial Statements. The accounting and reporting policies we have identified as fundamental to a full understanding of our consolidated results of operations and financial condition are described below. See Note 2 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for further information about our accounting policies.
Valuation of Investments
The most significant component of our investments is our Available-for-Sale securities, which we carry at fair value within our Consolidated Balance Sheets. The fair value of our Available-for-Sale securities at December 31, 2014 was primarily obtained from third-party pricing sources. We record unrealized securities gains (losses) in AOCI, net of impacts to DAC, DSIC, unearned revenue, benefit reserves, reinsurance recoverables and income taxes. We recognize gains and losses on a trade date basis in results of operations upon disposition of the securities.
When the fair value of an investment is less than its amortized cost, we assess whether or not: (i) we have the intent to sell the security (made a decision to sell) or (ii) it is more likely than not that we will be required to sell the security before its anticipated recovery. If either of these conditions existed, an other-than-temporary impairment is considered to have occurred and we recognize an other-than-temporary impairment for the difference between the investment’s amortized cost and its fair value through earnings. For securities that do not meet the above criteria, and we do not expect to recover a security’s amortized cost, the security is also considered other-than-temporarily impaired. For these securities, we separate the total impairment into the credit loss component and the amount of the loss related to other factors. The amount of the total other-than-temporary impairment related to credit loss is recognized in earnings. The amount of the total other-than-temporary impairment related to other factors is recognized in other comprehensive income, net of impacts to DAC, DSIC, unearned revenue, benefit reserves, reinsurance recoverables and income taxes. For Available-for-Sale securities that have recognized an other-than-temporary impairment through earnings, the difference between the amortized cost and the cash flows expected to be collected is accreted as interest income if through subsequent evaluation there is a sustained increase in the cash flow expected. Subsequent increases and decreases in the fair value of Available-for-Sale securities are included in other comprehensive income.
For all securities that are considered temporarily impaired, we do not intend to sell these securities (has not made a decision to sell) and it is not more likely than not that we will be required to sell the security before recovery of its amortized cost basis. We believe that we will collect all principal and interest due on all investments that have amortized cost in excess of fair value that are considered only temporarily impaired.
Factors we consider in determining whether declines in the fair value of fixed maturity securities are other-than-temporary include: (i) the extent to which the market value is below amortized cost; (ii) the duration of time in which there has been a significant decline in value; (iii) fundamental analysis of the liquidity, business prospects and overall financial condition of the issuer; and (iv) market events that could impact credit ratings, economic and business climate, litigation and government actions, and similar external business factors. In order to determine the amount of the credit loss component for corporate debt securities considered other-than-temporarily impaired, a best estimate of the present value of cash flows expected to be collected discounted at the security’s effective interest rate is compared to the amortized cost basis of the security. The significant inputs to cash flow projections consider potential debt restructuring terms, projected cash flows available to pay creditors and our position in the debtor’s overall capital structure.
For structured investments (e.g., residential mortgage backed securities, commercial mortgage backed securities, asset backed securities and other structured investments), we also consider factors such as overall deal structure and our position within the structure, quality of underlying collateral, delinquencies and defaults, loss severities, recoveries, prepayments and cumulative loss projections in assessing potential other-than-temporary impairments of these investments. Based upon these factors, securities that have indicators of potential other-than-temporary impairment are subject to detailed review by management. Securities for which declines are considered temporary continue to be monitored by management until management determines there is no current risk of an other-than-temporary impairment.
Deferred Acquisition Costs and Deferred Sales Inducement Costs
We incur costs in connection with acquiring new and renewal insurance and annuity businesses. The portion of these costs which are incremental and direct to the acquisition of a new or renewal insurance policy or annuity contract are deferred. Significant costs capitalized include sales based compensation related to the acquisition of new and renewal insurance policies and annuity contracts, medical inspection costs for successful sales, and a portion of employee compensation and benefit costs based upon the amount of time spent on successful sales. Sales based compensation paid to advisors and employees and third-party distributors is capitalized. Employee compensation and benefits costs which are capitalized relate primarily to sales efforts, underwriting and processing. All other costs which are not incremental direct costs of acquiring an insurance policy or annuity contract are expensed as incurred.
For our annuity and life, disability income (“DI”) and long term care (“LTC”) insurance products, our DAC and DSIC balances at any reporting date are supported by projections that show management expects there to be adequate premiums or estimated gross profits
after that date to amortize the remaining DAC and DSIC balances. These projections are inherently uncertain because they require management to make assumptions about financial markets, anticipated mortality and morbidity levels and contractholder and policyholder behavior over periods extending well into the future. Projection periods used for our annuity products are typically 30 to 50 years. Projection periods for our life insurance and LTC insurance products are often 50 years or longer and projection periods for our DI products can be up to 45 years. Management regularly monitors financial market conditions and actual contractholder and policyholder behavior experience and compares them to its assumptions.
For annuity and universal life (“UL”) insurance products, the assumptions made in projecting future results and calculating the DAC balance and DAC amortization expense are management’s best estimates. Management is required to update these assumptions whenever it appears that, based on actual experience or other evidence, earlier estimates should be revised. When assumptions are changed, the percentage of estimated gross profits used to amortize DAC might also change. A change in the required amortization percentage is applied retrospectively; an increase in amortization percentage will result in a decrease in the DAC balance and an increase in DAC amortization expense, while a decrease in amortization percentage will result in an increase in the DAC balance and a decrease in DAC amortization expense. The impact on results of operations of changing assumptions can be either positive or negative in any particular period and is reflected in the period in which such changes are made. For products with associated DSIC, the same policy applies in calculating the DSIC balance and periodic DSIC amortization.
For traditional life, DI and LTC insurance products, the assumptions made in calculating our DAC balance and DAC amortization expense are consistent with those used in determining the liabilities. For traditional life and DI insurance products, the assumptions provide for adverse deviations in experience and are revised only if management concludes experience will be so adverse that DAC are not recoverable. If management concludes that DAC are not recoverable, DAC are reduced to the amount that is recoverable based on best estimate assumptions and there is a corresponding expense recorded in our Consolidated Statements of Operations. The assumptions for LTC insurance products are management's best estimate from previous loss recognition thus no longer provide for adverse deviations in experience.
For annuity, life, DI and LTC insurance products, key assumptions underlying these long-term projections include interest rates (both earning rates on invested assets and rates credited to contractholder and policyholder accounts), equity market performance, mortality and morbidity rates, variable annuity benefit utilization rates and the rates at which contractholders and policyholders are expected to surrender their contracts, make withdrawals from their contracts and make additional deposits to their contracts. Assumptions about earned and credited interest rates are the primary factors used to project interest margins, while assumptions about equity and bond market performance are the primary factors used to project client asset value growth rates, and assumptions about surrenders, withdrawals and deposits comprise projected persistency rates. Management must also make assumptions to project maintenance expenses associated with servicing our annuity and insurance businesses during the DAC amortization period.
The client asset value growth rates are the rates at which variable annuity and variable universal life (“VUL”) insurance contract values invested in separate accounts are assumed to appreciate in the future. The rates used vary by equity and fixed income investments. Management reviews and, where appropriate, adjusts its assumptions with respect to client asset value growth rates on a regular basis. The long-term client asset value growth rates are based on assumed gross annual returns of 9% for equity funds and 6% for fixed income funds. We typically use a five-year mean reversion process as a guideline in setting near-term equity fund growth rates based on a long-term view of financial market performance as well as recent actual performance. The suggested near-term equity fund growth rate is reviewed quarterly to ensure consistency with management’s assessment of anticipated equity market performance.
A decrease of 100 basis points in various rate assumptions is likely to result in an increase in DAC and DSIC amortization and an increase in benefits and claims expense from variable annuity guarantees. The following table presents the estimated impact to current period pretax income:
Estimated Impact to Pretax Income (1)
Decrease in future near- and long-term fixed income returns by 100 basis points
Decrease in future near-term equity fund growth returns by 100 basis points
Decrease in future long-term equity fund growth returns by 100 basis points
Decrease in future near- and long-term equity fund growth returns by 100 basis points
(1) An increase in the above assumptions by 100 basis points would result in an increase to pretax income for approximately the same amount.
We monitor other principal DAC and DSIC amortization assumptions, such as persistency, mortality, morbidity, interest margin, variable annuity benefit utilization and maintenance expense levels each quarter and, when assessed independently, each could impact our DAC and DSIC balances.
The analysis of DAC and DSIC balances and the corresponding amortization is a dynamic process that considers all relevant factors and assumptions described previously. Unless management identifies a significant deviation over the course of the quarterly
monitoring, management reviews and updates these DAC and DSIC amortization assumptions annually in the third quarter of each year. An assessment of sensitivity associated with changes in any single assumption would not necessarily be an indicator of future results.
Policyholder Account Balances, Future Policy Benefits and Claims
Fixed Annuities and Variable Annuity Guarantees
Fixed annuities and variable annuity guarantees include amounts for fixed account values on fixed and variable deferred annuities, guaranteed benefits associated with variable annuities, equity indexed annuities (“EIA”) and fixed annuities in a payout status.
Liabilities for fixed account values on fixed and variable deferred annuities are equal to accumulation values, which are the cumulative gross deposits and credited interest less withdrawals and various charges.
The majority of the variable annuity contracts offered by us contain guaranteed minimum death benefit (“GMDB”) provisions. When market values of the customer’s accounts decline, the death benefit payable on a contract with a GMDB may exceed the contract accumulation value. We also offer variable annuities with death benefit provisions that gross up the amount payable by a certain percentage of contract earnings which are referred to as gain gross-up (“GGU”) benefits. In addition, we offer contracts with guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit (“GMWB”) and guaranteed minimum accumulation benefit (“GMAB”) provisions and, until May 2007, we offered contracts containing guaranteed minimum income benefit (“GMIB”) provisions.
In determining the liabilities for GMDB, GGU, GMIB and the life contingent benefits associated with GMWB, we project these benefits and contract assessments using actuarial models to simulate various equity market scenarios. Significant assumptions made in projecting future benefits and assessments relate to customer asset value growth rates, mortality, persistency, benefit utilization and investment margins and are consistent with those used for DAC valuation for the same contracts. As with DAC, management reviews, and where appropriate, adjusts its assumptions each quarter. Unless management identifies a material deviation over the course of quarterly monitoring, management reviews and updates these assumptions annually in the third quarter of each year. The amounts in the table above in “Deferred Acquisition Costs and Deferred Sales Inducement Costs” include the estimated impact to benefits and claims expense related to variable annuity guarantees resulting from a decrease of 100 basis points in various rate assumptions.
The GMDB and GGU liability is determined by estimating the expected value of death benefits in excess of the projected contract accumulation value and recognizing the excess over the estimated life based on expected assessments (e.g., mortality and expense fees, contractual administrative charges and similar fees).
If elected by the contract owner and after a stipulated waiting period from contract issuance, a GMIB guarantees a minimum lifetime annuity based on a specified rate of contract accumulation value growth and predetermined annuity purchase rates. The GMIB liability is determined each period by estimating the expected value of annuitization benefits in excess of the projected contract accumulation value at the date of annuitization and recognizing the excess over the estimated life based on expected assessments.
The liability for the life contingent benefits associated with GMWB provisions is determined by estimating the expected value of benefits that are contingent upon survival after the account value is equal to zero and recognizing the benefits over the estimated life based on expected assessments (e.g., mortality and expense fees, contractual administrative charges and similar fees).
The fair value of embedded derivatives related to GMAB and the non-life contingent benefits associated with GMWB provisions fluctuates based on equity, interest rate and credit markets which can cause these embedded derivatives to be either an asset or a liability. See Note 14 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for information regarding the fair value measurement of embedded derivatives.
Liabilities for EIA are equal to the host contract values covering guaranteed benefits and the fair value of embedded equity options.
Liabilities for fixed annuities in a benefit or payout status are based on future estimated payments using established industry mortality tables and interest rates, ranging from 3.12% to 9.38% at December 31, 2014, depending on year of issue, with an average rate of approximately 4.66%.
Life, Disability Income and Long Term Care Insurance
Life, DI and LTC insurance includes liabilities for fixed account values on fixed and variable universal life policies, liabilities for indexed accounts of indexed universal life (“IUL”) products, liabilities for unpaid amounts on reported claims, estimates of benefits payable on claims incurred but not yet reported and estimates of benefits that will become payable on term life, whole life, DI and LTC policies as claims are incurred in the future.
Liabilities for fixed account values on fixed and variable universal life insurance are equal to accumulation values. Accumulation values are the cumulative gross deposits and credited interest less various contractual expense and mortality charges and less amounts withdrawn by policyholders.
Liabilities for indexed accounts of IUL products are equal to the accumulation of host contract values covering guaranteed benefits and the fair value of embedded equity options.
A portion of our fixed and variable universal life policies have product features that result in profits followed by losses from the insurance component of the contract. These profits followed by losses can be generated by the cost structure of the product or secondary guarantees in the contract. The secondary guarantee ensures that, subject to specified conditions, the policy will not terminate and will continue to provide a death benefit even if there is insufficient policy value to cover the monthly deductions and charges.
In determining the liability for contracts with profits followed by losses, we project benefits and contract assessments using actuarial models. Significant assumptions made in projecting future benefits and assessments relate to customer asset value growth rates, mortality, persistency and investment margins and are consistent with those used for DAC valuation for the same contracts. As with DAC, management reviews, and where appropriate, adjusts its assumptions each quarter. Unless management identifies a material deviation over the course of quarterly monitoring, management reviews and updates these assumptions annually in the third quarter of each year.
The liability for these future losses is determined by estimating the death benefits in excess of account value and recognizing the excess over the estimated life based on expected assessments (e.g. cost of insurance charges, contractual administrative charges, similar fees and investment margin). See Note 11 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for information regarding the liability for contracts with secondary guarantees.
Liabilities for unpaid amounts on reported life insurance claims are equal to the death benefits payable under the policies. Liabilities for unpaid amounts on reported DI and LTC claims include any periodic or other benefit amounts due and accrued, along with estimates of the present value of obligations for continuing benefit payments. These amounts are calculated based on claim continuance tables which estimate the likelihood an individual will continue to be eligible for benefits. Present values are calculated at interest rates established when claims are incurred. Anticipated claim continuance rates are based on established industry tables, adjusted as appropriate for our experience. Interest rates used with DI claims ranged from 3% to 8% at December 31, 2014, with an average rate of 4.5%. Interest rates used with LTC claims ranged from 4% to 6% at December 31, 2014, with an average rate of 4%.
Liabilities for estimated benefits payable on claims that have been incurred but not yet reported are based on periodic analysis of the actual time lag between when a claim occurs and when it is reported.
Liabilities for estimates of benefits that will become payable on future claims on term life, whole life, DI and LTC policies are based on the net level premium method, using anticipated premium payments, mortality and morbidity rates, policy persistency and interest rates earned on assets supporting the liability. Anticipated mortality and morbidity rates are based on established industry mortality and morbidity tables, with modifications based on our experience. Anticipated premium payments and persistency rates vary by policy form, issue age, policy duration and certain other pricing factors. Anticipated interest rates for term and whole life ranged from 3.25% to 10% at December 31, 2014, depending on policy form, issue year and policy duration. Anticipated interest rates for DI policies ranged from 4% to 7.5% at December 31, 2014, depending on policy form, issue year and policy duration. Anticipated interest rates for LTC policy reserves can vary by plan and year and ranged from 6.25% to 9.4% at December 31, 2014.
For term life, whole life, DI and LTC polices, we utilize best estimate assumptions as of the date the policy is issued with provisions for the risk of adverse deviation, as appropriate. After the liabilities are initially established, management performs premium deficiency tests annually in the third quarter of each year using best estimate assumptions without provisions for adverse deviation. If the liabilities determined based on these best estimate assumptions are greater than the net reserves (i.e., GAAP reserves net of any DAC balance), the existing net reserves are adjusted by first reducing the DAC balance by the amount of the deficiency or to zero through a change to current period earnings. If the deficiency is more than the DAC balance, then the net reserves are increased by the excess through a charge to current period earnings. If a premium deficiency is recognized, the assumptions are locked in and used in subsequent valuations.
Changes in policyholder account balances, future policy benefits and claims are reflected in earnings in the period adjustments are made.
Where applicable, benefit amounts expected to be recoverable from reinsurance companies who share in the risk are separately recorded as reinsurance recoverable within receivables.
Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities
We use derivative instruments to manage our exposure to various market risks. Examples include index options, interest rate swaps and swaptions, total return swaps, and futures used as economic hedges of equity, interest rate, credit and foreign currency exchange rate risk related to various products and transactions. All derivatives are recorded at fair value. The fair value of our derivative instruments is determined using either market quotes or valuation models that are based upon the net present value of estimated future cash flows and incorporate current market observable inputs to the extent available.
The accounting for changes in the fair value of a derivative instrument depends on its intended use and the resulting hedge designation, if any. We primarily use derivatives as economic hedges that are not designated as accounting hedges or do not qualify for hedge accounting treatment. We occasionally designate derivatives as (i) hedges of changes in the fair value of assets, liabilities or firm commitments (“fair value hedges”), (ii) hedges of a forecasted transaction or of the variability of cash flows to be received or
paid related to a recognized asset or liability (“cash flow hedges”) or (iii) hedges of foreign currency exposures of net investments in foreign operations (“net investment hedges in foreign operations”).
Our accounting policy is to not offset fair value amounts recognized for derivatives and collateral arrangements executed with the same counterparty under the same master netting arrangement. Changes in fair value are recognized in current period earnings for derivative instruments that do not qualify for hedge accounting or are not designated as accounting hedges.
For derivative instruments that qualify as fair value hedges, changes in the fair value of the derivatives, as well as changes in the fair value of the hedged assets, liabilities or firm commitments, are recognized on a net basis in current period earnings. The carrying value of the hedged item is adjusted for the change in fair value from the designated hedged risk. If a fair value hedge designation is removed or the hedge is terminated prior to maturity, previous adjustments to the carrying value of the hedged item are recognized into earnings over the remaining life of the hedged item.
For derivative instruments that qualify as cash flow hedges, the effective portion of the gain or loss on the derivative instruments is reported in AOCI and reclassified into earnings when the hedged item or transaction impacts earnings. The amount that is reclassified into earnings is presented in the Consolidated Statements of Operations with the hedged instrument or transaction impact. Any ineffective portion of the gain or loss is reported in current period earnings as a component of net investment income. If a hedge designation is removed or a hedge is terminated prior to maturity, the amount previously recorded in AOCI is reclassified to earnings over the period that the hedged item impacts earnings. For any hedge relationships that are discontinued because the forecasted transaction is not expected to occur according to the original strategy, any related amounts previously recorded in AOCI are recognized in earnings immediately.
For derivative instruments that qualify as net investment hedges in foreign operations, the effective portion of the change in fair value of the derivatives is recorded in AOCI as part of the foreign currency translation adjustment. Any ineffective portion of net investment hedges in foreign operations is recognized in net investment income during the period of change.
For further details on the types of derivatives we use and how we account for them, see Note 2 and Note 16 to our Consolidated Financial Statements.
Income Tax Accounting
Income taxes, as reported in our Consolidated Financial Statements, represent the net amount of income taxes that we expect to pay to or receive from various taxing jurisdictions in connection with our operations. We provide for income taxes based on amounts that we believe we will ultimately owe taking into account the recognition and measurement for uncertain tax positions. Inherent in the provision for income taxes are estimates and judgments regarding the tax treatment of certain items. In the event that the ultimate tax treatment of items differs from our estimates, we may be required to significantly change the provision for income taxes recorded in our Consolidated Financial Statements.
In connection with the provision for income taxes, our Consolidated Financial Statements reflect certain amounts related to deferred tax assets and liabilities, which result from temporary differences between the assets and liabilities measured for financial statement purposes versus the assets and liabilities measured for tax return purposes.
We are required to establish a valuation allowance for any portion of our deferred tax assets that management believes will not be realized. Significant judgment is required in determining if a valuation allowance should be established, and the amount of such allowance if required. Factors used in making this determination include estimates relating to the performance of the business. Consideration is given to, among other things in making this determination, (i) future taxable income exclusive of reversing temporary differences and carryforwards, (ii) future reversals of existing taxable temporary differences, (iii) taxable income in prior carryback years, and (iv) tax planning strategies. Management may need to identify and implement appropriate planning strategies to ensure our ability to realize our deferred tax assets and reduce the likelihood of the establishment of a valuation allowance with respect to such assets. See Note 21 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on our valuation allowance.
Recent Accounting Pronouncements
For information regarding recent accounting pronouncements and their expected impact on our future consolidated results of operations and financial condition, see Note 3 to our Consolidated Financial Statements.
Sources of Revenues and Expenses
Management and Financial Advice Fees
Management and financial advice fees relate primarily to fees earned from managing mutual funds, separate account and wrap account assets and institutional investments, as well as fees earned from providing financial advice, administrative services (including transfer agent and administration fees earned from providing services to retail mutual funds) and other custodial services. Management and financial advice fees also include mortality and expense risk fees that are generally calculated as a percentage of the fair value of assets held in separate accounts.
Our management and financial advice fees are generally recognized when earned as the service is provided. A significant portion of our management fees are calculated as a percentage of the fair value of our managed assets. A large majority of our managed assets are valued by third party pricing services vendors based upon observable market data. The selection of our third party pricing service vendors and the reliability of their prices are subject to certain governance procedures, such as exception reporting, subsequent transaction testing, and annual due diligence of our vendors, which includes assessing the vendor’s valuation qualifications, control environment, analysis of asset-class specific valuation methodologies and understanding of sources of market observable assumptions.
We may receive performance-based incentive management fees on certain management contracts. Performance fees are paid when specific performance hurdles are met. We recognize performance fees on the date the fee is no longer subject to adjustment. Any performance fees received are not subject to repayment or any other clawback provisions.
Certain management and financial advice fees are charged based on an annual fee or a transaction fee. These fees include financial planning, certain custodial and fund administration and brokerage fees. Fees from financial planning services are recognized when the financial plan is delivered. Annual custodial and fund administration fees are recognized evenly as service is provided over the contract period. Transaction based brokerage fees are recognized on the transaction date.
Distribution fees primarily include point-of-sale fees (such as mutual fund front-end sales loads) and asset-based fees (such as 12b-1 distribution and shareholder service fees) that are generally based on a contractual percentage of assets and recognized when earned. Distribution fees also include amounts received under marketing support arrangements for sales of mutual funds and other companies’ products, such as through our wrap accounts, as well as surrender charges on fixed and variable universal life insurance and annuities, which are recognized as revenue when assessed.
Net Investment Income
Net investment income primarily includes interest income on fixed maturity securities classified as Available-for-Sale, mortgage loans, policy and certificate loans, other investments, cash and cash equivalents and investments of CIEs; the changes in fair value of trading securities, certain derivatives and certain assets and liabilities of CIEs; the pro rata share of net income or loss on equity method investments; and realized gains and losses on the sale of securities and charges for other-than-temporary impairments of investments related to credit losses. Interest income is accrued as earned using the effective interest method, which makes an adjustment of the yield for security premiums and discounts on all performing fixed maturity securities classified as Available-for-Sale and commercial mortgage loans so that the related security or loan recognizes a constant rate of return on the outstanding balance throughout its term. Realized gains and losses on securities, other than trading securities and equity method investments, are recognized using the specific identification method on a trade date basis.
Premiums include premiums on auto and home insurance, traditional life and health (DI and LTC) insurance and immediate annuities with a life contingent feature. Premiums on auto and home insurance are net of reinsurance premiums and are recognized ratably over the coverage period. Premiums on traditional life, health insurance and immediate annuities with a life contingent feature are net of reinsurance ceded and are recognized as revenue when due.
Other revenues primarily include variable annuity guaranteed benefit rider charges and fixed and variable universal life insurance charges, which consist of cost of insurance charges (net of reinsurance premiums and cost of reinsurance for UL insurance products) and administrative and surrender charges. These charges are recognized as revenue when assessed. We also record revenue related to consolidated property funds managed by Threadneedle. These revenues primarily represent rental income of managed properties and are recognized on a straight line basis over the term of the lease.
Banking and Deposit Interest Expense
Banking and deposit interest expense primarily includes interest expense related to investment certificates. The changes in fair value of stock market certificate embedded derivatives and the derivatives hedging stock market certificates are included within banking and deposit interest expense. Prior to the bank conversion, banking and deposit interest expense also included interest expense related to banking deposits.
Distribution expenses primarily include compensation paid to our financial advisors, registered representatives, third-party distributors and wholesalers, net of amounts capitalized and amortized as part of DAC. The amounts capitalized and amortized are based on actual distribution costs. The majority of these costs, such as advisor and wholesaler compensation, vary directly with the level of sales. Distribution expenses also include marketing support and other distribution and administration related payments made to affiliated and unaffiliated distributors of products provided by our affiliates. The majority of these expenses vary with the level of sales, or assets held, by these distributors, and the remainder is fixed. Distribution expenses also include wholesaling costs.
Interest Credited to Fixed Accounts
Interest credited to fixed accounts represents amounts earned by contractholders and policyholders on fixed account values associated with fixed and variable universal life and annuity contracts. The changes in fair value of equity indexed annuity and IUL embedded derivatives and the derivatives hedging these products are included within interest credited to fixed accounts.
Benefits, Claims, Losses and Settlement Expenses
Benefits, claims, losses and settlement expenses consist of amounts paid and changes in liabilities held for anticipated future benefit payments under insurance policies and annuity contracts, along with costs to process and pay such amounts. Amounts are net of benefit payments recovered or expected to be recovered under reinsurance contracts. Benefits under variable annuity guarantees include the changes in fair value of GMWB and GMAB embedded derivatives and the derivatives hedging these benefits, as well as the changes in fair value of derivatives hedging GMDB provisions. Benefits, claims, losses and settlement expenses also include amortization of DSIC.
Amortization of DAC
Direct sales commissions and other costs capitalized as DAC are amortized over time. For annuity and UL contracts, DAC are amortized based on projections of estimated gross profits over amortization periods equal to the approximate life of the business. For other insurance products, DAC are generally amortized as a percentage of premiums over amortization periods equal to the premium-paying period. For certain mutual fund products, DAC are generally amortized over fixed periods on a straight-line basis adjusted for redemptions. See “Deferred Acquisition Costs and Deferred Sales Inducement Costs” under “Critical Accounting Policies” for further information on DAC.
Interest and Debt Expense
Interest and debt expense primarily includes interest on corporate debt and debt of CIEs, the impact of interest rate hedging activities and amortization of debt issuance costs.
General and Administrative Expense
General and administrative expense includes compensation, share-based awards and other benefits for employees (other than employees directly related to distribution, including financial advisors), professional and consultant fees, information technology, facilities and equipment, advertising and promotion, legal and regulatory and corporate related expenses.
Assets Under Management and Administration
Assets under management (“AUM”) include external client assets for which we provide investment management services, such as the assets of the Columbia Management funds and Threadneedle funds, assets of institutional clients and assets of clients in our advisor platform held in wrap accounts as well as assets managed by sub-advisers selected by us. AUM also includes certain assets on our Consolidated Balance Sheets for which we provide investment management services and recognize management fees in our Asset Management segment, such as the assets of the general account and the variable product funds held in the separate accounts of our life insurance subsidiaries and CIEs. These assets do not include assets under advisement, for which we provide model portfolios but do not have full discretionary investment authority. Corporate & Other AUM primarily includes former bank assets that are managed within our Corporate & Other segment.
Assets under administration (“AUA”) include assets for which we provide administrative services such as client assets invested in other companies’ products that we offer outside of our wrap accounts. These assets include those held in clients’ brokerage accounts. We generally record revenues received from administered assets as distribution fees. We do not exercise management discretion over these assets and do not earn a management fee. These assets are not reported on our Consolidated Balance Sheets. AUA also includes certain assets on our Consolidated Balance Sheets for which we do not provide investment management services and do not recognize management fees, such as investments in non-affiliated funds held in the separate accounts of our life insurance subsidiaries. These assets do not include assets under advisement, for which we provide model portfolios but do not have full discretionary investment authority.
The following table presents detail regarding our AUM and AUA:
Assets Under Management and Administration
Advice & Wealth Management AUM
Asset Management AUM
Corporate & Other AUM
Total Assets Under Management
Total Assets Under Administration
Total AUM and AUA
Total AUM increased $24.3 billion, or 4%, to $658.6 billion as of December 31, 2014 compared to $634.3 billion as of December 31, 2013 due to a $21.0 billion increase in Advice & Wealth Management AUM driven by wrap account net inflows and market appreciation and a $4.8 billion increase in Asset Management AUM primarily driven by market appreciation, partially offset by retail fund distributions. See our segment results of operations discussion below for additional information on changes in our AUM.
Consolidated Results of Operations
Year Ended December 31, 2014 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2013
The following table presents our consolidated results of operations:
Years Ended December 31,
Management and financial advice fees
Net investment income
Banking and deposit interest expense
Total net revenues
Interest credited to fixed accounts
Benefits, claims, losses and settlement expenses
Amortization of deferred acquisition costs
Interest and debt expense
General and administrative expense
Income from continuing operations before income tax provision
Income tax provision
Income from continuing operations
Loss from discontinued operations, net of tax
Less: Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests
Net income attributable to Ameriprise Financial
NM Not Meaningful.
Income from continuing operations before income tax provision increased $577 million, or 29%, to $2.5 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $2.0 billion for the prior year primarily reflecting the impact of market appreciation, wrap account net inflows, an increase in net income from CIEs and the market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits (net of hedges and the related DSIC and DAC amortization), partially offset by a $109 million decrease from unlocking, asset management retail fund distributions and higher auto and home claim and claim adjustment expense. The market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits (net of hedges and the related DSIC and DAC amortization) was an expense of $94 million for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to an expense of $170 million for the prior year, which included a $17 million benefit associated with unlocking.
The following table presents the total pretax impacts on our revenues and expenses attributable to unlocking for the years ended December 31:
Pretax Increase (Decrease)
Benefits, claims, losses and settlement expenses
Amortization of DAC
(1) Includes a $17 million net benefit related to the market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits for the year ended December 31, 2013.
Net revenues increased $1.1 billion, or 10%, to $12.3 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $11.2 billion for the prior year primarily due to higher management and financial advice fees and other revenues.
Management and financial advice fees increased $557 million, or 11%, to $5.8 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $5.3 billion for the prior year primarily due to higher asset-based fees driven by an increase in average AUM. Average AUM increased $58.0 billion, or 10%, compared to the prior year primarily due to market appreciation and wrap account net inflows. See our discussion on the changes in AUM in our segment results of operations section below.
Distribution fees increased $123 million, or 7%, to $1.9 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $1.8 billion for the prior year due to higher client assets, as well as increased client activity.
Net investment income decreased $148 million, or 8%, to $1.7 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $1.9 billion for the prior year primarily due to a $96 million decrease in investment income on fixed maturities driven by low interest rates and a $63 million decrease in net investment income of CIEs, partially offset by a $30 million increase in net realized gains primarily related to calls on fixed income securities.
Premiums increased $103 million, or 8%, to $1.4 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $1.3 billion for the prior year primarily due to growth in auto and home premiums driven by continued new policy sales growth, primarily from our affinity relationships with Costco and Progressive. Auto and home policies in force increased 11% compared to the prior year.
Other revenues increased $431 million, or 42%, to $1.5 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $1.0 billion for the prior year due to a $376 million increase in other revenues of CIEs and higher fees from variable annuity guarantee sales in the prior year where the fees start on the first anniversary date, and higher average fee rates, partially offset by the impact of unlocking. Other revenues for the year ended December 31, 2014 included a $29 million negative impact from unlocking compared to an $18 million negative impact in the prior year. The primary driver of the unlocking impact to other revenues in both periods was lower projected gains on reinsurance contracts resulting from favorable mortality experience.
Total expenses increased $492 million, or 5%, to $9.7 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $9.2 billion for the prior year primarily due to increases in distribution expenses and amortization of DAC.
Distribution expenses increased $311 million, or 11%, to $3.2 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $2.9 billion for the prior year driven by higher advisor compensation due to growth in assets under management. See our discussion on the changes in AUM in our segment results of operations section below.
Interest credited to fixed accounts decreased $93 million, or 12%, to $713 million for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $806 million for the prior year driven by lower average fixed annuity account balances and a lower average crediting rate on interest sensitive fixed annuities. Average fixed annuity account balances decreased $884 million, or 7%, to $12.7 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to the prior year due to net outflows reflecting elevated surrenders on products sold through third parties where rates have reset lower. The average fixed annuity crediting rate excluding capitalized interest decreased to 3.0% for the
year ended December 31, 2014 compared to 3.6% for the prior year reflecting the re-pricing of the five-year guarantee block. See additional discussion on the re-pricing in the Annuities segment.
Benefits, claims, losses and settlement expenses increased $28 million, or 1%, to $2.0 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to the prior year primarily reflecting the following items:
The year ended December 31, 2014 included a $6 million expense from unlocking. The prior year included a $5 million benefit from unlocking, which included a $22 million benefit related to the market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits. The market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits is discussed below. The unlocking impact for the year ended December 31, 2014 reflected the difference between our previously assumed interest rates versus the continued low interest rate environment, partially offset by a benefit from updating our variable annuity living benefit withdrawal utilization assumption. The unlocking impact for the prior year reflected the impact of assumed interest rates and changes in assumed policyholder behavior, partially offset by the impact of variable annuity model changes.
A $163 million increase in provision for estimated losses related to our auto and home business reflecting the impact of growth in exposures from an 11% increase in policies in force, an increase in catastrophe losses reflecting the growth in exposures and the extremely severe winter and spring weather during 2014, and adverse development in the 2013 and prior accident years auto liability coverage observed during the first quarter of 2014 resulting in a $30 million increase to prior accident year loss reserves. Later in 2014, further adverse loss development was observed primarily in the 2014 auto book of business which resulted in a $60 million increase to loss reserves for estimated losses including incurred but not reported claims reserves ("IBNR"). Catastrophe losses were $66 million for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $42 million for the prior year.
A $26 million increase in expense related to higher reserve funding driven by the impact of higher fees from variable annuity guarantee sales in the prior year where the fees start on the first anniversary date.
A $21 million decrease in expenses compared to the prior year from policyholder movement of investments in Portfolio Navigator (traditional asset allocation) funds under certain in force variable annuities with living benefit guarantees to the Portfolio Stabilizer (managed volatility) funds. See additional discussion in the Annuities segment.
A decrease in expense compared to the prior year due to an $8 million increase in disability income reserves in the second quarter of 2013 related to prior periods.
A $404 million decrease in expense compared to the prior year from the unhedged nonperformance credit spread risk adjustment on variable annuity guaranteed benefits. As the embedded derivative liability on which the nonperformance credit spread is applied increases (decreases), the impact of the nonperformance credit spread is favorable (unfavorable) to expense. In 2014, the favorable impact of the nonperformance credit spread was $146 million primarily driven by an increase in the embedded derivative liability. In 2013, the unfavorable impact of the nonperformance credit spread was $258 million primarily driven by a decrease in the embedded derivative liability.
A $303 million increase in expense from other market impacts on variable annuity guaranteed benefits, net of hedges in place to offset those risks and the related DSIC amortization. This increase was the result of an unfavorable $2.9 billion change in the market impact on variable annuity guaranteed living benefits reserves, a favorable $2.6 billion change in the market impact on derivatives hedging the variable annuity guaranteed benefits and an unfavorable $2 million DSIC offset. The main market drivers contributing to these changes are summarized below:
Interest rates were down in 2014 and up in 2013 resulting in an unfavorable change in the variable annuity guaranteed living benefits liability, partially offset by a favorable change in the related hedge assets.
Equity market and volatility impacts on the hedge assets resulted in a smaller increase in expense in 2014 compared to 2013. This benefit was partially offset by an unfavorable change in 2014 compared to 2013 from equity market and volatility impacts on the related variable annuity guaranteed living benefits liability.
Other unhedged items, including the difference between the assumed and actual underlying separate account investment performance, fixed income credit exposures, transaction costs and various behavioral items, were a net favorable impact compared to the prior year.
Amortization of DAC increased $160 million, or 77%, to $367 million for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $207 million for the prior year primarily reflecting the following items:
Amortization of DAC for the year ended December 31, 2014 included an $8 million expense from unlocking, primarily driven by the difference between our previously assumed interest rates versus the continued low interest rate environment, partially offset by favorable persistency and mortality experience and a benefit from updating our variable annuity living benefit withdrawal utilization assumption. Amortization of DAC for the prior year included a $79 million benefit from unlocking, which included a $5 million expense related to the DAC offset to the market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits, primarily driven by the impact of assumed interest rates and changes in assumed policyholder behavior.
The DAC offset to the market impact on variable annuity guaranteed benefits (net of hedges and the related DSIC amortization) was a benefit of $9 million for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to a benefit of $34 million for the prior year.
A $7 million expense related to an actuarial model correction in life insurance in the fourth quarter of 2014 primarily related to prior periods.
The impact on DAC from actual versus expected market performance based on our view of bond and equity performance was a benefit of $21 million for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to a benefit of $26 million for the prior year. Equity market returns were favorable in both periods but less favorable in 2014 versus the prior year. Bond fund returns were favorable in 2014 and unfavorable in the prior year.
Interest and debt expense increased $47 million, or 17%, to $328 million for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to $281 million for the prior year due to a $53 million increase in interest and debt expense of CIEs.
Our effective tax rate on income from continuing operations including income attributable to noncontrolling interests was 21.4% for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to 25.0% for the prior year. Our effective tax rate on income from continuing operations excluding income attributable to noncontrolling interests was 25.2% for the year ended December 31, 2014 compared to 26.9% for the prior year. The effective tax rate for the year ended December 31, 2014 was lower than the statutory rate as a result of tax preferred items including the dividends received deduction and low income housing tax credits, as well as a $17 million benefit in 2014 related to the completion of an IRS audit.
In December 2014, we received IRS approval for a change in accounting method related to variable annuity hedging. Accordingly, we began using the approved method of accounting in the fourth quarter. The change to the approved method increased deferred tax expense and current tax receivables with a corresponding decrease to current tax expense and deferred tax assets of approximately $300 million.
Results of Operations by Segment
Year Ended December 31, 2014 Compared to Year Ended December 31, 2013
Operating earnings is the measure of segment profit or loss management uses to evaluate segment performance. Operating earnings should not be viewed as a substitute for GAAP income from continuing operations before income tax provision. We believe the presentation of segment operating earnings as we measure it for management purposes enhances the understanding of our business by reflecting the underlying performance of our core operations and facilitating a more meaningful trend analysis. See Note 25 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further information on the presentation of segment results and our definition of operating earnings.
The following table presents summary financial information by segment:
Years Ended December 31,
Advice & Wealth Management
Corporate & Other
The following table presents the segment pretax operating impacts on our revenues and expenses attributable to unlocking:
Years Ended December 31,
Segment Pretax Operating Increase (Decrease)
Benefits, claims, losses and settlement expenses
Amortization of DAC
Advice & Wealth Management
Our Advice & Wealth Management segment provides financial planning and advice, as well as full-service brokerage services, primarily to retail clients through our advisors. These services are centered on long-term, personal relationships between our advisors and our clients and focus on helping clients confidently achieve their financial goals. Our advisors provide a distinctive approach to financial planning and have access to a broad selection of both affiliated and non-affiliated products to help clients meet their financial needs. A significant portion of revenues in this segment is fee-based, driven by the level of client assets, which is impacted by both market movements and net asset flows. We also earn net investment income on invested assets primarily from certificate products. This segment earns revenues (distribution fees) for distributing non-affiliated products and intersegment revenues (distribution fees) for distributing our affiliated products and services to our retail clients. Intersegment expenses for this segment include expenses for investment management services provided by the Asset Management segment.
In addition to purchases of affiliated and non-affiliated mutual funds and other securities on a stand-alone basis, clients may purchase mutual funds, among other securities, in connection with investment advisory fee-based “wrap account” programs or services, and pay fees based on a percentage of their assets.
The following table presents the changes in wrap account assets and average balances for the years ended December 31:
Market appreciation and other(1)
Advisory wrap account assets ending balance(2)
Average advisory wrap account assets(3)
(1) Beginning April 1, 2014, net flows reflect all additions and withdrawals to and from the SPS wrap account program. For all periods presented prior to April 1, 2014, additions and withdrawals to and from certain non-billable investments of this program were reflected in the Market appreciation and other line and purchases and sales of billable investments were reported in the Net flows line. Nets flows for the SPS program are now reported on a consistent basis with our other wrap account programs.
(2) Advisory wrap account assets represent those assets for which clients receive advisory services and are the primary driver of revenue earned on wrap accounts. Clients may hold non-advisory investments in their wrap accounts that do not incur an advisory fee.
(3) Average ending balances are calculated using an average of the prior period’s ending balance and all months in the current period.
Wrap account assets increased $21.2 billion, or 14%, during the year ended December 31, 2014 due to net inflows of $14.2 billion and market appreciation and other of $7.0 billion. Average advisory wrap account assets increased $25.7 billion, or 19%, compared to the prior year primarily due to net inflows and market appreciation.
The following table presents the results of operations of our Advice & Wealth Management segment on an operating basis:
Years Ended December 31,
Management and financial advice fees
Net investment income
Banking and deposit interest expense
Total net revenues