Hartford Financial Services Group will update shareholders in February 2015 about next steps in the continuing drawdown of its Talcott Resolution division, the company’s life runoff annuity operation. An outright sale of remaining assets isn’t in the cards anytime soon, however.
“We don’t feel a need to rush out to do a transaction that we think would be diluted from a GAAP perspective but it is something we will continue to monitor,” Hartford Chief Financial Officer Beth Bombara said during an investor call at the Goldman Sachs U.S. Financial Services Conference 2014 Dec. 9 in New York.
She added “with interest rates being as low as they are, to transact at these low interest rates, we’re looking at losses we don’t need to. As long as we can continue to manage and look at the tradeoff, that it what it will be.”
One of the most recent actions taken with Talcott was the sale over the summer of The Hartford’s Japan annuity business, and an overall strategic focus in reducing the size and risk of the Talcott Resolution liability. Now-former President and CEO Liam McGee cited both actions over the summer as reducing “the volatility of The Hartford’s results,” lowering its capital costs, and freeing up and generating new capital sources.
Bombara said pulling out of Japan “was an easy decision to make,” creating a situation where “a significant source of volatility went away.”
Some of Talcott’s U.S. book remains, and the capital generated from just its earnings is in the $250 million-to-$300 million range, Bombara said, noting that that is “a source of capital going forward.”
As that drawdown continues, Bombara said that The Hartford will look at the capital freed up by further action, and deploy it as has been done in the past, with a balanced focus on share buyback and debt reduction.
“We will also look for more opportunities about how capital can be deployed,” Bombara said.
Bombara was the first executive to speak during the company’s presentation, because a punishing Nor’easter made Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. CEO Christopher Swift late for the insurance giant’s presentation.
After he arrived, apologetically, Swift placed a sale of The Hartford’s Japan annuity business in a larger context, noting it was part of a broader focus on improving various property/casualty business lines, boosting margins and improving its ability to make investments in the company.
As far as “the ability to expand the capital management program here in 2014, we think we have accomplished a lot,” Swift said, “and have a lot of momentum as we head into 2015.”