What is Fitch Ratings?

Fitch Ratings is one of the top credit rating agencies that evaluates an insurance company’s financial standing.

Nupur Gambhir

By

Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is an insurance editor at Policygenius and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent in New York.

Published November 24, 2020|2 min read

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Part of finding the right life insurance policy includes reviewing their financial standing, consumer confidence, and customer satisfaction.

Fitch Ratings is one of the three rating agencies we use to determine an insurer’s financial health. By conducting a thorough evaluation of each company’s financial background, debt, and sensitivity to the market, Fitch determines the likelihood of an insurance company carrying out their financial obligations — in layman’s terms, pay out your policy’s death benefit to your loved ones.

Key Takeaways

  • Fitch Ratings is one of the top three financial rating agencies and is used by institutions globally

  • A high grade awarded by Fitch Ratings means that the insurance company is in good financial health and is likely able to fulfill their financial obligations

  • A low grade means that the insurance company is in poor financial health and runs the risk of not being able to pay out the death benefit

Why should you care about an insurer’s financial health?

When you’re buying life insurance, you want to make sure that you’re putting your family’s finances in good hands. A sound financial rating from your insurance company means you can be confident in their ability to pay out the life insurance funds to your beneficiaries — and that they’ll have a contingency plan in place in the off chance that they cannot.

What is Fitch Ratings agency?

Fitch Ratings is one of three major credit rating agencies that grade institutions based on their financial standing and the likelihood of bankruptcy. The other two top credit ratings agencies are Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and Moody’s.

They award ratings for major financial institutions, from banks, corporations, and insurance companies to “sovereigns”, or countries. As one of the most trusted rating agencies globally, their risk analysis is sought by consumers, investors, and government agencies alike.

Rating criteria

To determine an insurance company’s financial standing, Fitch specialists extensively analyze multiple facets of the business. The final score is representative of the business’s vulnerability to market conditions, cash reserves, and ability to recover from any financial duress. Simply put, this determines if an insurance company can meet its policy obligations in the long run. Each criterion is weighted differently in the cumulative grade an insurance company receives.

Their key credit factors are based on the following:

Qualitative factors

  • Industry profile and operating environment, which assesses an insurer’s strengths and limitations.

  • Business profile, which is driven by an insurance company’s competitive positioning in the market, risk profile, and diversification of the business.

  • Ownership, which only affects the rating if the owner “exercises control” over the business.

  • Corporate governance and management, which can be negatively impacted by variables such as no board independence (meaning little room for oversight and accountability) or suspicious business transactions.

Quantitative factors

  • Capitalization and leverage, which measures an insurer’s ratio of capital-to-risk, their ratio of debt-to-capital, and their ratio of total financing and debts to reliance on funding.

  • Debt service capabilities and financial flexibility, which is their ability to recover from adverse financial conditions.

  • Financial performance and earnings, which measures how much capital an insurance company generates.

  • Investment and asset risk, which accounts for risks the insurance company faces from the market and liquid assets. It also reviews an insurance company’s reserves and risk mitigation practices, such as reinsurance (insurance for insurance companies).

Fitch scoring guidelines

Fitch ratings range from AAA (the insurance company poses little financial risk) to D (the insurance company has an adverse financial background and poses a lot of risk). Ratings can also receive a plus or minus. The lower the grade for a life insurance company, the higher the likelihood that an insurance company may default and not pay out the entire life insurance benefit. An insurance company with a higher rating is more reliable when it comes to your family’s financial security.

Below you’ll find each rating and what they mean for your life insurance coverage.

FITCH GRADEGRADE MEANING
AAAThe best possible rating that can be awarded. The insurance company is in exceptionally good financial health and has little chance of being adversely impacted by an economic downturn.
AAThe insurance company is in exceptionally good financial health and is not unlikely to be vulnerable to an economic downturn.
AWhile the insurance company is in relatively good financial health, it may be vulnerable to negative market conditions.
BBBThough the insurance company is in relatively good financial health, certain economic conditions can harm their ability to fulfill policy obligations. However, there are adequate safeguards in place.
BBAn indication that the insurance company is susceptible to an economic downturn.
BThis rating indicates above-average vulnerability to unfavorable economic conditions, meaning there is a chance they may not be able to fulfill financial commitments.
CCCThere is a high risk associated with this insurance company and a strong likelihood that they cannot fulfill financial commitments.
CCInability to meet financial commitments is probable
CThe insurance company is near default and is unlikely to fulfill financial commitments.
RDShort for restricted default, this means the insurance company has defaulted but has not filed for bankruptcy or submitted to any other formal procedure.
DShort for default, this means the insurance company has filed for bankruptcy, liquidation, or another formal procedure.

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How Policygenius uses Fitch Ratings

Policygenius uses Fitch Ratings, alongside other major third-party rating agencies, to conduct comprehensive reviews of the best life insurance companies to get coverage from.

Fitch Ratings are factored into our score of confidence for each insurer, which is their ability to eventually pay out the life insurance death benefit. This information, coupled with customer satisfaction, cost, and policy details, determine our final company rating and review. You can read more about our methodology here.

→ Learn more about the best life insurance companies in 2020

FAQ

What is Fitch Ratings agency?

Fitch Ratings is a credit rating agency that evaluates the financial health and default risk of financial entities. They award grades to everything from insurance companies to countries.

What do Fitch Ratings mean?

A high grade (such as A) by Fitch means that an insurance company is in good financial health, can withstand negative market conditions, and can likely fulfill their financial commitments to policyholders. A lower grade (such as B) means that the insurance company is susceptible to unfavorable market conditions and may be unable to fulfill its obligations.

Why do grades assigned by Fitch Ratings matter?

Fitch Ratings' grades are an important consideration during the life insurance buying process because they tell you about the financial health of an insurer. When purchasing financial security for your loved ones, you want to get coverage from an insurer that you can rely on to pay out the death benefit.

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