Benzinga  Mar 13  Comment 
CNO Financial Group Inc (NYSE: CNO)'s return to growth could be gradual but signs of a rebound should positively catalyze the stocks and help narrow the trading gap its shares has with respect to the financial services distributors, an analyst at...


CNO Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: CNO), formerly Conseco, emerged from bankruptcy in 2003, after which it has focused on insurance. It relies heavily on its Medicare, fixed-annuities, and long-term care operations, but also provides life insurance and disease-specific insurance. Its clients are primarily middle-class citizens and the elderly. In order to target these groups, Conesco uses a combination of direct marketing, independent distributors, and career agents.

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Trends and Forces

Inadequate reserve for policy benefits

Inadequate reserves for expected future policy benefits might be higher than expected, which could result in decreased net income and stockholders’ equity. Conesco calculates its reserves using historical data. Discrepancies between past claims and future claims may result in insufficient reserves. Faster-than-expected increases in medical costs, obesity, and other unforeseen events and costs may force Conesco to pay the difference from its earnings.

Annuities products are susceptible to changes in interest rates

Its annuities products are highly susceptible to fluctuations in interest rates. An increase in interest rates may cause its annuities holders to invest their money elsewhere. A decrease in interest rates could result in its payments to annuity holders exceeding the investment returns of the annuity. Only 38% of its annuities have variable interest rates, while 47% have fixed interest rates. If a large amount of customers back out of their annuities, Conesco may be forced to sell part of its investment assets in order to cover the loss.

Insurance business restructuring

Conesco’s future will be influenced by its ability to restructure its insurance business. Despite having emerged from bankruptcy in 2003, its insurance business has been plagued with decreased insurance revenues and new annuity premium revenues. In an effort to increase profits, Conesco will be focusing on marketing its higher-margin products and will be decreasing marketing costs for its underperforming products. Conesco’s predecessor owned 44 insurance companies, resulting in unnecessary duplicate administrative positions and systems. In order to remedy this, planning on streamlining administrative tasks and combining paperwork and processing systems for similar products.

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