A.M. Best Upgrades Issuer Credit Ratings Of Voya Financial, Inc. And Most Of Its Subsidiaries

A.M. Best has upgraded the Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating (Long-Term ICR) to "a+" from "a" and affirmed the Financial Strength Rating (FSR) of A (Excellent) of the key life insurance entities of Voya Financial, Inc. (Voya) (headquartered in New York, NY) [NYSE: VOYA]. The outlook of the Long-Term ICR has been revised to stable from positive while the FSR outlook remains stable.

Concurrently, A.M. Best has upgraded Voya's Long-Term ICR to "bbb+" from "bbb" as well as its existing Long-Term Issue Credit Ratings (Long-Term IR). The outlook of these Credit Ratings (ratings) has been revised to stable from positive. (Please see below for a detailed listing of the companies and ratings.)

The Long-Term ICR upgrades reflect Voya's overall improved credit risk profile in recent years due to prudent financial leverage, a reduction in higher risk assets in the general account investment portfolio, favorable earnings within core business lines and the discontinuation and ongoing risk management of more capital intensive lines of business. The ratings also reflect Voya's favorable market position in selected life insurance, employee benefits and retirement markets, solid risk-adjusted capital position and well-developed enterprise risk management framework. A.M. Best notes that Voya's balance sheet remains strong with relatively low intangible assets to equity and more than adequate liquidity at the holding company. A.M. Best also views favorably the company's solid growth, including positive retirement and investment management net inflows year-to-date 3Q 2016.

Partially offsetting these positives factors is the impact of Voya's closed block variable annuity (CBVA) segment on earnings and the susceptibility of future earnings to spread compression and fluctuations in the equity markets. A.M. Best notes that Voya has maintained interest rate spreads by reducing crediting rates in recent periods. However, A.M. Best believes the company may be challenged to maintain current spreads over the near to medium term as over 80% of interest sensitive account values are at the guaranteed minimum interest rate. Moreover, while A.M. Best acknowledges that Voya's hedge program protects statutory capital against movements in the financial markets, the company has historically taken substantial statutory reserve charges due to revisions in policyholder behavior assumptions on its CBVA, although the 3Q 2016 impact was a $155M decrease in statutory reserves. Voya does remain susceptible to additional and potentially significant reserve charges over the medium-term. A.M. Best also notes the continued high utilization of internal and external reinsurance for capital management and risk mitigation purposes. The group's risk-adjusted capital levels benefit from the extensive use of capital solutions.

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