Nov. 11--With Donald Trump's win in the presidential race, insurers are looking forward to the possibility of lower corporate income taxes and less regulation.
The Hartford's CEO Chris Swift said, "On the tax side, from my perspective, anything that helps growth, employment, us making more things, we would be supportive. I think we all have to be cognizant there would probably be tradeoffs, in some of the preferences certain industries have enjoyed, including ours."
Swift suggested that Trump's style of governing may be similar to President Ronald Reagan, who was known to delegate. "That's all I'll say there," he said to chuckles from fellow CEOs speaking to the Insurance Market Summit held in Hartford on Thursday.
Voya CEO Rodney Martin Jr. said people in his company were looking forward to a reverse in direction on how investment advisers would be regulated. The Obama administration is implementing a rule that takes effect in April that would recommend that people who are making recommendations for retirement savings have to put their customers' interests first. That is expected to slow sales of variable annuities, one of Voya's products.
Martin said he's cautioning it's too soon to make those assumptions.
Mass Mutual CEO Roger Crandall agreed, saying that while there's a belief that Trump and a Republican Congress would reduce regulation on the financial sector -- Trump said, for instance, he wanted to repeal the Dodd-Frank law -- he said, "There is not a lot of detail out there."
Crandall said he was at a talk that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave to business executives, where Christie promised: "In the first 100 days, we're going to take away every regulation put in business in the last decade."
Christie has been in charge of Trump's transition team.
Crandall said Congress should remember there are unintended consequences when moving quickly. He gave the example of a change made by Congress in the late 1990s that required public companies to report how much their pension obligations were expected to cost.
In addition to reacting to the surprise election results, the CEOs talked about issues specific to their businesses -- retirement plans, in Voya's case; auto insurance, at The Hartford; and the difficulty of growing the capital reserves needed to support 3 and 4 percent guarantees in policies in a long-term, low-interest rate environment, at Mass Mutual.
Mass Mutual's Crandall said: "We're doing things like outsourcing places where we don't have core competencies to others. That creates challenges with governors and mayors, and employees, frankly. But I think that's the view of the world we have today."
Voya's Martin said "there's been a shift" from employers believing that offering a 401(k) plan, and an employer match is all they need to do, and if the employees don't take advantage of it, that's not the company's fault, or problem.
He said companies are starting to be concerned that people who are in their mid 60s have not saved enough to be able to stop working, or to have a suitable retirement.
He said that's because seeing a "generation that's not prepared well for retirement is a morale issue for existing employees, it's a morale issue for those who are retiring."
A note of passion crept into Swift's voice as he reminded the audience that there was an increase of traffic deaths in the last years of about 8 or 9 percent -- after there had been no increases at all in 35 years. Swift said some wondered if it had to do with more miles being driven, as the economy improved; or with more states legalizing recreational marijuana. Swift said he believes by far the biggest problem is people texting while driving, or getting distracted with their phones or in-car technologies in some other way.
"There is something going on in the way we drive our vehicles these days that needs to change," he said. He urged everyone in the audience to talk to their families and friends about distracted driving. "We like to be stimulated as a culture," he said later in an interview with The Courant, but he said he believes people can be convinced to stop using their phones while driving. He said auto insurers feel this increase in auto crash deaths is not getting enough publicity. "It could use a little spotlight."
(c)2016 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.