ING Life Insurance
Since forming as a result of the merger between Nationale-Nederlanden and NMB Postbank Group in 1991, the ING Group has aggressively pursued a policy of perpetual growth. Through a combination of acquisitions, buyouts and savvy financial management, ING, in less than 20 years of existence has shot to the top of the financial services industry, rocketing past companies nearly 10 times its age.
ING's Rise in 2009
ING’s rise has been so meteoric that in 2009, the Amsterdam-based firm was rated the 8th largest company in the world by Fortune Magazine placing it first among companies providing financial services. ING’s reach is impressive as its 115,000 employees maintain a presence in 40 countries on five continents in service of 85 million clients. Just as the scope of ING’s locations is wide, so too are the scope of its operations. One would be hard pressed to find a company in the financial sector as diverse as ING.
ING’s operations can be broken down into four major categories: its retail banking division, its commercial banking division, its insurance division and branchless direct banks known as ING Direct. Some experts credit a portion of ING’s phenomenal growth to the popularity and profitability of ING Direct. ING Direct mastered the concept of electronic banking in the Internet Age, a philosophy that allowed customers all the features of a regular bank at a fraction of the cost of operating a traditional branch.
ING Company Ratings
The independent rating agencies that serve so vital a purpose in providing consumers with information on the strength of financial services have been impressed with ING, but not dazzled. AM Best gives ING an A rating, Moody’s gives it an A1, Standard and Poor’s rates ING A+ and Fitch rates ING AA-. In the spring of 2009, AM Best downgraded ING from “Superior” to “Excellent” due to concerns about the performance of ING’s U.S. subsidiaries.
It’s important to emphasize that the rating agencies still rate ING as Excellent. Nevertheless, the rating places it a notch below other insurers like Met Life, New York Life and State Farm. It is important to note here that many of the strongest companies in the world, inside and outside the financial services sector, saw their ratings downgraded in recent months and years as a result of the global recession.
That being said, the ratings reflect a company’s ability to pay its policies should they become due. It may seem improbable that a company as large and diverse as ING could ever be in such a dilemma, but many felt the same way about AIG. As implied earlier, insurance, life insurance specifically, is not the primary operations for ING.
ING runs the insurance arm of its US operations through a trio of subsidiaries: ReliaStar Life Insurance Company, ReliaStar Life Insurance Company of New York and Security Life of Denver Insurance Company. Each of these companies has a long history, though they are relative newcomers to the ING family. When customers buy an insurance policy from ING it is issued and then serviced by one of these three companies.
ING Life Products
The variety of insurance products available from ING via its subsidiaries is rather unremarkable. Term life insurance, whole life, and variable universal life are offered but they offer few of the riders and sophistication that discerning consumers find so attractive. What ING has, due its size and its buying power, is the possibility of very competitive rates of return on its variable universal life and whole life products.
Someone looking for a straightforward whole life might find exactly what they are looking for with ING. But customers looking for products such as buy-sell agreements, survivorship policies will have to look for those at someplace besides ING. This is not to say that ING does not have an assortment of investment products. It does. Mutual Funds, IRAs, 401ks, annuities, and trusts all are available through ING.
If you are the type of investor who wants to link your insurance, investing and retirement planning together, which is never a bad idea, ING is the kind of one stop shop that may suit your needs. While there is wealth if information about ING’s investment tools available online, individual investor’s should discuss their needs with a qualified sales agent. This will help the consumer understand the many options that are available.
Once you sit down with an agent, you will realize that this relationship, rather than the one with the company is the one that is most important. The financial strength of a company is critical, of course, but if you cannot feel comfortable with one of its agents then you should probably look elsewhere. Determining what will become of your resources after you are gone is one of the most important decisions you will make, so it stands to reason that you will want to make it with a person that has your trust and confidence.
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