Aviva is an international financial group, based in Great Britain, who specializes in long-term savings, fund management and general insurance. It is the 5th-largest insurance concern in the world, serving 50 million customers and employing 54,000 people in 28 countries throughout Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. Aviva annuities include fixed, variable, indexed and immediate annuities. The company is one of the leading sellers of both indexed annuities and fixed annuities.
Aviva’s U.S. subsidiary, Aviva USA, is located in Des Moines, IA. In July, 2009, it became the U.S. insurance company to undergo an independent review of its marketing, sales and compliance practices by the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association (IMSA), the premier monitor of insurance standards and practices.
Aviva’s roots go back over 300 years, almost to the dawn of the insurance industry itself. In the coffee houses of London in 1696, a company called “Contributions for Insuring Houses, Chambers or Rooms from loss by fire, by Amicable Contribution” began providing fire insurance. In 1713, the company became Hand-In-Hand, whose emblem was two clasped hands underneath a crown. Before eventually becoming the Aviva of today, the company went through several name changes over the course of nearly 300 years. In its early days, it even organized its own fire brigade to protect the houses it was insuring. Its distinguished roster of customers included Samuel Whitbred, John Wesley and Winston Churchill.
In 1877, Norwich cathedral became the company trademark. In 1899, the company (now called General Accident) opened a U.S. office in Philadelphia. In 1906, the company paid $434,432 to victims of the San Francisco earthquake and fire. IN 1912, it paid ₤145,723 to the owners of the White Star shipping line for the loss of the jewel in its fleet, the Titanic. By 1939, General Accident had spread its operations across the world.
In 2000, Norwich Union Company and Commercial General Underwriters merged to form CGNU, which changed its name in 2002 to Aviva. Its acquisition of AmerUS in 2006 enabled Aviva to become a world leader in indexed annuity sales. It has since ranked in the top three in sales of indexed annuities and assumed the #1 position in sales of indexed insurance. Overall company sales now exceed ₤50 billion with some ₤381 billion in insurance in force.
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Among the numerous products sold by Aviva USA are a single-premium immediate annuity, variable annuities, equity-indexed annuities and an extensive selection of fixed annuities with a wide variety of terms, conditions, riders and options.
The noted market-research firm Beacon Research reported that in the first quarter of 2009, Aviva USA was the leading seller of equity-indexed annuities and the 3rd-leading seller of fixed annuities in the U.S. market.
Ratings of Companies Issuing Aviva Annuities
Aviva’s U.S. annuities are issued by the Aviva Life Insurance Company, Aviva Life and Annuity and Aviva Life & Annuity of New York. Three major rating agencies rate the financial strength of these companies. As of this writing, those ratings are:
- A.M. Best: A (3rd-best out of 16 categories)
- Standard & Poor’s: AA- (4th-best out of 21)
- Moody’s: Aa3 (4th-best out of 21)
In October, 2008, the Minnesota Attorney General announced a settlement with Aviva USA involving sales of long-term deferred annuities to senior citizens (over age 65) in the state between Jan.1, 2001, and October 22, 2008. Responding to allegations that buyers were sold annuities unsuitable to their age and financial circumstances, the company agreed to allow requests for penalty-free refunds on about 4,500 policies with a value of about $250 million. The company agreed to take actions to insure that future senior citizens would be evaluated exhaustively to guarantee their suitability for annuity purchases.
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