Though it will soon be known as Voya Financial, ING U.S. (VOYA -1.64%) will be the name reporting its full year 2013 results Wednesday morning.
And if the insurance and retirement services firm follows the trends we've seen so far, there are a few items investors should keep an eye out for.
It's no secret investors are all about growth these days. The insurance sector may still be in a period of transition, but investors expect nothing less than stellar growth nonetheless.
For ING U.S., the company's established transition to fee-based products should help it satisfy investor demands. With the switch to less capital-intensive, higher fee-generating products during 2013, the company saw a positive swing in revenue growth -- to the tune of $34 million during the third quarter. Investors can expect to hear more about the products' impact on revenue generation during the forthcoming earnings report.
The switch made by ING U.S. is a different approach then some of its closest competitors. Though Hartford (HIG 0.52%) has also made some changes, it's focus has been on retention rates at higher pricing. Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW), too, has followed the hardening of the insurance market with higher pricing for its products. One of the insurers to watch, American International Group (AIG 0.81%), has previously stated it would be making a similar switch as the one made by ING U.S. -- so investors will need to keep an eye out for its earnings report later in the week.
Since its IPO in May 2013, ING U.S. has set some aggressive goals to be accomplished by 2016. Chief among them is a 12%-13% return on equity, to be achieved by yearly improvement of 110 basis points.
ING U.S. is far from the only insurer to set ROE goals, but none of its competitors' goals are quite so lofty. The Hartford has set its 2014 ROE goal in the 8.7%-9.2% range, which should be easily achieved since the firm reported 2013 core ROE of 9%. AIG has set a goal of 10% ROE by the end of 2015, but the company stated last quarter it will no longer provide guidance on its "aspirational" goals.
ING U.S. reported 9.9% ROE in its third-quarter earnings report, a solid improvement from the year before. And with higher revenue generation (see point No. 1) and focused capital management, the insurer should have a decent chance of achieving its 110 basis point gain during the coming years.
One of the other trends investors may have noticed this earnings season is the clear delineation of which product segments are performing well and which others are not. During the third quarter, ING U.S. reported its life insurance segment sales were lower due to the shift toward less capital-intensive products.
The life insurance product as a whole has caused some declines for ING U.S.'s competitors as well. Genworth Financial noted the switch from its term whole life product had caused a decrease in life insurance sales, though new products and pricing could drive growth in the future. Investors should keep an eye out for how ING U.S. manages the shift in life insurance needs, and if the change to its new, lower capital products drives growth.
Another area of interest for investors should be the company's assets under management. AIG and ING U.S. reported AUM growth during the third quarter, with increase fee revenue following suit. With strong growth over the past few quarters, the retirement solutions and investment management segment will be a key indicator of the company's strength as a leading retirement products firm.
More than one company has learned the heightened expectations can kill the buzz of a good earnings report. But when investors are aware of the challenges and successes to look out for, the overall market reaction isn't something they need to worry about. Whatever the reaction of ING U.S.'s earnings on Wednesday, keep a level head and determine whether the company has met (and perhaps surpasses) your expectations.