In the News
Life Insurers Ramp Up Plans to Address ‘Social Infrastructure’
Companies involved in the program will start by focusing on affordable and workforce housing.
- Timothy Darragh
- September 2022
Life insurers are working on plans to do what they do best—invest for the long term—and find a way to do it in underserved and low-income communities.
The plans, discussed at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' Summer Meeting, aim to address what company representatives are calling “social infrastructure,” or the essentials of strong communities: housing, jobs, health and wellness.
The initiative will dovetail with the NAIC's Center for Insurance Policy and Research's efforts, already underway, to study the role of U.S. insurance companies as a source of physical infrastructure financing, said Director Jeff Czajkowski.
“[The initiative] has to generate market returns.”
New York Life Insurance Co.
An umbrella for the social infrastructure initiative is 360 Community Capital, a new nonprofit led by the American Council of Life Insurers. Organizers are working on establishing the basics of the program, such as its governance and tax-exempt status, said Pat Reeder, ACLI deputy general counsel.
Companies involved in the program will start by focusing on affordable and workforce housing “because so much else flows from there,” he said. “We think it's part of the mission of the life insurance industry.”
Industry officials and regulators said the effort is not designed to be a giveaway. Investments have to fit in with insurers' overall investment strategies, they said, meaning that it is a program with a long-term focus.
“It has to generate market returns,” said Doug Wheeler, senior vice president at New York Life Insurance Co.
As communities get stronger, more wealth comes with it and those people will want to buy life insurance, he said. “It's a win-win-win,” Wheeler said.
New York Life already has a dedicated “impact investing team,” he added.
Organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is deeply involved in community development, has provided “pre-development” funding to begin the process of determining where it can align with life insurers, said Kimberlee Cornett, director of Impact Investments.
Companies in some cases have already made investments that would fit the definition of social infrastructure without realizing it, Reeder said.
For example, an insurer may have made investments in school bonds that make financial sense while also benefiting target communities, he said.
The Connecticut Insurance Department began reaching out to insurers about impact investing in 2019, noted Kathy Belfi, special adviser to Commissioner Andrew Mais.