Genworth Financial Inc Earnings Call Insights: Australia Profitability, Curtailment

On Wednesday, Genworth Financial Inc (NYSE:GNW) reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Here’s what the C-suite revealed.

Australia Profitability

Andrew Kligerman – UBS: Few questions. First, on Australia, you say that you expect to be profitable again and in particular by the second half of 2012. Does that mean that you get back to the sort of high 40s loss ratios that you were seeing there and how confident are you? Second, risk-to-capital was 28.621 across all the U.S. MI, how confident are you that you won’t need to infuse new capital into the MI entities? Thirdly, International Protection 23% loss ratio; the last four quarters it ranged from 15% to 17%. What’s the likelihood that we can get back to 15% to 17% and when?

A Closer Look: Genworth Earnings Cheat Sheet>>

Jerome T. Upton – COO, International Mortgage Insurance segment: Andrew, good morning, it’s Jerome Upton. With respect to your Australia question around profitability in the second half, I would just say I break this down into three buckets and that is our current delinquency inventory and the mix that we’ve seen come through, the loss emergence in March that we saw, and the approach that we took to record our reserves strengthening of $82 million to put the issue behind us with respect to what we see in the delinquency portfolio. So we’ve used our best information to book that $82 million again to put it behind us, but facts and circumstances could come through in the second and third quarter, that could call in to question that reserve adequacy and we want to see two to three quarters come through to prove that out. Number two, the pressured segments that we’re seeing, the ’07 and the ’08 book in coastal Queensland and Queensland in general we see stabilizing trends there, but again we want to see the proof points come through in the second and the third quarter and again, as in my prepared remarks, we took underwriting actions, particularly related to some of the pressure points we saw in ’07 and ’08 and you’ve seen the recent vintages and the new vintage performance has improved as a result of that. So we’ll be profitable for the year based on our best estimates right now. We’re going to be very volatile on a quarter-by-quarter basis. I can’t make the call, but really we want to see the next two to three quarters and the proof come through on our reserve adjustment of $82 million and the vintage the ’07, ’08 in coastal Queensland come through. We’re seeing stability, but we want to see that come through.

Martin P. Klein – SVP, CFO: Andrew, it’s Marty. Let me start off on your question on U.S. MI and then I’ll turn it over to Kevin. I’d start out by observing that the performance we saw in the first quarter was certainly in line with our plans. I think it’s in line with what we talked about on our February call, and so we don’t have any current plans to contribute capital to U.S. MI based on what we’re seeing. I’d also kind of stepping back observe that we are certainly encouraged by seeing private equity money begin to flow into the space. They obviously have pretty high standards of returns and I think that confirms our view around the value of new business that’s being written. So we’re interested to see that quite frankly. When you think about capital as we’ve talked in the past and you’ve heard Kevin talk about it at some length, there’s really not a bright line in the sand on a (risk to) capital is obviously one metric. It’s easy for investors to look at, but regulators look much deeper than that; claims paying ability, solvency, reserve levels, and we think right now with the waivers we’ve got in GEMICO and 44 states along with GRMAC which got capital to write across 50 states, we think we’re in pretty good shape. Kevin, why don’t you speak to performance a bit that we saw in the quarter?

Kevin D. Schneider – SVP, Genworth, President and CEO, U.S. Mortgage Insurance segment: Yeah, just to piggyback on that a bit, Andrew. In the first quarter the metrics that we’ve laid out for investors in our February call, we’re operating in line with all those metrics, in fact a little bit favorable when you get down and look at internally in terms of what our expectations were from an overall surplus standpoint. Our penetration in the market is going up, our NIW is basically in line with our expectations, our reserves and our delinquency development, the experience we’re seeing there are totally in line with the reserve provisioning we did in the past. Our loss mitigation trends are online or in fact a little bit ahead of our overall expectation going forward. We think that’s been sort of a nice outcome for us. The new delinquencies, which we said we are expecting, would be down about 20% year-over-year first quarter. They are down a little bit more than that in the 23-ish level. So, the charts that we put up on U.S. MI illustrate all those trends that I just showed, and again we’re very comfortable at this point in time that we don’t have a need to put anything in. We’re working closely with our regulators and the GSEs on that, and if things change we’ll let you know, but at the current time we don’t see a need for it.

Martin P. Klein – SVP, CFO: Then Pat, why don’t you take the (LPI) question?

Patrick B. Kelleher – EVP, Genworth, President and CEO, Insurance and Wealth Management Division: Sure. I guess the way that I look at this is that we reported income of $5 million for the quarter. Marty had indicated that there were several items, taxes, restructuring costs and one other item that are not expected to impact the business going forward. So when you adjust for that, the earnings, you look at it about $15 million for the quarter, which is clearly down from the $19 million in the fourth quarter and about $25 million in the first quarter of last year, and that is primarily due to the loss ratio, and what I’d say is that there are several markets or several countries that are, I’ll say, performing worse than the recent trends from an unemployment perspective and from an economic growth perspective, and that’s what impacted our results. I’d look at it as a smaller version of what we saw in 2009 with the general downturn in Europe, and there what we needed to do was step back, look at our contracts and look at our ability to reprice, and take measures to improve the profitability of the business going forward. While this is a lesser impact clearly than what we saw a couple of years ago, we would take the same approach and expect to improve the underwriting results over a three to four-quarter timeframe.

Curtailment

Geoffrey Dunn – Dowling & Partners: First on Australia, kind of one question. From an oversight standpoint, is that something that needs to be revisited and revised. Is this something that should have been caught earlier, or was it truly something that arose in March and Corporate got it in the financial report in early April?

Jerome T. Upton – COO, International Mortgage Insurance segment: Geoff, this is Jerome. In the second half of 2011, we did see increasing delinquency levels, and we did observe lender processing delays, and we began to work more closely with those lenders to improve the collection and default management techniques. It did accelerate some of the older delinquencies coming through, and as those came through in the first quarter, the claim paid counts did increase in January and February. But it was the March loss emergence and the average claims size that really gave rise to our deep dive on the delinquency inventory and the extensive review that we undertook to strengthen loss reserves of $82 million. We’ll always take a look at process, we’ll always endeavor to improve, but it really was those claim payments in March that gave rise to the strengthening.

Martin P. Klein – SVP, CFO: And Jeff, it’s Marty. Let me just add that we intend to review the processes in Australia quite frankly as well frankly around the rest of our platforms. We obviously wanted to be in a position to see business trend developing as soon as absolutely possible. So, we’re going to undertake those reviews and if we can improve those processes, we’ll certainly do so.

Geoffrey Dunn – Dowling & Partners: And then on the domestic front, I think coming into the quarter you had about $80 million of IBNR cushion and you had adverse development I guess of $50 million, but you’ve also had two quarters in a row now of positive severity development for curtailment. Have you released that benefit relative to where severity was trending, or is the net remaining IBNR cushion higher than the implied $30 million?

Martin P. Klein – SVP, CFO: Jeff, I apologize that the conclusion of you question broke up a little bit when it was coming in. Let me try and imagine what you just said when you were asking this, because the call broke up from this end. You’re right, we have had the incremental $200 million of reserves that we posted in the second quarter of last year based on expected further deterioration in cure rates. It’s been operating in line with our expectation over time. There is a chart we put up on the web that it shows it is $50 million of that left after a couple of quarters. So, that’s in line with our expectations. On the curtailment side, we have begun to have a little bit of benefit from that curtailment experience. As we’ve worked through all the opportunities to make sure all those –all the questions about those claims around that curtailment and the feedback from the servicers, we had a little bit of offsetting benefit of that in the quarter. I would say it was about $15 million in the quarter.

Geoffrey Dunn – Dowling & Partners: Okay, so, of the total curtailment benefit, you’ve only released effectively 15 of that over the last two quarters?

Martin P. Klein – SVP, CFO: 15 in the first quarter that we have been holding up. It’s not – that is all we’ve done. We have not done anything reflected in our reserve on a more broad basis, if that’s your – the implication of your question.