UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018
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AXA Equitable offers mainly life insurance and financial products, along with employee benefit packages and retirement planning services.
About AXA Equitable
Equitable Life Assurance Association of America was founded in 1959 in New York by Henry Hyde, a former employee of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. By the end of its first decade in business, the company was growing faster than any life insurance company in the world. Originally built in 1870, an 1879 expansion of Equitable’s New York building made it the tallest building in the world at the time.
A pioneer in retirement products, Equitable was the first to offer joint and survivorship annuities in 1881. They were the first to commit to paying death claims immediately. In 1976 they pioneered another now-popular product, variable life.
Through most of its existence, Equitable operated as a mutual company. That changed in 1992, when the purchase of the company by French insurance giant AXA was completed, converting Equitable to a publicly traded company. It was the largest conversion from mutual to stock in history at the time.
AXA is the majority shareholder of Equitable, which now operates as AXA Equitable. The company’s headquarters remain in Manhattan.
Products are sold through financial advisors for AXA Equitable across the country. They are available directly to individuals as well as through employers; group benefits products differ from what is offered directly to the public. Their focus remains on life insurance, with several other annuities and retirement products also available. Group benefits also include life as well as dental, vision, and other supplemental products.
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AXA Equitable Products
AXA Equitable’s product lineup is separated into individual and group products. Product availability and details vary depending on the state.
Individual products from AXA Equitable are focused on planning for the future and include a wide array of life insurance products, annuities, and retirement savings plans.
Life insurance is the company’s original and flagship product, so it is no surprise that they have a comprehensive list of options available. Term life insurance, whole life insurance, and universal life insurance are all options.
BrightLife Term is the company’s term policy, which has two premium payment options, fixed or increasing.
Level term policies have term lengths of 10, 15, or 20 years, after which the premium will increase annually. BrightLife ART is an increasing premium policy that starts out at a lower premium than the fixed, but the rate increases each year. There is also a one-year policy, called BrightLife TermOne, that expires after one year and is non-renewable.
All of the term policies can be converted to permanent policies, including the one-year non-renewable policy. They can be converted at any time during the term up to the insured’s 70th birthday. A guaranteed conversion credit is offered on all policies to offset the premium increase of the new permanent policy. That credit is 25% higher if conversion is done in the first 5 years.
With the exception of the TermOne policy, AXA Equitable adds a living benefit rider to every policy at issue with no additional premium required. This terminal illness rider pays out a portion of the death benefit upon diagnosis.
Both a children’s term rider and a disability benefits rider can be added for an additional premium – again these are not available on the one-year non-renewable policy.
The Interest Sensitive Whole Life policy is the only whole life offering from AXA Equitable. This policy has a guaranteed fixed premium as well as a guaranteed cash value that increases annually and matches the face value by age 100.
The cash value will never decrease, but it could increase more quickly based on credited interest.
The rest of the permanent life policies are universal.
IUL Protect is an indexed universal life policy; this means that the policy’s cash value accumulation rate is tied to a specific index. There are two index options:
- Guaranteed Interest Account, which has a guaranteed rate of not less than 2.5%, but varies beyond that.
- Select Account, which is linked to the S&P 500 index and can realize 100% of performance returns up to a cap, and protects you from negative returns with a 0% floor
There are two death benefit options, either the level benefit that pays out the face value, or the variable benefit, which pays out the face value plus the policy account value. As a universal policy, payment amounts are flexible and can be reduced or increased as needed.
BrightLife Grow is also an indexed universal policy, with a choice of eight different indexes to which you can link your accumulation account. There are one-year and three-year options available for the index selection. Premiums can be split between indexes and the choices can be changed at any time without fees or penalties.
Again, the death benefit can be either level or variable, as described above.
There are two variable universal life policy options from AXA Equitable.
IncentiveLife Optimizer III is a universal life policy with a professionally managed investment portfolio that can help to grow your cash accumulation account. Premiums are flexible, with a no-lapse guarantee rider available.
This plan has a wide array of investment options to choose from, including the Market Stabilizer options, which has growth potential up to a cap as well as some downside protection included.
IncentiveLife Legacy III is a similar policy, again with a wide array of investment choices and the option to choose the Market Stabilizer. This policy also has a guaranteed interest option to protect your investment from downside losses.
There are two options for survivorship life insurance: BrightLife Grow and BrightLife Protect.
The Grow policy is designed for those who are focused on supplementing retirement income. It has the option of either eight different indexed accounts or a guaranteed interest account. The account can be accessed in retirement as needed.
The Protect policy is designed to maximize the death benefit to your beneficiaries. The cash account can be split between the Select Account and the Fixed Account, which has a guaranteed interest rate of no less than 2%.
There are a wide variety of annuities available from AXA Equitable. They are divided into a few categories that have multiple underlying options.
Investment Edge is a tax-deferred annuity with a variety of disbursement options available. It allows for the growth of a death benefit while also providing tax-efficient distributions.
Retirement Cornerstone is a variable annuity with two accounts in one. The investment account side allows for greater accumulation potential, while the protected account side provides a guaranteed minimum income benefit to provide income for later in life.
Structured Capital Strategies offers investment in a wide variety of indexes with the option for some downside protection as well. These are customized indexed annuities that can be adjusted to your level of risk tolerance. The PLUS series has a higher opportunity for return with higher cap rates and longer investment terms.
Accumulator is a series of variable annuities that offer guaranteed minimum income, diversified portfolios, and one of three guaranteed death benefit choices.
Individuals can also invest through AXA Equitable in both brokerage and advisory accounts and a variety of mutual funds as well. There are a wide variety of portfolios, funds, and mutual fund families to choose from.
On the group benefits side of the business, AXA Equitable has both retirement account services and a variety of voluntary supplemental benefit choices.
Dental and Vision benefits can be selected either together or separately. The dental plan offers access to a network of more than 80,000 providers; plans cover preventative services in full and offer coinsurance coverage for other services. The vision plan is partnered with VSP, one of the biggest vision coverage companies in the country.
Group life insurance plans are also available, and they vary depending on the options selected by the employer.
Both short-term and long-term disability plans are also available. These are designed to provide income in the event of a disability that renders the insured unable to work for a period of time.
AXA Equitable manages 401(k), 403(b), and 457 (b) plans. In addition to assisting the employer with setting up a retirement plan, they offer financial counseling to the employee enrolled in the plans as well.
All quoting is done through financial professionals, and there is no online quoting available for any of the products. This includes term life insurance, which is the product that most frequently has an online quoting option on most insurance company websites.
AXA Equitable does have a complex and comprehensive line of products, and it makes sense that they would want to offer potential new clients the opportunity to discuss those options with a professional. Quotes for term life at the very least, however, provide insurance shoppers with a baseline to compare to other companies and determine whether it is worth going into details on the policies with a professional.
In the modern age, older companies that have relied on agents have moved more and more towards a stronger internet presence, and that includes online quoting. It seems unlikely that a company like AXA Equitable brings in a large percentage of its business through internet research, which is probably the reason they haven’t bothered to add this option.
The claims section of the website is easily located, with a visible link right off the top menu of the website. From this page, visitors can get claims started and gather information regarding how to proceed. The information is clearly stated and easy to understand.
Claims for life insurance policies can be initiated online. The system will take you through the process and give further instruction as to what forms and documents are required. Once those forms have been mailed into AXA, the status of the claim can be monitored online; this requires a myAXA account that can be created once you have a claim number.
Life insurance claims can also be filed over the phone at 800-777-6510.
There is a separate claims line for annuity claims at 800-789-7771. Other products have a variety of other contact options.
The online claims forms library has quick and easy access to the most commonly needed forms for life and annuity policies.
The beneficiary resources section of the website provides advice and assistance with navigating the process of a life insurance claim as well as managing death benefit funds.
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Ratings and Consumer Reviews
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) record, found under AXA Financial, has an A+ rating. There is a total of 42 customer complaints on file in the past three years, 18 of which were closed in the past twelve months. This is a very low volume of complaints for such a huge company. AXA Equitable has been BBB accredited since 1937.
While AXA Equitable has plenty of reviews on their own website, we were unable to find much in the way of direct consumer reviews in any of the usual places. As a general rule, we do not use reviews found on a company’s website to develop our recommendation for that company; the ability of the company to moderate and curate the reviews that are shown on their own site has a tendency to skew the overall ratings in the company’s favor.
In 2016, AXA won in a lawsuit brought against them by investors claiming they had been charged excessive fees on annuity products. The judge ruled that the fees were, in fact, fair and reasonable.
On the heels of the 2016 decision came two more lawsuits against the company, both filed in January of 2017. These accused the company of unfair rate increases. As of the time of this review, there is no further information on the progress of these cases.
Neither of the legal issues in AXA Equitable’s recent history raises major red flags; rising premiums on universal policies are common across many similar companies, and AXA is not the only one to take some legal heat for it. This makes it less concerning in terms of the company’s reputation.
The Bottom Line
AXA has a good range of products, although some of them may be a little complex for those seeking a basic life insurance policy to provide a cash benefit to family members. That makes them a better choice for those who want to sit down and create a long-term financial plan with an advisor. We found nothing of concern in their reputation or record and in fact a very low complaint volume.
AXA Equitable is a venerable company with a solid financial backing; they may not be the most affordable life insurance company out there – though we do not have rates to compare, it seems unlikely they offer budget products – but they appear to be a good one.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.