Driven by strong growth in whole life and term products, total individual life insurance new annualized premium increased 2% and the number of policies sold jumped 7% in the third quarter, according to LIMRA’s Third Quarter 2020 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey.
“Insurers and agents have begun to overcome the operational challenges presented in the second quarter by the pandemic. While direct-to-consumer channels are propelling growth in both term and whole life policy sales we are seeing even stronger results from the independent and affiliated agent channels,” said Elaine Tumicki, corporate vice president, LIMRA Insurance Research.
Year-to-date, total life insurance new premium growth fell 1% percent yet policy count increased 2%, compared with year-to-date third quarter 2019. LIMRA is forecasting life insurance premium to fall 3% – 7% in 2020, compared with 2019 results.
Whole life (WL) new premium surged 7% and policy count rose 7% in the third quarter. Seven of the top ten carriers reported positive growth. In the first three quarters of 2020, WL premium remains 1% below 2019 levels. WL premium represented 35% of the total life insurance market in the third quarter.
“Due to increased consumer interest, growth in direct channels, and sales incentive programs, LIMRA expects continued WL growth in the fourth quarter, erasing the declines experienced in the first half of 2020,” noted Tumicki. “As a result, whole life premium is forecasted to be level with 2019 results.”
'The Quickest Sale'
Term new premium improved 4% for the quarter and 5% year-to-date, compared with 2019 results. The number of term policies issued in the third quarter swelled 10% for the quarter. This is the largest policy count growth in 18 years. Year-to-date, term policy count increased 7%, for the first nine months of 2020. Term premium held 23% market share in the third quarter.
“The pandemic highlighted the need for life insurance and led to increased demand in 2020. Term insurance, due to its design and price, is often the quickest sale and is the most readily available online end-to-end product,” Tumicki said. “LIMRA expects positive growth to continue in the fourth quarter, propelling term new premium to increase 3% – 7% in 2020, compared with 2019 results.”
Universal life (UL) new premium continues to struggle, down 5% in the third quarter and 7% year to date. The number of UL policies sold fell 2% in the third quarter and is 8% below 2019 year-to-date levels. UL market share was 34% in the third quarter.
Indexed UL (IUL) new premium rebounded after two consecutive quarters of declines, up 3% in the third quarter. While less than half of IUL carriers reported positive growth in the third quarter, 8 of the top 10 carriers’ IUL sales increased. Year-to-date, IUL premium remains 2% lower than results in the first three quarters of 2019.
“While third quarter IUL premium has recovered somewhat from the losses in the first half of the year, it will be difficult to match the strong IUL sales of the fourth quarter 2019. LIMRA is forecasting IUL premium to contract 3% – 7% in 2020, compared with 2019 results,” Tumicki said.
Variable UL (VUL) new premium leapt 11% in the third quarter, driven by a 27% surge in protection-focused VUL premium. This is the 12th consecutive quarter of positive growth for VUL. Notwithstanding VUL’s double-digit growth overall, fewer than 4 in 10 writers were up this quarter. In the first three quarters of 2020, VUL new premium is 10% higher, compared with prior year. Despite the growth in premium, the number of VUL policies sold fell 2% in the quarter and was flat year-to-date. VUL held 8% of the total life insurance market in the third quarter.
“VUL products experienced more than 10% growth in 2019, the second consecutive year of double-digit growth,” said Tumicki. “For that reason — despite its strong performance in 2020 — LIMRA is forecasting VUL premium to fall 8% – 12% in 2020, compared with 2019 results.”
LIMRA’s Third Quarter 2020 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey represents approximately 80% of the U.S. individual life insurance annualized premium market.