Mortality awareness apparently drove a banner year for life insurance in 2021 with the industry selling more than $200 billion in premium for the first time, according to S&P Global.
Life premiums popped by nearly 10% over the year, bringing sales to $204.7 billion, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of company annual statements. The data combines group and individual life coverage.
The finding is in line with LIMRA’s reporting as well, with those analysts seeing a 20% increase in individual life over the year. LIMRA, which gathers data directly from its member companies, said the growth was the strongest since Every Breath You Take was the No. 1 song and the Jedi returned to theaters (1983).
LIMRA attributed the growth to mortality awareness during the pandemic. Although lockdowns made it easier to buy lower face value term rather than other products, term was the only line that did not see growth. Premium grew significantly but actual policy count increased only 5%, reflecting the higher face values.
In S&P’s data for individual products, universal life saw the largest year-over-year growth at nearly 60%. Variable universal life had a 23.8% increase.
Universal life with secondary guarantees, indexed and whole life also showed double-digit growth. Term life net premiums fell by 5.8%.
Group direct life premiums increased by 7.1% to $41.94 billion in 2021.
Mutual carriers did particularly well in individual life. Northwestern led the way by a large margin with a 20% increase to nearly $19 billion in sales, followed by New York Life and MassMutual. Only two of the top 15 companies saw a decrease, Lincoln Financial and MetLife.
Lincoln Financial executives said during their first quarter earnings call on Thursday that sales are looking up, with a 36% increase in premium over the year-ago quarter.
Although MetLife was at the bottom of the individual chart, the carrier boomed in group life with a nearly 16% increase to $12.5 billion in premium. The company’s sales far surpassed its competitors.
Although Nationwide is No. 9 on the list, the carrier had the largest surge in growth with a 28.6% increase. Lincoln National, Securian Financial Group and New York Life saw their group premiums fall in 2021. Lincoln Financial executives were optimistic in their quarterly call, saying that the competitive labor market was increasing interest in group benefits.
In LIMRA’s data on individual life, product lines besides term did very well but variable universal life blazed the way with a 74% increase in premium over the year, probably driven by the strong equities market.
Steven A. Morelli is a contributing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines. He was also vice president of communications for an insurance agents’ association. Steve can be reached at [email protected].