Total individual life insurance policy sales increased 11% in the first quarter of 2021, compared with first quarter 2020. This is the highest growth in the number of policies sold in a quarter since 1983.
New annualized premium also experienced significant growth, up 15% from prior year, according to LIMRA’s First Quarter U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey.
“In 1983, the double-digit policy count growth was driven by universal life replacement. We believe the policy sales in the first quarter represent organic growth, driven by increased consumer awareness about the need for life insurance and the steps companies took during the pandemic to make it easier and faster for people to buy the life insurance they need,” said David Levenson, president and CEO, LIMRA, LOMA and LL Global. “What is particularly important is that so many more people are now becoming properly insured. But, of course, there’s a lot more work to do.”
Overall, 7 in 10 life insurance carriers — including nine of the top 10 — reported increases in new annualized premium in the first three months of 2021. For policy sales, 6 in 10 issued more policies in the first quarter and eight of the top 10 carriers experienced double-digit growth in policy sales.
Whole life (WL) new premium jumped 20% and policy count rose 13%, compared to prior year. First quarter WL premium growth represents the highest growth since second quarter 2010; and WL policy sales growth was the sharpest growth in at least 30 years. Whole life held 36% market share in the first quarter, based on premium.
With the exception of bank and worksite, all distribution channels recorded positive growth in new WL premium sales. Agency-building distribution experienced the largest new premium increase and direct-to-consumer recorded the biggest growth in policy sales.
Term life new premium increased 7% in the first quarter. Policy count increased 11%, which is the strongest policy count growth recorded since 2000. About 60% of term writers reported growth in premium and policy sales. In the first quarter, term life represented 22% of premium market share.
“Whole life and term product sales drove the remarkable first quarter growth, making up 88% of the policies sold in the first quarter. Given that our industry was operating in a virtual environment, these straight-forward, easy-to-understand products were most appealing to consumers looking to get or increase their coverage,” noted Levenson.
Universal life (UL) new premium and policy count both increased 6% in the first quarter, driven by 13% growth in indexed UL sales. Fixed UL new premium, struggling under extremely low interest rates, fell 11% and policy count dropped 3%. UL held 32% market share in the first quarter, based on premium.
Variable universal Life (VUL) new premium jumped 54% from first quarter 2020, compared with prior year. Nine of the top 10 writers reported increases, with an average increase of 85%. These products benefited from strong equity markets and the shift from interest rate-sensitive products. Policy count also soared, up 31%, compared with first quarter 2020 results. VUL held 10% market share in the first quarter, based on premium.
“Results from our Insurance Barometer Study show there are 102 million uninsured and underinsured Americans who know they need — or need more — coverage,” said Levenson. “It is very encouraging to see people are taking action and getting the protection they need to secure their families’ financial future.”
LIMRA is honored to lead the Help Protect Our Families campaign, an industrywide effort to raise awareness about the importance of life insurance and help carriers and distributors address the growing coverage gap in the United States.
LIMRA’s First Quarter 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey represents approximately 80% of the U.S. individual life insurance annualized premium market.
The latest data table and additional statistics on U.S. life insurance sales trends can be viewed in the newly updated Fact Tank.