Total life insurance new annualized premium grew 18% in the most recent quarter of 2021, representing the third consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, according to LIMRA’s Third Quarter U.S. Retail Life Insurance Sales Survey, released Dec. 1.
“Aside from last quarter, third quarter premium growth was at its highest level since third quarter 2007,” said John Carroll, senior vice president and head of LIMRA’s Insurance Division. “Overall growth was widespread with 65% of carriers, including nine of the top 10 carriers, reporting increases.”
Year to date, total new premium increased 18%, representing the largest growth recorded for nine months in 25 years. The research shows all product lines recorded positive gains in premium in the third quarter and year-to-date.
While overall policy sales were level with prior year (which were up 7% in third quarter 2020), the number of policies sold year-to-date was 5% higher than in the first three quarters of 2020. Except for term products, all products experienced growth in policy sales in the third quarter, and—for the first time in at least 25 years—every major product line logged increases in policy sales in the first nine months of a year.
Variable universal life (VUL) new annualized premium doubled in the third quarter, up 104%, and recorded the greatest growth in terms of absolute dollars. While protection-focused product sales—which have driven growth earlier in the year—increased 46% in the quarter, accumulation-focused product sales growth was also strong, up three-fold from third quarter 2020 results.
Year-to-date, VUL new annualized premium increased 78%. VUL market share was 13% in the third quarter, five percentage points higher than a year ago and nearly double pre-pandemic levels.
“VUL sales have been remarkable in 2021,” noted Carroll. “Low interest rates, strong equity markets and recent changes to tax law (IRC 7702) have made VUL products more attractive to consumers, driving their growth over the past several quarters.”
Indexed universal life (IUL) new premium jumped 21% in the third quarter with two-thirds of IUL carriers increasing their sales and all but one carrier reporting double-digit growth. In the first nine months of 2021, IUL premium increased 18%. IUL represented a quarter (26%) of all individual life premium in the third quarter.
Fixed UL results were also positive. New annualized premium increased 11% in the third quarter, primarily driven by current-assumption product sales. Fixed lifetime guarantee premium, however, continued to fall, down 13% for the quarter. Year-to-date, fixed UL ticked up 2%. In the third quarter, fixed UL held 8% of premium market share.
Whole life sales growth slowed in the third quarter, compared with the growth experienced in the first half of the year. In the third quarter, whole life new premium grew 8%, resulting in a 17% increase year-to-date. Whole life represented 33% of the total individual life insurance premium collected in the third quarter.
“Increased consumer interest in life insurance and an expansion of accelerated underwriting programs have helped whole life sales across all distribution channels,” noted Carroll. “LIMRA is forecasting double-digit growth in whole life sales for 2021 and continued strong sales results through 2022.”
Term life insurance new premium increased 4% in the third quarter and was up 7% year to date. LIMRA is projecting term life premium to grow as much as 8% in 2021, propelled by continued consumer interest and online availability.
“COVID-19 raised Americans’ awareness about the importance of having enough life insurance coverage. Our research finds more than a third (36%) of consumers said they planned to purchase coverage this year,” said Carroll. “Our sales results suggest many are following through on this. Yet there are 102 million Americans living with a life insurance coverage gap. As we look to 2022, LIMRA will continue to lead the industrywide Help Protect Our Families campaign, focusing on the underserved markets that rely on our products to ensure their families’ future financial security.”
LIMRA’s Third Quarter 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey represents approximately 85% of the U.S. individual life insurance annualized premium market.