Whole life’s combination of features, such as simplicity, premium and cash value guarantees and low risk, is proving to be a winning one, according to Ashley Durham, senior analyst for product research at LIMRA.

LIMRA’s “U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales” report shows that individual whole life insurance surged 12% in Q3 2009. “Mutual companies, which represent two-thirds of whole life sales, continue to fare better than the public companies, growing 14% for the quarter,” she says.

However, this isn’t enough to save total individual life insurance sales. Declines in other products resulted in total individual life insurance sales falling 11% in the third quarter of 2009, according to the LIMRA report.

Overall, because of steeper decreases in Q1and Q2, total individual annualized premium sales are down 19% YTD. Universal life (UL) sales were down 14% in the Q3, compared with drops of about 30% in Q1and Q2.

In the first nine months of 2009, UL declined 24%, according to LIMRA. “It should be noted however, that UL sales began falling in the third quarter of 2008 (down 12%),” Durham says. “Still, UL annualized premium sales grew 10% since last quarter, so sales may be stabilizing.”

Q3 2009 sales were more grim for variable products, which were down 52%—lower than Q2 sales, bringing the year-to-date decrease to about 55%.

Term sales were down 3% in Q1and Q2 and flat in the Q3. The product continues to hold its own, with more than a quarter of the premium market share through the first nine months of the year despite the relatively low cost for term coverage, LIMRA says.

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