New York Life Insurance Co. bucked industry trends last year, increasing sales by 14% and surpassing $1 billion in sales for the first time in its history.

LIMRA International Inc. figures show that life insurance sales dropped 16%, to $9.2 billion over the same period.

Directly correlated to New York Life's rise in sales is its growth in agents, a spokeswoman confirmed. The insurer, which only sells through its own agents, increased its sales force by 16%, or 3,600 agents, in 2009.

This story has been reprinted with permission from American Banker.

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