Increased consumer awareness about life insurance amid the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a key role in boosting sales in the first quarter of 2021, as the industry recorded the largest increase in total life premiums in a first quarter since at least 2018.
The life insurance market logged $48.93 billion in total life premiums in the first quarter, an 8.1% increase from $45.26 billion in the prior-year quarter, an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis showed.
Individual life premiums rose 9.0% year over year to $38.26 billion from $35.11 billion, while group life premiums went up 5.1% to $10.66 billion from $10.15 billion in the first quarter of 2020.
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. remained the top life insurer in the U.S., with $4.16 billion of total life premiums for the period, representing a year-over-year increase of 10.4%. The insurer also posted the highest growth in group life premiums among the largest underwriters of life insurance in the U.S. at 22.7%.
MetLife Inc. held on to the second spot with $3.78 billion in total life premiums for the first quarter, representing an increase of 6.4% from $3.55 billion in the prior-year quarter.
New York Life Insurance Co. and Prudential Financial Inc. stayed put in the third and fourth spots, respectively. New York Life closed the quarter with $3.43 billion in total life premiums, representing a year-over-year increase of 2.0%, while Prudential Financial posted an 8.4% increase to $3.33 billion.
Among the largest underwriters of life insurance in the U.S., Protective Life Corp. recorded the highest growth in total life premiums in the first quarter at 125.6%. The insurer landed at the 12th spot with $1.05 billion in total life premiums for the period.
LIMRA said the first quarter of 2021 saw the highest growth in the number of individual life insurance policies sold in a quarter since 1983.
LIMRA said the pandemic made consumers more aware of the need for life insurance, driving the strong organic growth in policy sales. Whole life and term life insurance proved to be the most appealing to consumers, as they made up 88% of policies sold during the period, according to data from LIMRA's survey of individual life insurance sales in the U.S.