The fourth quarter saw a gain of 15% in U.S. life insurance new annualized premiums, compared with prior year results, according to the LIMRA U.S. Retail Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey.

For the year, total individual life insurance new annualized premiums increased 5%, compared with 2018 results. The number of policies sold fell 2% in the fourth quarter and dropped 3% for the year.

The increase in product sales is a result of many companies using the 2001 Commissioners Standard Ordinary (CSO) mortality table, explained Ashley Durham, associate research director, LIMRA Insurance Research. She noted that all life insurance products were required to shift to the 2017 CSO  mortality table by December 31, but many companies used the 2001 standard.

As a result, “all major product lines recorded growth in the fourth quarter with more than half of U.S. life insurance manufacturers, including nine of the top 10, reporting positive results,” she said.

The CSO mortality tables are a standard for measuring average life expectancy across various demographics for the purpose of calculating life insurance reserves. Advancements in medicine, technology, lifestyle trends and more continually impact mortality rates, making periodic updates to the CSO table essential, Limra noted.

Overall total universal life (UL) new premiums increased 31% in the fourth quarter, primarily driven by indexed universal life (IUL) sales. Seven of the top 10 UL writers reported positive growth in the fourth quarter. For the year, UL new premiums increased 9%.

Indexed universal life new premiums had positive growth, increasing 33% in the fourth quarter and 14% for the year. This marks the 13th consecutive growth for IUL. Eight of the top 10 IUL writers reported positive growth. Further, IUL products experienced the largest absolute dollar increase for the quarter and for the year.

After 10 quarters of declines, Lifetime Guarantee Universal Life new annualized premiums improved, jumping by more than 20% in the fourth quarter and ending the year down 5%. Seven of the top 10 writers reported growth in the fourth quarter, Limra said, noting that total UL held a 38% market share of the total life insurance market in 2019.

For the year, variable universal life grew 11%, compared with prior year results. VUL represented 8% of the total life insurance market in 2019.

Whole life new premiums, which represented 33% of the total life market, increased 3% in the fourth quarter. In 2019, whole life new premium growth increased 1%. Just three of the top 10 whole life writers reported increases in the fourth quarter

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