U.S. single-premium pension buyout product sales continue to climb, hitting the $1 billion plus mark for the 20th consecutive quarter, according to the Secure Retirement Institute (SRI) quarterly U.S. Group Annuity Risk Transfer Sales Survey.

Sales jumped to $11.3 billion, a growth of 6%  over 2018 fourth quarter results, and the highest quarter recorded since fourth quarter 2012, SRI said. Total assets of buyout products increased to $153 billion, a 13% uptick from fourth quarter 2018.

Also breaking records were the $28 billion worth of U.S. single-premium pension buyout contracts sold in 2019. SRI noted that the 501 contracts sold in 2019 increased 2% over 2018 results. Total 2019 sales were 5% higher than prior year and represent the highest annual buyout sales total recorded since 2012.

Mark Paracer, assistant research director, SRI, said three quarters of the companies reported year-over-year sales increases in 2019. “There was broad growth in the pension risk transfer market in 2019. The number of contracts sold in both the buyout and buy-in markets surpassed existing records,” he said, adding that sales are expected to continue to grow in 2020.

Single-premium buy-in product sales also had a record quarter, reaching $970 million in the fourth quarter, the highest level recorded since SRI has been tracking these sales. For the year, there were six single-premium buy-in sales, totaling $1.9 billion. This doubles the annual sales record set in 2018, SRI said.

Paracer pointed out that the pension buy-in market is a small but growing market. He said although there have only been 20 buy-in contracts issued in the U.S., there was at least one buy-in contract sold in five of the past six quarters.

Additionally, total group annuity risk transfer sales in the fourth quarter 2019 reached $12.4 billion, 7% higher than fourth quarter 2018 sales. For the year, total group annuity risk transfer sales were $30.5 billion, up 8% from 2018 results.

SRI explained that a group annuity risk transfer product, such as a pension buyout product, allows an employer to transfer all or a portion of its pension liability to an insurer. In doing so, an employer can remove the liability from its balance sheet and reduce the volatility of the funded status.

The survey included 17 companies that represent 100% of the U.S. pension risk transfer market.