Single Premiums Boosted Ordinary Life Premiums In 2002
By Frederick S. Townsend
Single premium ordinary life sales jumped from $8 billion in 2001 to $20 billion in 2002, enabling total ordinary life premiums to rise 6.4% to a record $102 billion in 2002, for the 139 largest U.S. ordinary life insurers (each writing more than $100 million of direct premiums in 2002).
Data from the Analyzer, an Insurance Research Group (http://irg.informa.com) Web-based information service, shows that new annual premiums rose 3.9% and renewal premiums rose 4.7% for the IRG 139-Company Composite in 2002.
Expense reduction coupled with growth in total annual premiums enabled the ratio of general expenses to annual premiums to fall from 18.4% in 2001 to 16.1% in 2002, the lowest ratio experienced by the life insurance industry in the history of this column (1987-2002).
During the last 16 years, the general expense ratio peaked at 22.5% in 1988, fell to 16.6% in 1994 and 1995, rose to 18.7% in 1999, and set a record low of 16.1% in 2002.
However, net investment yield for the IRG Composite fell from 7.04% in 2001 to 6.56% in 2002, and the loss of 48 basis points in investment income offset the benefits of expense reductions realized in 2002.
Statutory pretax earnings, as a percentage of premium income plus investment income, fell from 7% in 2001 to 4.8% in 2002. This was the lowest pretax margin experienced by the life industry since ratios of 4.6% to 4.7% experienced in the three years 1987-1989.
Aggregate termination ratios for the life industry improved 11 consecutive years, from 12.7% in 1987 (in a period of disintermediation) to 7.7% in 1998, before rising in 1999 and 2000, then improving to 7.1% in 2001 and 7.3% in 2002.
Lapses, as a percent of term insurance in-force, fell to a 10-year low of 9.2% in 2002, the lowest ratio since 8.4% in 1992. This reflects a shift in sales from annual renewable term products with steep price increases (causing lapses) to low-priced 10- and 20-year term policies, which encourage higher persistency.
Surrenders, as a percent of whole life insurance in-force, reached 4.9% in 2002, its second highest ratio in the last 16 years, exceeded only by a 5% ratio in 2000.
Sales results in 2002 were exceeded only by the year 2000, when strong corporate- owned life insurance (COLI) sales helped the IRG Composite to report $16.9 billion of new annual premiums and an average premium of $1,707 per policy issued.
New annual premiums of $15.8 billion in 2002 were $1 billion short of the record set in 2000, and the average premium per policy issued fell for the second consecutive year to $1,303 per policy issued in 2002.
Face amount of life insurance ceded to reinsurers continued to increase for the eighth consecutive year and exceeded half of the total ordinary life insurance in-force for the IRG Composite for the first time in its history, reaching 51.6% in 2002.