The year-end totals for life insurance sales will be out shortly. Chances are they will track with the trend line seen at the end of the third quarter–that is to say, flat.
According to LIMRA International, Windsor, Conn., annualized premium for all lines was up just 1% for the first three quarters compared to the same year-earlier period. Face amount was down 2% and number of policies sold was off 6%. By product line, universal life was tops, up 9% for the three quarters. But variable life dropped 13% and variable universal life fell 11%. Term and whole life fell 1% and 2%, respectively.
Looking at those numbers is like watching a swimmer treading water. The industry is doing something but not going anywhere.
In a post-recessionary economy, that’s not what CEOs, managers and investors want or expect to see. They want/expect to see year-over-year leap-frogging. They want/expect to see double-digit gains. They want/expect black, not gray or red.
Advisors want something, too. They want to sell what sells. If life insurance is not bringing in the big bucks, why then, some just might focus elsewhere. “We have to make a living,” they say.
Of course, company executives say something similar: “We have to earn profits.”
This can be treacherous territory. Each side–company and field–is vulnerable to accusations and counter-accusations, with declining morale, productivity and worse threatening to gobble up hope.
Company story: “We’ve got a great portfolio, name and ratings. If advisors would only get out there and sell, we’d be up by double-digits.”
Advisor story: “Our expertise in meeting client life insurance needs is unparalleled. If the companies would only give us new/better/more competitive policies to sell, we’d rake in premiums by the bushel.”
Such complaints percolated all through the early 2000s recession. Like flat sales, they didn’t go anywhere.
Now, blame-game redux hovers dangerously close. If left unchecked, it could hamper the industry’s ability to redirect.