Focusing on basics such as strengthening the agency system and expanding mortality and morbidity business will keep the life insurance industry strong.

Industry leaders delivered that message here today during the opening of the 2-day Eighteenth Annual Executive Conference for the Life Insurance Industry.

The conference is sponsored by The Conference Group Ltd. and National Underwriter, a unit of Highline Media, part of Summit Business Media L.L.C., New York.

During the discussion, Jon Boscia, former chief executive of Lincoln National Corp., Philadelphia, asked whether the modest growth in individual life premiums is an indication that something in the core life business needs to be revitalized.

C. Robert Henrickson, chairman of Met Life Inc., New York, and Seymour Sternberg, chairman of New York Life Insurance Company, New York, emphasized the importance of producers.

Agents should reach out to the middle market as well as pursuing the high-end market, Henrickson and Sternberg agreed.

Executives also talked about the risk posed by stranger-owned life insurance.

During a discussion about international expansion, Henrickson noted that buying a business in Japan is more feasible than building one.

Sternberg pointed out that entering an addition city in China is often more cost-effective than entering a new country.