Variable life insurance sales with single premiums included at 10% for the 38 companies reporting in the VALUE survey for the first quarter of 2009 were $274.1 million, a 44% decrease from fourth quarter 2008 sales, which were $490 million, and a 55.7% decrease from first quarter 2008 sales, which totaled $619 million.

(Sales include first-year annualized premium, drop-in premiums and 10% of single premiums.)

The market estimate for the first quarter of 2009 with single premiums included at 10% is $295 million.

Variable life sales with single premiums included at 100% for the companies in the VALUE survey for the first quarter of 2009 were $277.2 million, a 44.3% decrease from fourth quarter 2008, which had sales of $497 million, and a 55.7% decrease from first quarter 2008 sales, which were $625 million.

The market estimate for the first 3 months of 2009 with single premiums included at 100% is $300 million, down from $670 million for the same period the year before.

For the first quarter of 2009, the top five companies/fleets–John Hancock, AXA Financial/MONY, Hartford Life, Pacific Life and MetLife–captured 57% of all variable life sales (including single premiums at 10%), while the top 10 companies/fleets garnered 79% of VL sales.

(See the VALUE Survey 1st Quarter Results)

For the companies in the survey, the number of flexible-premium contracts issued during the first quarter of 2009 decreased 54% from the number issued during the first 3 months of 2008. The average face amount increased 18% to $498,922.

The total premium for second-to-die products issued during the first quarter of 2009 for the companies in the survey was $33.3 million, compared to $87.4 million during the first 3 months of 2008. (This decrease in premiums is comparable to the decline in overall VL sales for the first quarter of 2009.)

The number of second-to-die contracts (including single-premium and flexible-premium products) issued during the first 3 months of 2009 decreased 46% from the same period the year before. The average face amount decreased 8% to $1,965,833.

For the companies reporting sales by distribution channel for the first 3 months of 2009, career agents and independent broker-dealer firms dominated flexible-premium variable life sales, capturing 50% and 37% of the market, respectively.

Independent broker-dealer firms and career agents also dominated second-to-die variable life sales, capturing 65% and 18% of the market, respectively.

As of March 31, 2009, total variable life assets for the companies reporting in VALUE were $86 billion, down 28% from $119.9 billion reported on March 31, 2008. Of the total assets reported, 86% were held in a separate account.

Fixed account interest rates on VL policies are relatively stable. The average one-year interest rate was 4.29% on March 31, 2009, the same rate as on Dec. 31, 2008. The average renewal rate on March 31, 2009 was 4.32%, down very little from 4.33% on Dec. 31, 2008.

Leah Wolf is with Towers Perrin, of which Tillinghast is a business. She can be reached at leah.wolf@towersperrin.com