After years of watching individual life sales decline, banks managed to increase production 50% in 2009.

Banks generated almost $1.3 billion in new individual life premium revenue in 2009, according to Kehrer-LIMRA, a division of LIMRA, Windsor, Conn.

Revenue from sales of individual life coverage through banks was twice as high in the fourth quarter of 2009 as in the fourth quarter of 2008, and the fourth quarter of 2009 was the third consecutive quarter to show significant growth.

“The recent difficulty bank-based investment reps have had with selling rate-sensitive products has proven to be an opportunity for the sale of life insurance,” Scott Stathis, the managing director of Kehrer-LIMRA, says in a statement about the latest bank life production figures.

Single-premium universal life sales represented 75% of new life premium sold through banks, according to Kehrer-LIMRA.

UL premium sales were 74% higher in 2009 than they were in 2008, and fourth-quarter sales were more than twice as high.

The number of UL policies sold through banks was 120% higher than in 2008.

Sales of all single-premium individual life products were 57% higher in banks in 2009 than in 2008.

But first-year recurring-premium sales fell 15%. Recurring-premium sales have dropped more than 10% each year for the past 3 years, according to Kehrer-LIMRA.

The drop in first-year premium did moderate significantly by year-end, however, narrowing to just 1% in the fourth quarter. Kehrer-LIMRA attributes most of the recovery to UL coverage, which now represents the lion’s share of recurring premium sold through banks.