It comes as little surprise that life insurance sales have slowed during 2011, according to LIMRA’s U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales report.
The downturn in individual life insurance sales is related in part to the exodus of carriers from the no-lapse UL market, says Ashley Durham, senior analyst, product research at LIMRA. “Part of the slowdown in growth is a reflection of a few companies moving away from lifetime death benefit guarantee universal life (UL) products,” she said in a press release
Universal Life carriers are exiting the lifetime death benefit guarantee UL (“no lapse UL”) market in spite of the product’s popularity. Sun Life, for instance, exited the market in 2010. Where no-lapse universal life represented 97% of its life business in 2007, today it makes up only 32% of its business. Many carriers that are staying in the no-lapse market are raising their rates, increasing the likelihood of no-lapse’s continued decline.
Although sales of no-lapse UL policies have decreased 3% (by annualized premiums) since the second quarter of 2010, the guarantee is still quite popular, with no-lapse policies taking 45% of UL market share.
The Downside of No-Lapse Universal Life
The decline of no-lapse guaranteed UL may be a blessing in disguise, because it will force producers to look for other, better options that satisfy their clients’ needs for guaranteed benefit life insurance products. The guaranteed death benefit of no-lapse guaranteed UL comes with a price—decreased flexibility to meet the insured’s changing financial needs. “No-lapse” varieties of universal life often have a fixed premium—determined by the insured’s age and underwriting class.