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Unum sees tougher sales competition

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Unum Group, the last independent, U.S.-based seller of disability insurance, said Thursday that its group disability operations did well in the second quarter in spite of pressure from low interest rates and other insurers.

The Chattanooga, Tennessee-based insurer is reporting $237 million in net income for the quarter on $2.8 billion in revenue, compared with $224 million in net income on $2.7 billion in revenue for the second quarter of 2015.

Related: Disability market snapshots: DIonDemand, Unum and more

The company has large operations in the United Kingdom as well as in the United States.

The U.S. operations reported $227 million in operating income on $1.5 billion in revenue, up from $203 million in operating income on $1.5 billion in revenue for the year-earlier quarter.

In the United States:

    • Group long-term disability premium revenue rose 5.7 percent from a year earlier, to $433 million. New sales fell 6.9 percent, to $48 million.

    • Group short-term disability premium revenue rose 3 percent, to $156 million. New sales fell 23 percent, to $25 million.

    • Individual disability premium revenue rose 5.5 percent, to $125 million. New sales rose 12 percent, to $15 million.

    • Voluntary benefits premium revenue rose 7.5 percent, to $202 million. New sales rose 14 percent, to $45 million.

Rick McKenney, Unum’s chief executive officer, said the company’s performance has been strong.

“We see a continuation of good, profitable growth,” McKenney said during a conference call with securities analysts, which was streamed live on the Web.

But “pressure on net investment continues,” Jack McGarry, the chief financial officer, said during the call.

Executives said they see other insurers winning new group sales by charging less than Unum thinks an insurer should charge. Unum will stick to disciplined pricing, even if that affects sales, executives said.

The companies said they also see more holders of policies from its shuttered long-term care insurance business taking a lower level of benefits rather than paying higher premiums.

When consumers choose the “landing spot” option, that’s even better for Unum than when they agree to pay higher premiums, because, when consumers shift to a lower benefit level, that reduces Unum’s exposure to claim risk, executives said.


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