For some questions, a quick answer works perfectly well. For questions like, “who are the largest life insurance companies in the U.S.?”, nuance goes a long way.
So let’s see who leads the industry when judged by four metrics:
Coverage Issued Metrics
1. Annual life insurance coverage issued
2. Total in-force life insurance (think of this as “all-time” coverage issued)
3. Annual net premiums written
4. Total assets
Life Insurers By Coverage Issued
If someone asked you to name the largest company in an industry, a logical starting point would be:
“Which company has sold the most ‘stuff’ in that industry over time?“
In life insurance, “selling stuff” is analogous to “issuing coverage,” so our question becomes: “which company has issued the most coverage over time?”
The final step is to pick the time frame. Then we’ll have our lens to discover our “largest company.”
… By Total Annual Life Insurance Coverage Issued
Let’s start with the recent past and look at the largest life insurance companies in the U.S. by total life insurance issued per year. In other words, the amount of coverage each company sold to the market.
The table below shows the result, listing the top 25 U.S. life insurance companies by total coverage issued in 2019 (the most recent year we have annual data).
In the fourth and fifth columns, you will see a breakdown of each company’s total into the amounts sold as “individual life insurance” and “group life insurance,” respectively.
Individual life insurance is a single policy contract that covers a single individual, as the name suggests. Group life insurance, on the other hand, is a single life insurance policy that covers many people. Many U.S. companies offer life insurance as an employee benefit and are the largest buyers of group life insurance.
This coverage is generally annual renewable term life insurance, which employees can renew each year during their open enrollment process.
In the final column, we indicate whether a Company was in the 25 for the Individual market, the Group market, or both markets.
|($ in billions)||LI Issued / Year||Individual||Group||In Top 25?|
|5||New York Life||$132||$98||$34||Both|
|14||Mutual of Omaha||$68||$28||$41||Both|
|19||Legal & General||59||59||Individual|
The data shows that Prudential tops the list, with $238 billion of life insurance coverage issued in 2019.
Lincoln Financial and MetLife round out the top three, with 2019 issuance of $179 billion and $171 billion, respectively.
As you’ll see in each of the following data sets, the top five companies here, Prudential Financial, Lincoln Financial, MetLife, Northwestern Mutual, and New York Life, consistently appear near the top of each list.
Three of these companies, Prudential, Lincoln Financial, and New York Life, are active in individual and group life insurance markets. On the other hand, MetLife is almost exclusively in the group insurance market, while Northwestern Mutual does 99% of its business in the individual life insurance market.
These five companies issued $880 billion of life insurance coverage, which equated to approximately 40% market share.
Prudential is the largest life insurance company in the U.S. when measured by annual coverage issued, having sold $238 billion of life insurance coverage in 2019.
Life Insurers By Coverage In-Force
This section looks at the top 25 U.S. life insurance companies by total life insurance coverage in force. This is equivalent to total life insurance coverage issued historically that is still outstanding.
Total coverage in force can be thought of as “all-time” coverage issued (that is still outstanding).
Prudential once again tops the list, with $1.75 trillion of life insurance coverage in force. MetLife is a very close second, with $1.71 trillion in life insurance in force.
After these two companies, there is a sizable drop of $414 billion (or 25%) before you get to the third-place company, Northwestern Mutual ($1.30 trillion).
New York Life and Swiss Re round out the top 5, with $1.23 trillion and $1.02 trillion of coverage in force, respectively.
In this data set, we see four of the five “usual suspects” we mentioned above. This is not surprising since life insurance coverage in force is essentially the first metric (annual coverage issued) cumulated over the long term.
Prudential is the largest U.S. life insurer when measured by total life insurance in-force, with $1.75 trillion of coverage outstanding.
|($ in billions)||LI In-Force||Individual||Group||In Top 25?|
|4||New York Life||$1,229||$804||$425||Both|
Life Insurers By Annual Premiums
In this section, we use “total annual net premiums written” as the yardstick.
Net premiums written = the premiums insurers will receive based on the policies they “wrote” that year.
A lot of jargon for what is essentially revenue.
Judged by this metric, Northwestern Mutual is the largest life insurance company in the U.S., with $13.5+ billion in annual premiums.
Conceptually, does it make sense that NW Mutual would lead the industry in annual revenue while selling only 67% of the coverage that Prudential did that year?
Yes, and here’s why. As the table shows, Northwestern Mutual does nearly 100% of its business in the individual life insurance market, while 58% of the policies Prudential issued were group insurance policies.
The premium rate on group life insurance is much lower than on individual life insurance. Like other products, when you sell in bulk, you offer a discount, which is no different in life insurance.
Prudential ($12.3 billion), MetLife ($12.0 billion), New York Life ($11.7 billion), and MassMutual ($7.2 billion) round out the top five. These five companies take in almost $57 billion in life insurance premiums annually, equating to a 38% share of total life insurance market revenue.
But when you move down to the fifth position, MassMutual brings in only 53% of the leading insurer’s revenue.
Northwestern Mutual is the largest U.S. life insurance company when measured by annual premiums received.
|($ in millions)||Premiums / Year||Individual||Group||In Top 25?|
|4||New York Life||$11,679||$9,063||$2,616||Both|
|20||Mutual of Omaha||1802||1529||273||Both|
Life Insurers By Total Assets
Judged by total assets, Prudential is once again the largest U.S. life insurer, with more than half a trillion dollars in assets ($578 billion to be precise).
MetLife is a distant second at $409 billion, or only 70% of Prudential’s assets.
New York Life and TIAA-CREF are a near tie for third, coming in at $324 billion and $316 billion in assets, respectively.
After these four, many companies have between $200 billion and $300 billion in assets. From fifth to tenth, these are AIG, Northwestern Mutual, Lincoln Financial, MassMutual, Manulife Financial, and Jackson National.
The remaining companies in the above top 25 list include several household names – Nationwide, Pacific Life, and State Farm – and finishes with Guardian at #25, with $76 billion in assets (just 13% of the largest company, Prudential).
Prudential is the largest U.S. life insurance company (by far) by total assets. Its 2019 asset balance of $578 billion dwarfed the next insurer, MetLife, by nearly $200 billion.
|Companies||Assets ($ in billions)|
|3||New York Life||$325|
|21||Thrivent Financial For Lutherans||94|
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is the largest life insurance company in the United States?
If judged by assets or life insurance in force, Prudential is the largest U.S. life insurance company in 2020, with $578 billion in total assets and $1.7 trillion in total life insurance in force. However, if you look at it in terms of income (annual net premiums), Northwestern Mutual is the largest U.S. life insurer, with $13.5 billion in premiums received.
Who are the top 10 life insurance companies?
On an objective basis, using annual life insurance issued, the top 10 life insurance companies are Northwestern Mutual, Prudential Financial, New York Life, Primerica, AIG, Massachusetts Mutual, State Farm, Lincoln Financial, Protective Life, and Legal & General.
Who is the oldest life insurance company in the U.S.?
Presbyterian Ministers Fund was founded in 1759 and was the first life insurance company founded in the United States.
We hope we answered your questions about the largest life insurance companies in the U.S.!
If not though, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send us an email at [email protected].
The GetSure Team