The Largest Life Insurance Companies In The U.S. (Ranked 4 Ways)

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    The Largest Life Insurance Companies

    For some questions, a quick answer works perfectly well.  For other questions, like the one at hand, “who are the largest life insurance companies in the U.S.?”, a little nuance goes a long way.

    So let’s take a look at this question from four angles and see who the industry leader is when judged by:

    Coverage Issued Metrics

    1.  Annual life insurance coverage issued
    2.  Total in-force life insurance (think of this as “all-time” coverage issued)

    Asset Metrics

    3.  Annual net premiums written
    4.  Total assets

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Before we dive into the details, we’ll run through some of the most Googled questions about this topic, for those in need of a quick answer. 

    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.

    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.

    The Largest U.S. Life Insurance Companies 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?

    Life insurance has some jargon that muddles the picture, but fundamentally, things are no different.  “Selling stuff” is analogous to “issuing coverage” and the above question translates to:

    “Which company has issued the most coverage over time?” 

    The final step is to pick the time frame and you’ll have a lens you can use to discover your “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 for which we have annual data).

    In the fourth and fifth columns, you will see a breakdown of each company’s total into the amounts that were sold as “individual life insurance” and as “group life insurance,” respectively.

    Individual life insurance is a single policy contract that, as the name suggests, covers a single individual.  Group life insurance, on the other hand, is a single life insurance policy that covers a number of 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 elect to renew each year during their open enrollment process.

    In the final column, we indicate whether a Company was in the the 25 for the Individual market, the Group market, or both markets.

    Companies ($bn)Total LI Issued Per YearIndividualGroupIn Top 25?
    1Prudential238100138Both
    2Lincoln Financial17973106Both
    3MetLife171166Group
    4Northwestern Mutual159157Individual
    5New York Life1329834Both
    6Securian Financial12397Group
    7UNUM113100Group
    8Principal Financial965244Both
    9MassMutual8681Individual
    10Primerica8585Individual
    11AIG8282Individual
    12State Farm8080Individual
    13Guardian703436Both
    14Mutual of Omaha682841Both
    15Voya Financial6458Group
    16Sun Life6262Group
    17Protective Life6261Individual
    18CIGNA6160Group
    19Legal & General5959Individual
    20Hartford Life5353Group
    21Meiji Yasuda5151Group
    22Transamerica4541Individual
    23Manulife Financial4343Individual
    24Pacific Life4141Individual
    25Torchmark4037Individual

    Taking a look at the data, we see 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 both the 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.

    In total, these five companies issued $880 billion of life insurance coverage, which equated to approximately 40% market share.

    The Takeaway

    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.

    prudential logo
    Lincoln Financial Group
    Metlife logo

    ... By Total LI Coverage In-Force ("All-Time" Coverage Issued)

    In this section, we look 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.

    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. 

    Companies ($bn)Total LI In-ForceIndividualGroupIn Top 25?
    1Prudential1,745587Individual
    2MetLife1,7101781,529Both
    3Northwestern Mutual1,2961,294Individual
    4New York Life1,229804425Both
    5Swiss Re1,016898117Both
    6State Farm924910Individual
    7CIGNA748740Both
    8Securian Financial644557Both
    9Lincoln Financial597241356Both
    10RGA589552Individual
    11Guardian493221271Both
    12AXA Financial402386Individual
    13Protective Life398396Individual
    14UNUM392333Group
    15Berkshire Hathaway382358Individual
    16Transamerica329308Individual
    17Pacific Life327327Individual
    18Hartford Life268268Group
    19Sun Life243230Group
    20AIG229224Individual
    21MassMutual22217745Both
    22Nationwide21416549Both
    23Manulife Financial210190Individual
    24Principal Financial205151Group
    25Allstate201191Individual

    The Takeaway

    Prudential is the largest U.S. life insurer when measured by total life insurance in-force, with $1.75 trillion of coverage outstanding.

    prudential logo
    Metlife logo
    Northwestern Mutual Logo

    Largest U.S. Life Insurers By Assets

    ... By Annual Premiums ("Annual Revenue")

    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, and this 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, which equates to 38% share of total life insurance market revenue.

    Companies ($mm)Total Premiums Per YearIndividualGroupIn Top 25?
    1Northwestern Mutual13,52613,524Individual
    2Prudential12,2939,2203,073Both
    3MetLife11,9622,7539,186Both
    4New York Life11,6799,0632,616Both
    5Massachusetts Mutual7,2196,573646Both
    6Protective Life7,0547,046Individual
    7Swiss Re6,0905,744346Both
    8Great West4,9614,853Individual
    9State Farm4,9404,873Individual
    10Guardian4,7014,087614Both
    11Pacific Life3,5853,585Individual
    12Securian Financial3,5701,7321,790Both
    13Nationwide3,0501,7581,292Both
    14AXA Financial2,7182,688Individual
    15Manulife Financial2,4632,394Individual
    16RGA Group2,4572,396Individual
    17Berkshire Hathaway2,2892,196Individual
    18Torchmark2,2501,795455Both
    19Transamerica2,0631,838223Both
    20Mutual of Omaha1,8021,529273Both
    21CIGNA1,7461,689Group
    22Sammons Financial1,7241,682Individual
    23Thrivent Financial1,6761,676Individual
    24UNUM1,567636931Group
    25Hartford Life1,4081,399Group

    But when you move down to the fifth position, MassMutual brings in only 53% of the leading insurer’s revenue.  

    The Takeaway

    Northwestern Mutual is the largest U.S. life insurance company when measured by annual premiums received.

    Northwestern Mutual Logo
    prudential logo
    Metlife logo

    ... 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.

    CompaniesTotal Assets ($mm)
    1Prudential578
    2MetLife410
    3New York Life325
    4TIAA-CREF316
    5AIG285
    6Northwestern Mutual272
    7Lincoln Financial256
    8MassMutual255
    9Manulife Financial248
    10Jackson National237
    11Transamerica201
    12AXA Financial195
    13Voya Financial189
    14Principal Financial185
    15Brighthouse Holdings179
    16Nationwide170
    17Allianz145
    18Pacific Life136
    19Hopmeadow Holdings118
    20Ameriprise Financial104
    21Thrivent Financial For Lutherans94
    22Sammons Financial85
    23Athene84
    24State Farm78
    25Guardian76

    After these four, there are a host of companies with between $200 billion and $300 billion in assets.  In order 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 includes several household names – Nationwide, Pacific Life, and State Farm – and finishes with Guardian at #25, with $76 billion in assets (just 13% of largest company, Prudential).

    The Takeaway

    Prudential is the largest U.S. life insurance company (by far) when measured by total assets. Its 2019 asset balance of $578 billion dwarfed its next largest competitor, MetLife by almost $200 billion.

    prudential logo
    Metlife logo
    New York Life Logo

    Largest Life Insurance Company FAQs

    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.

    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.

    Presbyterian Ministers Fund was founded in 1759 and was the first life insurance company founded in the United States.

    Rikin Shah

    Rikin Shah

    Rikin is the Founder & Head of Content at GetSure. He is a licensed life, accident & health insurance agent, with over 10 years of experience in the financial services industry. He holds a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Columbia University and an MBA from The Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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