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)
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 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|
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.
... 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-Force||Individual||Group||In Top 25?|
|4||New York Life||1,229||804||425||Both|
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 Year||Individual||Group||In Top 25?|
|4||New York Life||11,679||9,063||2,616||Both|
|20||Mutual of Omaha||1,802||1,529||273||Both|
But when you move down to the fifth position, MassMutual brings in only 53% of the leading insurer’s revenue.
... 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 $316 billion in assets, respectively.
|Companies||Total Assets ($mm)|
|3||New York Life||325|
|21||Thrivent Financial For Lutherans||94|
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).