State of the Life Insurance Industry: The Shifting Trends – From Bears to Bulls

In recent years, the state of the life insurance has been well documented. We are at all-time lows in terms of sales and ownership. The trends of individually-owned life insurance over the last 50-60 years are bearish at best and nearly extinct like the dinosaurs at worst. Aside from grad school and a two-week stint selling furniture, I have spent my whole adult life linked to this industry. Imagine how excited I am to explain my career at class reunions and cocktail parties to the guys I captained on the basketball court or football field. Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring why we have seen a decline in the purchasing of life insurance. Is there one reason or are there more? Do we have someone to blame and if so, who? And even more, what can we do, as a company, to overcome this pitfall?

Trends in U.S. individual life insurance ownership


Over the past 20 years, I have had a first-hand view of almost every life insurer and their attitudes, production, strategies, tactics and people. I have been in most insurance companies in this country and even spent some time learning the industry in India. There are some great people in this business. From agents to brokers, actuaries and underwriters, there are a wide-range of smart, successful people, and it starts to make you wonder how the trend line could be so bleak.

Where is the bottom? When will the tide rise? Will we ever sell as many policies as we once did? Is it because of the fact that we no longer have life insurance agents and we have financial planners? Is it because the actuaries and underwriters are too conservative? Are the consumers just too apathetic? Is simplified issue the answer again?

What happens to industries that decline for 60 straight years? Where have all the applicants gone? It’s the field. It’s the home office. It’s this. It’s that. No one takes the blame; they shift it elsewhere.

Our future is adapting to demographics and trends

Source: US Centers for Disease Control 2005

We know that we have a population that is growing and the internet is here to stay. That should make it easier to reach our applicants, right? As if the internet wasn’t enough, it spawned social and business media to make sure we fish where the fish are so we catch just the right applicants. From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, we now have new and unique ways to guide and educate consumers, lower transaction costs and improve our ability to provide customer service.

I am a realist, but maybe a closet optimist. This all reminds me of a quote about pessimism and optimism by Henry Beckwith, “In this world the optimists have it, not because they are always right, but because they are positive. Even when they are wrong they are positive, and that is the way of achievement, correction, improvement, and success.”

In the coming blog series, I will explore answers to these questions. I’ll also explore ideas about where we are headed as an industry. At ExamOne, we are filled with passionate people who wake up every day with new and innovative ways to improve the applicant experience. The applicant deserves to be our top priority.