Filed Under:Markets, Employee Benefits

The 2014 NUL top 100

Statistics can tell a lot, not only about the financial health of companies, but also how they stack up against one another. In this annual feature, we take the pulse of 100 top-ranking life and health insurers when measured against four key metrics: net investment income, total enrollment (health lines only), policyholder surplus and net premiums written.

See last year's list: The 2013 NUL top 100

The report card on the last of these, of particular interest to life insurance professionals, reveals a shake up in the ranks, with a top three insurer in 2012 displacing the formerly number one carrier in 2013. Hence, UnitedHealth Group overtook WellPoint last year in the health segment (all lines); Jackson National surpassed Prudential Financial in the annuities space (individual and group); and Prudential nudged aside MetLife in life insurance net premiums (excepting credit life).

In two market segments — life/ accident & health (except credit); and life (supplemental & other) — the top insurer of 2012 maintained the top position in 2013. The companies: UnitedHealth Group Inc. and TIAA-CREF, respectively.

A comparison of 2012 and 2013 tables also reveals significant variations in net premiums written for individual companies. A prime example is Prudential Financial, which last year garnered $19.2 billion in net premiums, down from the $61.1 billion recorded in 2012.

How to explain so significant a decline? A Prudential spokesperson attributed the dip to two factors: (1) a one-time bump from $30 billion of premium income generated by pension risk transfer transactions concluded with General Motors and Verizon in 2012; and (2) a decrease in gross sales of variable annuities ($11.447 billion in 2013 versus $19.977 billion in 2012).

While these items are “almost certainly the main drivers” for the premium decline, the spokesperson cautions that Prudential cannot take responsibility for the accuracy of data provided by a third party.

The source of the stats: SNL Financial, which bases its figures on the insurers’ own filings with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. SNL Financial’s proprietary database — to which NU and LifeHealthPro have privileged access — standardizes financial data using the life and health insurance industries’ financial parameters, terminology and performance metrics. The company data is also aligned over time to enable easy comparison of different periods.

With this as background, read on. See how your carriers measure up against the competition. You may be surprised!

Editor's Note: To enlarge, click on the chart below.

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