Index cautiously turns the corner
BRAINTREE, Mass., Jan. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Strength in the first half of the year was sustained in the closing quarters of 2012 driving the MIB Life Index up +1.4% YTD as compared to last year, all ages combined. After bottoming out in 2008, this year’s annual gain in U.S. individual life insurance application activity represents the culmination of a slow, but steady recovery.
Year-to-date growth was shared by all age groups, but waning end-of-year activity, particularly in December, could be cause for concern heading into 2013. “We are very encouraged by the overall positive growth, however we remain cautiously optimistic as growth early in 2012 predominated this year’s results,” said Lee Oliphant, MIB Group’s Chief Executive Officer. Flat December activity for the composite Index, up only +0.3% year-over-year, was further evidenced by sluggish activity in ages 60+ (a key Index driver) up only +1.5% in what is normally a high-performing, double-digit month.
Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc with many insurers’ operations and agent activity in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S. late October, which may account for the tame fourth quarter. Life insurance application activity grew across all three age groups in 2012 with ages 0-44, up +1.0%; ages 45-59, up +0.5%; and ages 60+, up +4.8% YTD as compared with last year. December’s activity was mixed and diminished overall with ages 0-44 up +0.5%; ages 45-59 off -0.6%; and ages 60+,up +1.5%, year-over-year. A retrospective six-quarter analysis (Q4, 2012 – Q3, 2011) shows application activity climbing in Q3 2011 to a peak at the end of Q1 2012 and then waning over the remaining quarters.
The most notable trend shifts for 2012: modest growth in ages 0-44 (positive 7 of 12 month) after literally years of decline; nascent strength in ages 45-59 (positive 5 of 12 months); and slowing momentum ages 60+ (evidenced by 2-3% YTD declines in growth from 2009 to 2012). Modest Q4 performance in 2012 for ages 60+ may be related to uncertainty in the estate tax exemption which was settled in the closing days of December.
“This is the first time we’ve seen positive numbers in the ages 44 and below market, but it’s far too early to understand if these trends will endure. This 1% gain on the year may signal ground gained on the industry’s marketing challenges, but again we remain cautious,” says Oliphant. Review all the 2012 industry trends in detail by registering for MIB’s 2012 Life Index Annual Report (free) at www.mibsolutions.com/regLI or login at www.mibsolutions.com/loginLI.
About the MIB Life Index
The MIB Life Index is the life insurance industry’s timeliest measure of application activity in the United States. Released to the media each month, the Index is based on the number of searches MIB life member company underwriters perform on the MIB Checking Service database. Since the vast majority of individually underwritten life premium dollars in North America include an MIB search as a routine underwriting requirement, the MIB Life Index provides a reasonable means to estimate new business activity. For past releases, methodology or to subscribe visit www.mib.com/lifeindex. About MIB MIB is the life and health insurance industry’s most trusted resource for risk information and analytical services. Owned by the industry it has served for more than a century, MIB is uniquely positioned to aggregate industry insights in order to develop products and services for our members that improve their risk assessment. MIB, Inc. and MIB Solutions, Inc. are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the MIB Group, Inc. (www.mib.com and www.mibsolutions.com).