Distribution Channels

Distribution Channels

LIFE INSURANCE DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS

Life insurance was once sold primarily by career life agents, captive agents that represent a single insurance company, and by independent agents, who represent several insurers. Now, life insurance is also sold directly to the public by mail, telephone and through the Internet. In addition, in the 1980s insurers began to market annuities and term life insurance through banks and financial advisors, professional groups and the workplace. A large portion of variable annuities, and a small portion of fixed annuities, are sold by stockbrokers. In 2013 independent agents held 49 percent of the new individual life insurance sales market, followed by affiliated (i.e., captive) agents with 41 percent, direct marketers with 4 percent and others accounting for the remaining 6 percent, according to LIMRA.

 

LIFE INDIVIDUAL MARKET SHARE BY DISTRIBUTION CHANNEL, 2004-2013

(Based on first year collected premium)

(1) Includes brokers, stockbrokers and personal producing general agents.
(2) Includes career, multiline exclusive and home service agents.
(3) No producers are involved. Excludes direct marketing efforts involving agents.
(4) Includes financial institutions, worksite and other channels.
(5) Estimate.

Source: LIMRA’s U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales Survey and LIMRA estimates.

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WORKSITE LIFE INSURANCE SALES BY LINE OF BUSINESS, 2013

(1) Short-term and long-term disability.

Source: Eastbridge Consulting Group, Inc.

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  • Worksite marketing is the selling of voluntary (employee-paid) insurance and financial products at the worksite. The products may be on either an individual or group platform and are usually paid through periodic payroll deductions.
  • Worksite sales of life and health insurance totaled $6.64 billion in 2013, up about 4.3 percent from 2012.

ANNUITY DISTRIBUTION

Insurance agents, including career agents, who sell the products of a single life insurance company, and independent agents, who represent several insurers, accounted for 37 percent of annuity sales in 2013. State and federal regulators require sellers of variable annuities to register with NASD and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

SALES OF INDIVIDUAL ANNUITIES BY DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS, 2009 AND 2013

Source: U.S. Individual Annuity Yearbook - 2013, LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute.

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PROPERTY/CASUALTY INSURANCE DISTRIBUTION

 

Agency writers, whose products are sold by independent agents or brokers representing several companies; and direct writers, which sell their own products through captive agents by mail, telephone, or via the Internet and other means, each account for about half of the property/casualty (P/C) market. There is a degree of overlap as many insurers use multiple channels.      

A.M. Best organizes insurance into two main distribution channels: agency writers and direct writers. Its “agency writers” category includes insurers that distribute through independent agencies, brokers, general agents and managing general agents. Its “direct writers” category includes insurers that distribute through the Internet, exclusive/captive agents, direct response and affinity groups.

  • In 2012 direct writers accounted for 51.7 percent of P/C insurance net premiums written and agency writers accounted for 46.9 percent, according to A.M. Best.*
  • In the personal lines market, direct writers accounted for 71.1 percent of net premiums written in 2012 and agency writers accounted for 28.0 percent. Direct writers accounted for 68.8 percent of the homeowners market and agency writers accounted for 29.3 percent. Direct writers accounted for 72.0 percent of the personal auto market and agency writers accounted for 27.4 percent.*
  • Agency writers accounted for 66.7 percent of commercial P/C net premiums written and direct writers accounted for 31.3 percent.*

*Unspecified distribution channels accounted for the remainder.

  • There were 38,500 independent agencies in the U.S. in 2012, up 3 percent from 2010, according to the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America’s 2012 Agency Universe survey.
  • 18 percent of the agencies have been founded since 2008.
  • 44 percent of these new agencies are located in the South, compared with 36 percent of older independent agencies. 11 percent of new agencies are located in the Northeast, compared with 15 percent of older independent agencies. 55 percent of new agencies are located in large metropolitan areas.
  • 14 percent of agencies report that they had operated as exclusive agencies at some point in the past.