The biggest life insurance companies in 2021

New York Life and Northwestern Mutual are the largest life insurance companies in the U.S. in 2021.

Headshot of Policygenius editor Nupur GambhirAmanda Shih author photo

By

Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is an insurance editor at Policygenius and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent in New York.

&

Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

Updated November 19, 2021|2 min read

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The size of a life insurance company can be measured by how many policyholders it has (its market share) and total premiums received. While companies with more assets and market share are the most financially stable, choosing a larger life insurance company over a smaller one is unlikely to affect your policy on a day-to-day basis. 

Premiums are regulated by your state, so companies can’t charge more or less because they’re bigger or smaller. But, bigger life insurance companies can offer higher coverage amounts than smaller companies, while smaller companies might be able to offer more personal customer service.

The largest life insurance companies in the U.S.

The table below ranks the top 20 life insurance companies in the United States from largest to smallest based on premiums received from customers, also known as direct written premium. New York Life tops the list with more than $11.6 billion in direct written premium. [1]  

RankCompanyDirect written premium (billion USD)Market share
1New York Life11.6946.75%
2Northwestern Mutual11.2976.52%
3MetLife (Metropolitan Group)10.4936.05%
4Prudential10.0585.80%
5Lincoln Financial8.3704.83%
6MassMutual7.9154.57%
7State Farm$4.9712.87%
8Transamerica (Aegon)4.8602.80%
9John Hancock4.7272.73%
10Minnesota Life (Securian)4.6882.70%
11Guardian Life4.2792.47%
12Pacific Life3.9892.30%
13AIG3.5752.06%
14Nationwide3.1951.84%
15AXA Equitable2.9111.68%
16Sammons Financial Group2.6751.54%
17Mutual of Omaha2.6681.54%
18Globe Life2.6321.52%
19Primerica2.5781.49%
20Voya2.4781.43%

→ See how insurers stack up in our company reviews

Sometimes, the largest life insurance companies are determined by how much they have in assets (including non-banking assets), as shown below: [2]

The largest life insurance companies by assets in billions of U.S. dollars. Companies can also be ranked by direct written premiums and market share, as well as subjective ratings from J.D. Power, A.M. Best, and BBB.

Methodology: Ranking of the 20 largest life insurance companies is based on data compiled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and A.M. Best.

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When to use a large life insurance company

Everyone’s life insurance needs are different, but a bigger life insurance company is the right fit for people who:

  • Are concerned about financial stability: It’s rare for a life insurance company to go bankrupt, but if stability is a top concern, larger companies can offer more peace of mind. Larger companies have statutory reserves and reinsurance agreements that ensure they can pay out claims even if they go out of business.

  • Need a large death benefit: Larger companies can provide higher coverage amounts than smaller companies, which matters if you need an exceptional amount of life insurance (e.g., more than $10 million).

  • Want maximum flexibility: Bigger insurers may have more flexibility to offer after-hours or weekend service than smaller companies, or might offer online policy management options that smaller competitors don’t.

When to use a smaller life insurance company

Regulations mean small insurers generally offer the same types of life insurance coverage as larger ones and premiums don’t vary widely based on a company’s size. 

You might prefer a smaller life insurance company if you want:

  • A more standard amount of coverage

  • More personalized service 

  • Specialized coverage (e.g., for a specific profession)

Make sure to check the company’s credit and customer service ratings if you’re unfamiliar with the insurer.

What to look at besides size

Size is just one factor in choosing the best life insurance company for you. You might also want to consider your insurer’s:

  • Customer satisfaction: Use sources like the Better Business Bureau and J.D. Power to find out whether customers are happy with an insurer. Take reviews with a grain of salt, especially for larger companies that serve thousands of customers. 

  • Turnaround time: Some companies may offer faster approvals than others, particularly if an insurer has an accelerated underwriting option.

  • Underwriting guidelines: Every company evaluates your health, hobbies, and other insurance risk factors differently, so different insurers may offer you more competitive rates than others. 

→ Learn how we choose the best life insurance companies

Even though a life insurance company is large, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best company for you. Unless you need a particularly high death benefit, company size is just one part of choosing a provider that suits your needs.

Frequently asked questions

What is the largest life insurance company in the U.S.?

New York Life is the biggest life insurance company based on direct premium written. Direct premium written is a measure of an insurer’s growth over a set period.

What’s good about a bigger insurance company?

The biggest life insurance companies have more financial stability and offer very high death benefits, which a smaller company may not be able to do. They may also offer more flexibility in customer service or offerings.

What’s good about a smaller insurance company?

Smaller life insurance companies may provide a more personal experience or might specialize in serving people with specific jobs or insurance needs.

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