The biggest may not always be best when choosing services or products. It’s no different with life insurance, except for one discriminating factor—the purpose of life insurance is to pay out a sizable amount of money to your beneficiaries in the event you pass away. Consequently, an insurer‘s total assets, ability to pay claims, and settlement practices are important components for life insurance customers to review.

By using Insurify to compare life insurance quotes, you’ll be able to examine more than premiums. After you’ve answered a few fundamental questions, such as your age and how much life insurance you’ll need, Insurify provides you with a list of quotes from top insurers for you to compare. You can speak with an agent or learn more online because your trust in your company is critical to the ones you love.

What Is a Large Life Insurance Company, and Why Does It Matter?

For all intents and purposes, what makes a large life insurance company is the number of people who own policies with the life insurance company and the company’s ability to make money and pay claims. Policyholders want to know their insurer has the financial stability to fulfill its part of the contract.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) released the 2020 Life/Fraternal Market Share Report, which lists the top 25 life insurers in the U.S. by direct premiums and market shares. About 66.7 percent of the life and accident/health insurance industry reported their direct premiums to the NAIC for 2020.

Life insurance premiums are the payments that you pay for your life insurance policy. Whether insurers offer a whole life insurance policy or a term life insurance policy, the NAIC details the largest insurers by direct premiums written and their market shares. Market shares are the size of a company by its sales in comparison to total industry sales. 

Fraternal benefit societies are not-for-profit organizations that operate on a lodge system and offer life and health insurance and other benefits to their members. The NAIC has listed these organizations and for-profit insurers on their market share report. They also compile a list of property and casualty insurance. The following table is the NAIC‘s list of top 10 life insurers by direct premiums in the U.S.

Company Direct Premiums in 2020
1 New York Life $11.7 billion
2 Northwestern Mutual $11.3 billion
3 MetLife/Metropolitan GRP $10.5 billion
4 Prudential of America $10.1 billion
5 Lincoln Financial/ National $8.4 billion
6 MassMutual $8 billion
7 State Farm $5 billion
8 Aegon US Holding GRP $4.9 billion
9 John Hancock $4.7 billion
10 Minnesota Mutual $4.7 billion

Annuities

An annuity is a financial vehicle that can be used as an investment product or an insurance product. As an insurance product, it can be used to provide a death benefit or a permanent stream of income to the beneficiary. The NAIC also compiled a list of 2020’s top 25 U.S. life insurers with annuity considerations. The following table shows the top 10 insurers from that list. 

Company Direct Premiums with Annuity Considerations in 2020
Jackson National $18.2 billion
TIAA Family $17.1 billion
Lincoln National $17 billion
American International Group $15.2 billion
Nationwide $14.1 billion
Apollo Global MGMT $13.5 billion
New York Life $12.5 billion
Voya Financial Group $12 billion
Equitable Holdings Inc. $10.7 billion
MassMutual Life $10.3 billion

Independent Rating Services

Independent rating services evaluate the financial strength of life insurance providers based on various criteria, including their competitive advantages, ability to finance their strategic plans, and liquidity. The top five insurance rating services are Duff and Phelps (soon to be Kroll Bond), Fitch, Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s (S&P), and A.M. Best.   

Who Are the Largest Life Insurance Companies in the World?

A.M. Best is a credit-rating service that focuses entirely on the insurance industry and insurance-related products. It reports on over 16,000 insurers across the globe. It works in over 100 countries to furnish life insurance consumers, professionals, and anyone who is seeking to find the financial strength of insurance companies with thorough information through their insurance reviews.

On January 4, 2021, A.M. Best released their list of the 25 largest insurance companies in the world, by net premiums written and by non-banking assets, from 2019. Non-banking financial institutions offer financial services like brokering, consulting, and risk pooling, which is insurance. They are not managed by a banking regulatory agency and/or they do not have a full banking license.  

Assets in insurance is anything in the insurance company’s custody that can be used to cover their debts. The insurers on A.M. Best‘s World’s Largest Insurers by Non-Banking Assets list may or may not have branches of banking for the public, but those assets are not counted. However, non-banking assets, such as financial management, are reflected in the non-banking assets.

The table below is A.M. Best‘s top 10 worldwide insurers of 2019 by non-banking assets. 

Company Location Net Non-Banking Assets 2019
1. Allianz SE Germany $1,096,870,880.00
2. Prudential Financial United States $896,552,000.00
3. AXA France $843,323,040.00
4. Berkshire Hathaway United States $817,729,000.00
5. Nippon Life Insurance Company Japan $742,784,884.00
6. MetLife Inc. United States $740,463,000.00
7. Legal & General Group Plc. United Kingdom $735,409,869.00
8. Ping An Insurance China $708,648,924.00
9. Japan Post Insurance Co. Japan $664,743,783.00
10. China Life Insurance China $646,493,671.00

1. Allianz SE

Based in Munich, Germany, with $1.1 billion in non-banking assets, Allianz is a financial group that offers financial services all over the world. Its global subsidiaries include Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, headquartered in Minneapolis. Allianz is #24 on the Forbes global 2,000 yearly ranking in 2021, which rates the top 2,000 public companies around the world. 

2. Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial has locations worldwide, utilizing three important divisions: their U.S. Retirement Solutions & Investment Management division, their Individual Life & Group Insurance division, and their International Insurance division. Prudential operates in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

3. AXA

With global operations, AXA is a multi-functioning conglomerate offering property and casualty insurance, group and individual life insurance, and asset management. Originating from a mutual insurer in Normandy in 1958, today AXA has 153,000 employees in 54 countries and 105 million customers.

4. Berkshire Hathaway

Berkshire Hathaway has the financial ability to handle very large and long-standing liabilities and to complete transactions quickly. Berkshire Hathaway Life is a part of Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group. Reinsurance is when insurers share the risk of large policies with other insurers to minimize the risk

5. Nippon Life Insurance Company

Founded in 1889, Nippon Life Insurance Company is the largest Japanese life insurance company. It is an asset management group as well as an insurance company, and it operates in Europe, the Asia-Pacific area, and the U.S. 

6. MetLife Inc.

MetLife offers a variety of insurance coverages, including hospital indemnity insurance, home and auto insurance, pet insurance, and group variable universal life insurance. MetLife has operations in more than 40 markets around the world. 

7. Legal & General Group Plc.

Founded in the United Kingdom, Legal and General Insurance has been offering life insurance products since 1836. Now an international provider, it provides retirement solutions to corporations and individuals.

8. Ping An Insurance

What first began as Ping An Insurance Company in 1988 is now Ping An Insurance Group of China, a leading retail financial services group. It is China’s largest insurer, offering life and health insurance, property and casualty insurance, banking, and asset management.

9. Japan Post Insurance Co.

Japan Post Insurance Co. is a young Japanese insurance company founded in 2007. As a part of Japan Post Holdings group, it offers comprehensible life insurance products. The Japanese writing of their name translates into “simple insurance.”

10. China Life Insurance

China Life Insurance Company provides annuities, life insurance, and critical illness insurance. It operates internationally in Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Macau. It ranked number 32 on Fortune’s Global 500 companies in 2021.

Net premiums written are the gross premiums paid to an insurer for a given time. A.M. Best‘s World’s Largest Insurers list also ranks insurance companies by their net premiums written. The table below shows the top 10 largest insurers by their total life insurance premiums in 2019.

Company Location Net Premiums Written 2019
UnitedHealth Group United States $189,699,000.00
Ping An Ins Group China $110,746,845.00
AXA France $101,144,960.00
China Life Insurance Group China $97,744,867.00
Kaiser Foundation United States $97,247,349.00
Anthem Inc. United States $94,730,000.00
Allianz SE Germany $86,656,640.00
People’s Ins Co Group China $74,419,774.00
Generali Italy $74,238,080.00
Centene Corporation United States $71,714,000.00

What Are the Top 10 Worst Life Insurance Companies?

As mentioned, the biggest life insurance company may not be what’s best for your needs. The worst life insurance companies aren’t measured by their premiums, but by their conduct. Life insurance is regulated by the state. States set rules for insurance trade practices. Unfair claims settlement practices include not promptly settling claims and forcing policyholders to file lawsuits to have claims paid, among others.

States have disciplinary action for insurers who violate insurance trade practice laws. Almost all states follow model laws set by the NAIC. The NAIC‘s Unfair Trade Practices Act states that if the commissioner suspects an insurer has used any unfair trade practices, the commissioner shall serve the insurer an explanation of charges and a notice of a hearing. 

The American Association for Justice 

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) provides education and advocacy for trial lawyers. At the beginning of 2021, the AAJ released its top 10 list of worst insurers based on its findings from investigating court documents, SEC and FBI records, statements from former insurance agents, and other reliable resources. The following insurers are the AAJs top 10 worst life insurance companies.

Allstate

In the 1990s, Allstate enlisted the aid of consulting firm McKinsey & Company. The firm suggested Allstate reduce policy payouts to insureds to increase their profit. Former Allstate employees reported combative litigation methods that were designed to deny claims no matter what the cost. Allstate received the largest fine in the history of Maryland for raising premiums and altering policies without telling their policyholders. The fine was $18.6 million.

Unum

Unum offers group life insurance policies through employee benefit packages. In 2003, the CEO of the company was forced to leave because of controversy over its claims settlement practices. In 2005, Unum settled with 48 different commissioners from 48 states to handle its delay and deny policies. Unum reopened over 200,000 cases and paid $15 million.

AIG

AIG has a long track record of getting more money in premiums than it pays in claims. Former employees alleged in court that AIG used all types of tactics to deny and delay claims. AIG‘s antics also involve fraud, and in 2006, they paid $1.6 billion to settle charges. Two years after that, five of their executives were found guilty of fraud.

4. State Farm

State Farm has mainly come under fire for its handling of property and casualty claims after Hurricane Katrina. The CEO of the engineering firm that State Farm used to evaluate claims from Hurricane Katrina said he was asked to change reports when State Farm didn’t agree. In 2007, the company agreed to reopen over 3,000 Hurricane Katrina claims and paid an additional $30 million in settlements.

5. Conseco

Conseco’s long-term care policies cater to older individuals who buy the insurance later in life to cover the cost of assisted living care. Conseco denied and delayed claims, knowing that eventually, their policyholders would pass away or not be able to fight for themselves. In 2008, the company was fined $2.3 million and had to pay $4 million for restitution.

6. Wellpoint/Anthem

In 2004, Wellpoint health networks merged with Anthem Insurance, and in 2014, they changed their name to Anthem. Anthem offers group life insurance policies through employee benefit packages; however, it is one of the largest health insurers. The company was fined $1 million after investigations showed that Wellpoint consistently canceled the policies of pregnant women and the chronically ill. 

7. Farmers

Farmers offer several types of life insurance, including term and universal life insurance. It also offers property and casualty insurance. Farmers ranks as one of the lowest companies for customer satisfaction of property and casualty insurance. It instilled incentive programs for adjusters who met low claim payment criteria. Farmers has been fined by several states for unfair claims settlement practices.

8. UnitedHealth

UnitedHealth provides life insurance products through group employer plans but is primarily a health insurance provider. It has been accused of continually valuing profit over policyholders by denying and delaying claims where the policyholders‘ health was jeopardized. UnitedHealth has paid $4 million in fines to Texas, which has prompt pay laws.

9. Torchmark

Torchmark has admitted that the company was originally founded on a scam. Torchmark and its subsidiaries targeted low-income households throughout the South. It practiced unfair discrimination in a number of ways, including race-based underwriting. In 2006, a subsidiary of Torchmark had to pay $6 million in a class action suit for overcharging black policyholders.

10. Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual offers annuities and term and whole life insurance policies. It has predominatley been accused of denying and delaying claims and canceling policies across the country in hurricane-vulnerable areas and states in the north. It was also fined $2 million by Connecticut and $5.5 million by New York for bid-rigging, although it has not admitted guilt.

What Is the Number 1 Life Insurance Company in the World?

With considerations to the findings from the NAIC and A.M. Best, the largest insurers are those with the most assets. And based on the findings of the AAJ, customer service and denying claims rank some life insurers among the worst companies. UnitedHealth ranked the largest company on A.M. Best‘s largest life insurers by direct premiums written, but it’s also on AAJs list for one of the worst companies for denying claims.

The number 1 life insurer in the world may be determined by the amount of assets the company has and the amount of premiums it collects; however, customer experience is a factor, too. Prudential Life ranks number 4 on the NAIC’s largest insurers by direct premium for life insurance in the U.S. and number 2 on A.M. Best‘s top worldwide insurers for non-banking assets.

Prudential Life scores a 4 out of 5 stars on ConsumerAffairs.com, scores a 4.4 out of 5 stars on Reviews.com, and receives a score of 772 out of 1,000 on J.D. Power’s 2020 Life Insurance Overall Customer Service Index Ranking, which is just below the industry average. With large assets and mostly positive customer service reviews, we rank Prudential Life as the number 1 insurer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the largest life insurance company in the world?

The NAIC and A.M. Best rank the largest life insurance companies by premiums paid by policyholders and/or non-banking assets. A.M. Best ranks Allianz SE as the largest insurer in the world based on non-banking assets and UnitedHealth by direct premiums written.

Is it important to have a policy with a large insurance company?

If you decide to buy a life insurance policy with a large insurance company, you may feel more secure knowing your insurer will have the ability to pay your beneficiaries when you pass. At the same time, some large insurers have poor claims-paying history because they are interested in making a profit. It is important to consider an insurer's financial strength, but it should not be more important than your needs and budget.

What is a bad life insurance company?

Life insurance companies are considered bad for unethical practices. States impose disciplinary actions against insurers who violate regulations, like practicing unfair claim-settlement practices, and unfair discrimination.

Conclusion

Life insurance is a financial vehicle that enables you and your loved ones to feel financially protected in the event of your or your loved one’s passing. Going with a life insurance company because it has the most assets may seem logical because of this, but this should not outweigh the importance of the type of coverage you need and your ability to sustain the policy.  

Let Insurify help you cut to the chase when you’re looking for the right life insurance company. Life insurance options are so plentiful that finding the right policy may seem like going through a never-ending maze. Insurify will lead you in the right direction to the right company with the right policy.

Updated October 4, 2021

Aissa Martell is a licensed insurance producer in the State of New York. She is a creative writer and has been freelance writing for five years. She’s happy to share her knowledge of the insurance industry and its products.