Northwestern Mutual funds


Northwestern Mutual ranks number one among the largest life insurance companies with over $14 billion in direct premiums written and a 7.49% market share. It collects about $1 billion more in premiums than the next provider on the list, New York Life. MetLife, Prudential, and Mass Mutual make up the rest of the top five.

Life insurance ownership rates went up in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This also led to a shift away from in-person to online sales and a growing interest in life insurance policies that don’t require a medical exam.

Keep reading for the market shares and premiums of the biggest providers, the best life insurance companies for customer satisfaction, and the latest trends in life insurance.

Key findings

  • Northwestern Mutual is the largest life insurance company with a 7.49% market share as of 2021.
  • The 10 largest life insurance companies control about 46% of the total market.
  • State Farm has the highest customer satisfaction rates among the largest life insurance providers.
  • There were over $190 billion in life insurance premiums written in 2021.
  • 64% of consumers said they increased their life insurance during 2021.

The 25 largest life insurance companies

Here are the 25 largest life insurance companies as of 2021, according to a report issued by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC):

1 Northwestern Mutual $14,271,892,131 7.49%
2 New York Life $13,264,228,971 6.97%
3 MetLife $11,476,164,714 6.03%
4 Prudential $10,644,345,943 5.59%
5 Mass Mutual $10,068,389,696 5.29%
6 Lincoln Financial Group $8,301,364,165 4.36%
7 State Farm $5,254,688,099 2.76%
8 John Hancock $5,039,509,686 2.65%
9 TransAmerica (AEGON) $4,980,417,247 2.62%
10 Securian Financial $4,834,847,124 2.54%
11 Guardian Life $4,543,383,611 2.39%
12 Pacific Life $4,533,683,786 2.38%
13 Sammons Financial Group $4,362,752,822 2.29%
14 Nationwide $3,930,275,018 2.06%
15 American International Group (AIG) $3,579,342,363 1.88%
16 Dai-Ichi Life $3,558,167,808 1.87%
17 Equitable Life $3,004,285,231 1.58%
18 Mutual of Omaha $2,923,035,087 1.53%
19 Globe Life $2,856,053,647 1.5%
20 Primerica $2,783,951,011 1.46%
21 Penn Mutual $2,555,745,565 1.34%
22 National Life Group $2,509,538,896 1.32%
23 Principal Financial Group $2,431,557,005 1.28%
24 Unum Group $2,399,101,225 1.26%
25 Brighthouse Financial $2,214,505,822 1.16%

Source: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (2022).

Life insurance companies as a whole have a total of $190,433,958,079 in direct written premiums per NAIC data. That number goes up considerably if you include other products that fall under the life and fraternal insurance industry, such as annuities. The direct premiums written for that industry as a whole are $1,089,242,649,636.


The most popular life insurance companies don’t dominate the market like the big players do in other insurance industries. Consumers are more likely to shop around and go with smaller providers. Here’s the combined market share of the biggest life insurance carriers:

  • The top five have a combined market share of 31.36%.
  • The top 10 have a combined market share of 46.28%.
  • The top 25 have a combined market share of 71.58%.

To put those numbers in perspective, the five largest auto insurance companies control 58.32% of that market, and the top 10 control 73.37%. The life insurance market is much more spread out in comparison.

Life insurance ownership rates had been on a downward trend for decades, but that changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. New policy purchases went up in both 2020 and 2021. J.D. Power reported that quote and buy rates increased by 4% last year. And in a survey by ReMark, 64% of respondents said they increased their life insurance in 2021.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that most consumers buy life insurance to cover final expenses and pass on money to their beneficiaries. There are two other common ways people used life insurance policies in 2021:

  • 18% used them to protect retirement income.
  • 9% used them for tax planning purposes.

The most significant change to the life insurance industry in recent years is a more streamlined buying process that can be completed at home.

Online sales are much more common. The portion of consumers who preferred this went from 17% in 2011 to 29% in 2020, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Accelerated underwriting and no-exam life insurance have become popular, especially as the pandemic made it more difficult to go through a series of medical exams to get a policy.


Next up, we’ll provide more details on the 10 largest life insurance companies. We’ve included each provider’s coverage options and its most recent customer satisfaction rating from J.D. Power. Satisfaction rates are on a 1,000-point scale, and the industry average is 776.

1. Northwestern Mutual

  • Market share: 7.49%
  • Direct premiums written: $14,271,892,131
  • Coverage options: Term life, whole life, universal life, variable universal life
  • Claims satisfaction: 807

Northwestern Mutual is the largest life insurance company, and it’s also The Ascent’s pick for the best life insurance company overall. It got to the top of the market and our rankings because of its all-around excellence with no notable weak points. Northwestern has highly rated customer service, several coverage options, and competitive premiums.

A strong brand is important to consumers shopping for life insurance, and this provider’s 160 years in business certainly help there. It also does very well retaining customers, as 96% stay with the company from year to year.

2. New York Life

  • Market share: 6.97%
  • Direct premiums written: $13,264,228,971
  • Coverage options: Term life, whole life, universal life, variable universal life
  • Claims satisfaction: 777

New York Life was at the top of the market as recently as 2020, but it’s second in the most recent market share data. This provider has all the most popular coverages, and it’s known for offering customizable policies that allows consumers to get exactly what they need. Its yearly convertible terms are great for those looking for the best cheap life insurance.

This is another company with a lengthy history behind it, as it has been offering life insurance for over 170 years. While it doesn’t have any major issues, its customer satisfaction is only a little above average. That could be the difference between it and first-place Northwestern.

3. MetLife

  • Market share: 6.03%
  • Direct premiums written: $11,476,164,714
  • Coverage options: Term life, group variable universal life, group universal life
  • Claims satisfaction: 756

While most of the biggest life insurance providers are available to individuals, MetLife only offers workplace plans. Employees can get coverage from MetLife if it’s an option with their employers.

Coverage options at MetLife are more limited than what many other top providers offer. It’s also below average in terms of customer satisfaction. It still remains a popular choice for workplace life insurance, which has allowed it to capture just over 6% of the market and nearly $11.5 billion in premiums.

4. Prudential

  • Market share: 5.59%
  • Direct premiums written: $10,644,345,943
  • Coverage options: Term life, universal life, indexed universal life, variable universal life
  • Claims satisfaction: 753

The fourth-largest life insurance company, Prudential, has been in business for over 140 years. It’s one of the few life insurance carriers that doesn’t exclude customers with chronic conditions, such as HIV.

Although Prudential has its perks, there are also some areas it could improve. It had one of the lowest customer satisfaction scores of the top 10 largest life insurance companies. It’s also missing whole life insurance, a common coverage that many of its competitors have available.

5. Mass Mutual

  • Market share: 5.29%
  • Direct premiums written: $10,068,389,696
  • Coverage options: Term life, whole life, universal life, variable universal life
  • Claims satisfaction: 782

Mass Mutual rounds out the top five with over $10 billion in direct premiums written. Among the major providers, Mass Mutual is one of the better ones in terms of customer service and financial strength. Those both make it a great life insurance company for seniors. It’s also notable for LifeBridge, a free life insurance program it offers to income-eligible families.

Unlike some other providers, Mass Mutual doesn’t offer car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, or renter’s insurance. That could be an issue for consumers who want to bundle plans to get a discount or simplify their insurance policies.

6. Lincoln Financial Group

  • Market share: 4.36%
  • Direct premiums written: $8,301,364,165
  • Coverage options: Term life, whole life, universal life, indexed universal life, variable universal life
  • Claims satisfaction: 773

Lincoln Financial Group owes both its name and its logo to President Abraham Lincoln. It keeps its plans simple by dividing them into two groups: Temporary life, which is its name for term life insurance, and permanent life, which includes whole and universal coverages.

Customer satisfaction for Lincoln is a little below the industry average. To its credit, it does offer quite a few different coverage options and breaks them down in an easy-to-understand format.

7. State Farm

  • Market share: 2.76%
  • Direct premiums written: $5,254,688,099
  • Coverage options: Term life, whole life, universal life
  • Claims satisfaction: 822

State Farm may be seventh in the life insurance market, but there aren’t many carriers that can compete with it in the insurance industry as a whole. It’s the largest auto insurance company and the largest home and property insurance company, and it’s ahead of the pack in both those rankings by a comfortable margin.

Even though State Farm doesn’t have lots of coverage options for life insurance, it makes up for that with excellent customer service. It recorded the highest customer satisfaction rating in J.D. Power’s most recent survey.

8. John Hancock

  • Market share: 2.65%
  • Direct premiums written: $5,039,509,686
  • Coverage options: Term life, universal life, indexed universal life, variable universal life
  • Claims satisfaction: 781

With just over $5 billion in direct premiums written, John Hancock is the eighth-largest life insurance provider. This company recorded above-average customer satisfaction scores with J.D. Power and an A+ financial strength rating from A.M. Best.

John Hancock has quite a few coverage options available, although it is missing whole life insurance. It’s notable for offering no-exam life insurance policies ranging from $100,000 all the way up to $3 million.

9. TransAmerica (AEGON)

  • Market share: 2.62%
  • Direct premiums written: $4,980,417,247
  • Coverage options: Term life, whole life, universal life, indexed universal life, final expense life
  • Claims satisfaction: 747

TransAmerica is known for its high life insurance coverage limits. Policies start as low as $25,000 and can be worth as much as $2 million for whole life and $10 million or more for term life. It offers no-exam policies for qualified consumers with up to $2 million in coverage.

There’s one glaring problem with TransAmerica, and that’s lackluster customer service. It had the lowest customer satisfaction score among the top 10 providers in J.D. Power’s most recent survey, and the third-lowest score overall. This company also only offers life insurance, so consumers can’t bundle their other insurance policies if they go with TransAmerica.

10. Securian Financial

  • Market share: 2.54%
  • Direct premiums written: $4,834,847,124
  • Coverage options: Term life, whole life, universal life, indexed universal life, variable universal life
  • Claims satisfaction: 769

At the end of the list of largest life insurers, Securian Financial has been around for over 140 years. It previously operated under the name Minnesota Life Insurance. This provider is based in Minnesota but offers life insurance across the country.

All the most popular life insurance coverages are available with Securian, including term life, whole life, and multiple types of universal life insurance. It doesn’t offer auto or home and property insurance, though. In terms of customer service, Securian is below the industry average



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