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5 Life Insurance Stocks to Watch in a Rising Rate Environment

Redesigning and repricing of products and services to maintain sales and profitability have been driving Zacks Life Insurance industry players. Increased automation is expected to drive premium growth and boost the efficiency of Manulife Financial Corporation MFC, Sun Life Financial Corporation SLF, Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated RGA, Voya Financial VOYA and Primerica PRI. As life insurers invest a large portion of their premiums, they are poised to benefit from an improving rate environment.

However, with accelerated digitalization, expenses are likely to increase.


About the Industry

The Zacks Life Insurance industry comprises companies that offer life insurance coverages and retirement benefits to individuals and groups. The products include annuities, whole and term life insurance, accidental death insurance, health insurance, Medicare supplements, and long-term healthcare policies. Sales benefit from the increasing demand for protection products.  The industry also includes companies providing wealth and asset management solutions. With a rise in the number of baby boomers, the demand for retirement benefits is increasing. Per a report by IBISWorld, the $1.1 trillion U.S. Life Insurance & Annuities Market is expected to grow 3.2% in 2023. Increased vaccinations and economic growth instill confidence. Rising mortality may impact the profitability of these life insurers. The industry has also been witnessing accelerated adoption of technology.

3 Trends Shaping the Future of the Life Insurance Industry

A Rising Rate Environment: An improving interest rate environment benefits life insurers as their products and investments are rate sensitive. A favorable interest rate thus impacts life insurers' earnings, capital and reserves, liquidity and competitiveness positively. In times of persistently low interest rates, life insurers' income from investments becomes insufficient to meet the contractually guaranteed obligations of policyholders, which cannot be lowered.  Thus, they direct their funds into alternative investments like private equity, hedge funds, and real estate, among others, to counter the challenge. The Fed has already made three hikes in 2023, taking the tally to 10 since March 2022. Life insurers, being the direct beneficiaries of an improving rate environment, are poised to perform well. However, concerns related to whether Fed will pause further hikes, given apprehensions over economic growth, remain.

Product Redesigning: Industry players are finding new solutions and ways to improve their sales and profitability. Insurers are refraining from selling long-duration term life insurance. Also, life insurers continue to roll out investment products that provide bundled covers of guaranteed retirement income, life and healthcare to cater to customers preferring policies with “living” benefits more than those with death benefits. Increased awareness, following the pandemic, continues to support the life insurance business. A compelling product portfolio will thus aid sales of life insurers. Per Deloitte Insights, life insurance premium is estimated to increase 1.9% in 2023. Per a report published in ReporterLinker, global life insurance gross written premium is expected to be $2.5 trillion by 2026.

Increased Adoption of Technology:  The life insurance industry, which has so far been operating mostly manually, started witnessing accelerated adoption of technology in its operations due to the COVID-led disruption. Companies are now using electronic applications, e-signatures and electronic policy delivery. Carriers started selling policies online that appealed to the tech-savvy population. At the same time, the use of real-time data is making premium calculation easier and reducing risk. Increased automation is expected to drive premium growth and boost efficiency. Moreover, accelerated digitization, as evident from the adoption of artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, cognitive intelligence and blockchain should help life insurers curb operational costs and aid margin expansion. Insurers are investing heavily in technological advancements to ensure efficiency and smooth functioning. At the same time, the players must shield themselves from falling prey to cyber threats.

Zacks Industry Rank Indicates Bright Prospects

The group’s Zacks Industry Rank, which is basically the average of the Zacks Rank of all the member stocks, indicates strong prospects for the near term.
The Zacks Life Insurance industry, within the broader Zacks Finance sector, currently carries a Zacks Industry Rank #98, which places it in the top 39% of the 255 Zacks industries. Our research shows that the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries outperforms the bottom 50% by a factor of more than 2 to 1.

The industry’s positioning in the top 50% of the Zacks-ranked industries is the result of a positive earnings outlook for the constituent companies in aggregate. The industry’s earnings estimate for 2023 has gone up 1.8% from November 2022 end.

Before we present a few life insurance stocks that you may want to consider for your portfolio, let’s take a look at the industry’s recent stock-market performance and valuation picture.

Industry Vs. Sector & S&P 500

The Life Insurance industry has outperformed the Finance sector but underperformed the Zacks S&P 500 composite in the past year. The stocks in this industry have collectively gained 5.3% compared with the Finance sector’s increase of 0.8% and the Zacks S&P 500 composite’s increase of 12.7% in the said time frame.

One-Year Price Performance

Life Insurance Industry's Current Valuation

On the basis of trailing 12-month price-to-book (P/B), which is commonly used for valuing insurance stocks, the industry is currently trading at 1.59X compared with the S&P 500’s 5.72X and the sector’s 3.12X.

Over the past five years, the industry has traded as high as 1.59X, as low as 1.06X, and at the median of 1.25X.

Price-to-Book (P/B) Ratio (TTM)

Price-to-Book (P/B) Ratio (TTM)

5 Life Insurers in Focus

Here we present one stock with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and four stocks with a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).   You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Reinsurance Group of America: This leading global provider of traditional life and health reinsurance and financial solutions with operations in the United States, Latin America, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia. This Zacks Rank #1 insurer is set to benefit from the changing life reinsurance pricing environment, expanding business in the pension risk transfer market and disciplined capital management.     

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Reinsurance Group’s 2023 and 2024 earnings indicates a year-over-year increase of 23.3% and 1.7%, respectively. The consensus estimate for 2023 and 2024 earnings has moved up 0.3% and 0.6%, respectively in the past seven days.  RGA delivered a four-quarter average earnings surprise of 56.92%.

Price and Consensus: RGA

Manulife Financial: Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, this Zacks Rank #3 insurer is one of the three dominant life insurers within its domestic market and possesses rapidly growing operations in the United States and several Asian countries. A strong Asia business, expanding wealth and asset management business, investments to ramp up digital capabilities and solid capital position poise this life insurer well for growth. MFC estimates core EPS growth between 10% and 12% over the medium term.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Manulife’s 2023 and 2024 earnings indicates a year-over-year increase of 2.5% and 7.3%, respectively.  The consensus estimate for 2023 and 2024 earnings has moved up 2.1% and 0.8% north, respectively, in the past 30 days. The expected long-term earnings growth rate is pegged at 10%. RGA delivered a four-quarter average earnings surprise of 1.55%.

Price and Consensus: MFC

Sun Life Financial: This Zacks Rank #3 insurer is the third largest insurer in Canada. Its focus on growth in Asia operations, expansion of its asset management businesses and strong financial position poise this life insurer well. Sun Life is improving its business mix and thus shifting its growth focus toward products that park lower capital and offer more predictable earnings.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for SLF’s 2024 earnings indicates a year-over-year increase of 6.72%. Sun Life delivered an average earnings surprise of 9.63% in the trailing four quarters. The expected long-term earnings growth rate is pegged at 8%. The consensus estimate for 2023 and 2024 earnings has moved up 0.2% and 0.4% north, respectively in the past 30 days.

Price and Consensus: SLF

Voya Financial: This retirement, investment, and employee benefits company in the United States is poised to grow, given its focus on high-growth, high-return, capital-light businesses, solid market presence and cost savings. This Zacks Rank #3 insurer expects adjusted EPS growth of 12-17% through 2024.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Voya Financial’s 2023 and 2024 earnings indicates a year-over-year increase of 4% and 16.2%, respectively.  VOYA delivered an average earnings surprise of 36.22% in the trailing four quarters. The expected long-term earnings growth rate is pegged at 13.7%, better than the industry average of 12.3%.

Price and Consensus: VOYA

Primerica: This Duluth, GA-based second-largest issuer of term-life insurance coverage in North America aims to be a successful senior health business while continuing to enhance its shareholders’ value. Strong demand for protection products drives sales growth and policy persistency benefits of this Zacks Rank #3 insurer. A strong business model makes Primerica well-poised to cater to the middle market's increased demand for financial security.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for PRI’s 2023 and 2024 earnings indicates a year-over-year increase of 34% and 11.5%, respectively. The consensus estimate for 2023 and 2024 has moved up 0.5% and 0.2% in the past seven days.

Price and Consensus: PRI







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Manulife Financial Corp (MFC) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated (RGA) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Primerica, Inc. (PRI) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Sun Life Financial Inc. (SLF) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Voya Financial, Inc. (VOYA) : Free Stock Analysis Report

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