by John Darer CLU ChFC MSSC RSP CLTC
A 1964 paper "Cash Flow and Solvency of Insurance Companies by Robert H. Mills PhD CPA examined how dependable life insurance companies are under varying economic conditions and whether life insurance companies lent stability to capital markets in severe periods of economic stress. The "acid test", as Mills referred to it, was the period of the 1930's known as The Great Depression.
According to Mills' research at page 621, which was cited to the United States Congress, Hearings Before the Temporary National Economic Committee: part 28, Life Insurance, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1940 page 15678, the total assets of life insurance companies which ceased operations companies between 1929 and 1938 that were impaired, amounted to only 2% of all assets of ALL life insurance companies. By 1940 "the impaired policyholder liability reserves were rebuilt by the reinsuring companies so that the maximum aggregate loss had been reduced to 6/10ths of 1 percent".
I am compiling research about how various structured settlement annuity issuing insurance companies fared during the years of The Great Depression
Metropolitan Life Founded 1863 Current status: Still standing!
"In March 1929 Frederick H. Ecker became president of Metropolitan upon Haley Fiske's death. Several months later the stock market crashed and the Great Depression started. Metropolitan's conservative investment policies helped it to weather the hard times. The company had stayed out of the speculative equities markets and had focused instead on real estate and bonds. The stock market crash initially had a positive impact on life insurance sales. Investors who had lost heavily tried to supplement the losses to their estates by increasing their life insurance. Ordinary insurance sold at record volume in 1930 and 1931. As the Great Depression deepened, however, and unemployment reached massive proportions, new policies stagnated and many policyholders were forced to discontinue their premium payments and allow their policies to lapse (SS4R Factoid: controlling lapses is an important factor towards the profitability of an insurer following the notion that it is less expensive to maintain existing accounts because the acquistion costs have already been paid). In addition, many borrowed money against their policies or surrendered them for the cash value. Metropolitan was in sound financial condition and had no trouble meeting its obligations. Adjustments in the company's investment portfolio were necessary as rents fell and farm commodity prices dropped; Metropolitan reduced its investments in city mortgage and farm lending". Source: Answers.com
New York LIfe Founded 1841 Current status: Still standing
"The company's assets were not involved in the stock market crash in October 1929 because state regulation and conservative planning had kept New York Life investments out of common stocks and in more secure government bonds and real estate. Its greatest losses during the Depression were in the form of lapsed payments and canceled policies, a trend finally reversed by the booming wartime economy of the 1940s". Source: Answers.com
Allstate Current status: Still standing
Allstate was founded during The Great Depression, in 1931.
Manulife/John Hancock Current Status: Still standing
" The onset of the Great Depression had a serious dampening effect on the life insurance industry, but also demonstrated its stability when compared to other areas such as the Banking sector in the United States" Source: Manulife website
Prudential Founded 1873 Current status: Still Standing
"During Duffield's term, Prudential stayed much the same. While the company innovated by offering group insurance coverage to home office staff in 1924 and started group health in 1925, the Great Depression strangled most growth. Mortgages valued at $1.5 billion in 1931 bottomed at $787 million in 1935, even though the value of policies in force grew $1.5 billion between 1930 and 1935. In 1938, when Duffield died suddenly, he left a company still tremendously successful, but no longer a leader in the industry".