Total life insurance sales in the second quarter of 2011 slowed a bit from the pace of the first quarter, but were still marginally better than the same period a year ago, reports LIMRA, the Windsor, Conn.-based insurance and financial services research institute.

Total individual life insurance policy sales were up 4% in the first two quarters of 2011 compared to the first two months of 2010, according to the LIMRA data -- though the pace of sales slowed a bit in the second quarter.

Ashley Durham, a senior analyst at LIMRA, said, “Part of the slowdown in growth is a reflection of a few companies moving away from lifetime death benefit universal life products.” 

Annualized premium sales for universal life products that carry a death benefit guarantee were down 3% in the second quarter from where they were in the second quarter a year ago but were level for the first six months compared to the same period last year. 

That said, the LIMRA report shows that lifetime guarantees remain very popular, representing 45% of the market in 2011.

The insurance product showing the strongest gain in 2011 was universal life, with the number of policies sold up 11% in the second quarter over 2010, and the face amount up 12%. For the first half, sales of universal life in terms of policies sold were up 14%, while the face amount was up 18% over 2010.

The second-biggest gainer was whole life policies, up 4% in terms of policies sold for the second quarter, and up 6% for the first half.

The biggest decline was for variable universal life policies, where the number of policies sold fell by 11% for the quarter and 11% for the first half compared to the same periods in 2010. The face amount of the policies sold in the second quarter declined 5% but increased 1% for the first six months compared to the first two quarters of 2010.

Term life policies also fell, with the number of policies sold in the second quarter dropping 4% from 2010 down 8% for the first half. Again, the picture was marginally better in terms of face value with the second quarter dropping just 2% from the year earlier period and off 6% for the first half of the year.

Annualized premiums increased 1% during the second quarter over the year earlier quarter and increased 4% for the first half compared to a year earlier.