If there is going to be growth in the life insurance market it will be in the mass affluent market, said executives at the 2011 Life Insurance Conference on Tuesday.

“Middle market will be the growth engine for the future,” said Thomas M. Marra, president and CEO, Symetra Financial Corp., in a press release.  “Companies will need to return to the basics of life insurance to reach this market. With estate taxes (exemptions) at $5 million and $10 million for one person or a couple, opportunity in the affluent market will be diminished. The days of hunting elephants are probably over.”

The way to gain new clients in this market is through technology, said J. Eric Smith, president, USAA Life Insurance Company. “Leveraging technology will be the differentiator to capture more market share — especially will younger consumers.  Building a strong dot.com space and using social networking site will fuel future growth.”

The clear challenge is distribution, since there are fewer producers selling life insurance to the middle market, which will impact the immediate and long-term growth of the industry. Pricing products will also be a challenge given the current low interest rate environment.

“We, at Ohio National, have expanded distribution consistently since 2005 and as a result have captured more market share,” said Gary “Doc” Huffman, president and CEO, Ohio National. “But it is very difficult in the first 3-5 years for a new agent. Our industry needs to find a better way to attract and retain the younger generations as they enter the business.”