How Do Insurance Companies Make Money?

Have you ever thought about how insurance companies make their money? If yes, yu have come to the right place. Continue reading to find out.

Insurance firms construct their business frameworks by undertaking and spreading risk diversely. The fundamental model encompasses aggregating risk from policyholders and diffusing it across a broader spectrum. Revenue generation primarily occurs through premiums collected for coverage, which are subsequently invested in income-generating assets. These companies strive for adept marketing and cost reduction comparable to typical enterprises. 50 – 60% of all your premiums pay others’ claims.

Insurance organizations bring in cash by wagering on risk – the risk that you will not die before your time and make the safety insurer payout, or the risk that your home will not burn to the ground or your car will not be damaged in an accident. The idea that drives the insurance organization revenue model is a business plan with an individual, organization, or association where the insurer vows to pay a particular measure of cash for a specific deficit of resources by the insured, typically by damage, ailment, or in the case of life insurance, death.

Consequently, the insurance organization is paid regular (typically monthly) payments from its client, for an insurance strategy that covers life, home, auto, travel, business, and valuables, among various resources. Fundamentally, the insurance contract guarantees the insurance organization to pay out for any misfortunes to the insured across various assets in return for customary, smaller payments made by the insured to the insurance organization. The guarantee is solidified in an insurance contract signed by both the insurance organization and the insured client.

This looks pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? But when you start digging into the nitty-gritty of how insurance companies make money – by bringing in more money than they have to pay out – things start getting more intricate. Let’s break it down and take a closer look at how insurance companies make money and why their revenue, based on managing risks, has proven so lucratively successful.

How do insurance companies make money?

As an insurance organization is a revenue-driven enterprise, it needs to make an internal plan of action that gathers more money than it pays out to clients while keeping in mind the expenses of maintaining its business. To do as such, insurance organizations assemble their plan of action on twin pillars – underwriting and investment income.

how do Insurance Companies make money
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Insurers generate a significant portion of their income through underwriting, a process that involves charging a fee, known as a premium, in return for assuming financial risk.

Within insurance companies, actuaries play a crucial role. They employ statistical data and mathematical models to assess the financial risks associated with various insurance scenarios. Once these financial risks are evaluated, insurers formulate tailored insurance schemes and determine premiums for each coverage category.

To illustrate, actuaries at property and casualty insurance firms consider the likelihood of natural disasters when deciding the appropriate premiums for homeowners residing in different geographic locations. On the other hand, actuaries at life insurance companies might utilize factors like age, gender, and medical histories to calculate projected life expectancies, thereby determining suitable premiums for diverse policyholders.

When an individual enrolls in an insurance plan, they commit to paying a fixed premium to the insurer. This payment is exchanged for the insurer agreeing to shoulder a specific degree of risk. In many insurance plans, there’s a deductible amount that the individual is responsible for – this is the portion of liability they need to cover themselves. For instance, in auto insurance, you might be required to pay the initial $1,000 of any damage costs before the insurance company begins covering expenses.

After careful evaluation and looking at all the information available, the information reveals that the risk is too high; an insurer will either not offer the policy or charge the client more for insurance protection. If the risk is low, the insurance organization will cheerfully offer a client a policy, realizing its risk of truly paying out on that policy is serenely low. That separates insurance organizations a long way from conventional businesses. A car manufacturer, for instance, needs to invest vigorously in product development, paying forthright cash to make a car or a truck that buyers need. They possibly recover their investment when they sell the vehicle. That is not the situation with an insurance organization depending on the underwriting model. They put no cash forthright and possibly need to pay if a genuine claim is made.

Investment Income

The substantial funds acquired through premium payments contribute significantly to the revenue of insurance firms. These companies only become liable to disburse funds when an insurance claim is officially made, typically involving hospitalization expenses or home damage resulting from a tornado.

So, what is insurers’ typical course of action regarding the substantial capital generated from premium payments? A portion of these funds is set aside as a reserve to guarantee the ability to cover all anticipated claims in the immediate future. The remaining funds, however, are directed toward investment.

It’s worth noting that the returns from investments generally pale compared to the revenue from underwriting. Many insurance providers adopt a relatively cautious investment approach, often favoring investments in stable bonds or established blue-chip stocks. Nevertheless, these investments still significantly contribute to the financial performance of insurance companies, both in terms of revenue and profit.

Cash Value Cancellations

At the point when clients who have whole life insurance plans find they have a large number of dollars employing “cash values” (created through investment and dividends from insurance organization investments), they need the cash, regardless of whether it implies shutting the account down. Insurance organizations are too glad to oblige, with complete information, that when a client takes cash value money and shuts the account, all responsibility ends for the insurer. The insurance organization keeps all the premiums effectively paid, pays the client with premium procured on their investments, and keeps the excess money. In his way, cash value payouts are a financial bonus for insurance organizations.

Coverage Lapses

Purchasers regularly neglect to keep current on their insurance policies, which triggers a productive situation for the insurance organization. Under the insurance strategy contract, a policy lapse implies that the actual policy terminates without paying claims. In such a case, insurance organizations cash in once more, as all past premiums that the client pays are kept by the insurer, with no chance of a claim being paid. That is another money bonanza for insurers, which permits the buyer to face all the risks of keeping a strategy active and leave with the cash if the client either outlives the inclusion timetable or does not keep up with premium payments.

How do insurance companies work?

By and large, insurance agencies are coordinated into five divisions: claims, finance, legal, marketing, and underwriting. Marketing and underwriting are the “yes” departments, while claims and finance are the “no” departments. The legal department is frequently the ref between these contending interests. Underwriters try to create insurance items that can be offered to their clients for a benefit. Even though numerous standard insurance strategies consist of form documents, most underwriting offices will make their assortment of forms and endorsements to furnish the marketing department with the capacity to say yes to current clients and also possible ones. While the marketing and underwriting departments need to sign up however many insureds as could be expected under the circumstances to gather premiums, the claims department oversees claims when an insured individual looks to recuperate on its insurance resources.

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Image Source: Canva

The underwriting division will say that it has no impact on a choice to pay a claim. However, this is not generally the case. At the point when convenience on a claim is mentioned by a decent client or by an agent that brings the carrier a great deal of business, the underwriting and marketing offices will now and again mediate with the claims department. The marketing and underwriting divisions are decided by their premium collections and maintenance ratio (i.e., the level of insureds who restore their arrangements with that insurer). In contrast, the claims department decides how little it incurs settling claims. Accordingly, there is a characteristic and interminable strain among these departments — these monetary measures drive insurance agency management and profits, along with the bonuses paid to department management.

How do car insurance companies make money?

In most consumer activities, the client trades cash for an item or immediately performs service. Car insurance is different: The client pays a charge to the insurance company, and the insurance company may eventually offer a service or financial help (even if the assistance is never delivered, both the client and the company are satisfied). Car insurance organizations bring in cash through a mix of managed risk and strategically utilizing cash. Insurers partner together enormous areas of their policyholders into “groups” through the risk-evaluation measures – such as the type of vehicle, driving record, etc. Out of each group, almost certainly, an exceptionally small level of these policyholders will endure a car accident severe enough to file a claim during the inclusion time frame.

Yet, say that one policyholder in the group gets into an accident that results in a $50,000 payout by the insurance company. At that point, envision that that policyholder has been a customer of the insurance company for a long time and has paid a monthly premium of $100. That individual has then brought in $6,000 to the insurance company. That would be an immediate loss of $44,000 to the insurance company – except it would not be. That is because managed risk spreads the transient financial burden over the remainder of the group. In this situation, the remaining individuals have not received any payouts that cost the insurance company cash.

Insurance Companies - car companies make money
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Furthermore, insurance organizations are financial establishments: They take in cash and give out cash, very much as a bank does. (Numerous insurance organizations are even parts of enormous financial aggregates.) Also, similar to a bank, they invest the cash of its clients and policyholders in interest-procuring investments. While the shared risk approach allows for enormous amounts of money close by for claims payouts, investments are a long-term financial procedure to ensure that the insurance company will have cash available for payouts years down the line.

At long last, and most directly recognizable to the policyholder, insurance organizations’ car insurance policies limit payouts. Limits of liability are set to coordinate with the premium rate paid. For instance, if the driver pays a $50 monthly premium, he may have a $10,000 liability cap; if he pays $200 per month, the insurer may empower a $50,000 liability cap. This implies that the car insurance company will not compensate for damages, harm, or hospital expenses past a particular sum that the driver concurs upon.

How do medical insurance companies make money?

Anybody with a healthcare strategy pays a monthly insurance premium. A health insurance company assembles the premiums it gathers from a great many clients into a pool. At the point when one of those clients needs inclusion for clinical care, the insurance company utilizes cash from this pool to pay for it as a claim. A health insurer will likewise utilize premiums to pay for the expenses of working and doing business together. With the death of the ACA, the law requires insurance organizations to spend 80/85% on claims and 20/15% on administrative expenses.

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Image Source: Canva

The law manages the measure of income dependent on the premium charged. Other costs that you pay for your health administrations (like copayments and coinsurance) are paid to your healthcare provider (hospitals and doctors), not to the insurance company. In addition, insurance organizations take the cash that is not spent on claims or expenses and invest it. The cash procured on these investments (stocks, bonds, land, and so on) adds to the company’s income.

How Life Insurance Companies Generate Profits?

Life insurance companies earn their profits through a series of strategic financial mechanisms. When individuals apply for a life insurance policy and begin paying premiums, the insurance company assesses the associated risks using advanced statistical models. These models help in setting premiums based on factors such as health conditions and lifestyle choices like smoking or obesity.

A significant portion of revenue for insurers comes not just from premiums but also from investments. In 2019, investment income accounted for $186.6 billion, surpassing the $145.1 billion from life insurance premiums. Permanent life insurance policies, such as whole and universal life, include a cash value component that grows over time. This cash value accumulates from a portion of each premium, which the insurer invests in various assets like bonds, stocks, and real estate.

Insurance Companies generate profit
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Lapsed and expiring policies also contribute to profitability. When a policy lapses or expires, the insurer no longer faces the obligation of paying out a death benefit. However, this also means the loss of future premium payments and potential investment income from the cash value. According to industry data, lapse rates for life insurance policies have varied but generally highlight the balance insurers maintain between liabilities and profitability.

Overall, life insurance companies leverage premiums, investment returns, and management of policy lapses to ensure profitability. By effectively managing these components, insurers sustain financial health while meeting their commitments to policyholders.

Do insurance companies make huge profits?

The insurance sector’s net profit margin (NPM) for 2019 was generally 6.3%. Life insurance organizations had an average NPM of 9.6%. Property and casualty insurance organizations had an average of 2.7%. Insurance brokers had an average of 8.3%. Individual insurance organizations can have shifting profitability ratios. Let us take a look at the sector’s top organizations. Progressive (PGR) has a $49 billion market cap as of April 2020.

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Notwithstanding its size, Progressive can produce a 10.1% NPM over the following year (TTM). Progressive’s operating margin is 13.7%. Presently, there’s a large group of other insurers, including Chubb (CB), Allstate (ALL), and Travelers (TRV). Of these major insurers, Travelers has the least NPM at 7.6%. Chubb and Allstate have NPMs of around 10%. The greatest names on the list have the most elevated NPMs. More modest organizations in the insurance sector struggle to produce profitability margins as high as them. For instance, smaller players in the property-loss insurance industry, like Loews (L) and AXS Capital (AXS), have NPMs of around 6%.

Expenses of Insurers

Like any remaining businesses, organizations in the insurance sector bring about expenses and sell items. They should track down a profitable balance between working expenses and the costs the market will bear. Expenses for firms in the insurance business incorporate the cash the insurer pays to service providers. For health insurers, this would be payments made to doctors or hospitals. On account of car insurance, this incorporates payments made to fix shops or clinical expenses if injuries were involved. Changes in the expenses of services delivered, policy cost changes, and the number of claims received are, for the most part, factors that can cause an insurance company’s net margin to change from one year to another. For the motivations behind long-term assessments of organizations in the insurance business, investigators consider annualized net margin information to be the most valuable data.

Insurers and Profit Margins

Insurers and profit margin - Insurance Companies
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The calculation of net margins is important to organizations in the insurance sector in light of the fact that the values are so low. Numerous insurance firms work on margins as low as 2% to 3%. More modest profit margins mean even the littlest changes in an insurance company’s expense design or pricing can mean intense changes in the company’s ability to produce profit and stay solvent. For instance, the net profit margin for Aegon (AEG) is 2.1%. The life insurer, which has one of the least NPMs in the business, likewise has other low profitability measures. Its return on assets (ROA) is 0.3%, while its return on equity (ROE) is 6%. Contrast that with one of the top life insurers in the business, China Life (LFC). China Life has a 7.9% NPM and returns on equity of 16.5%.

Investing in insurance companies

There are two essential reasons why you should consider investing in insurance stocks. In the first place, insurance organizations can convey strong long-term returns. Second, the business models of insurers will, in general, make them resilient during financial slumps. Obviously, some insurance organizations are superior to others on both of these fronts. Health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, for instance, has conveniently outperformed specialty insurer Markel in the course of the last ten years. Markel likewise fell significantly more than UnitedHealth Group did during the market constriction and economic strain brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Insurance stocks are normally seen as great picks for conservative investors. Be that as it may, even aggressive growth investors may like certain insurance stocks. Trupanion particularly stands apart as a possible decision for growth investors. The company gives clinical insurance for cats and dogs. Its stock has soared as the North American pet clinical insurance market has taken off.

Are there other approaches to insurance?

What we have talked about so far is something that is called an intermediated approach. ‘Intermediated’ alludes to the use of brokers to sell items. In the event that you eliminate those agents and replace them with other, more direct methods of reaching new customers, the initial procurement costs drop since you do not need to pay a commission. In any case, direct insurers’ costs will also incorporate expenses to market their items. They may offer helpful ways for individuals to purchase their items through telesales or easy online purchasing measures. In spite of the fact that they may appear to have a benefit over an intermediated approach, direct insurers regularly have bigger drop-off rates (their customers do not stick around for long), which eats holes in their profits. To address this, a few insurers offer wealth-creating motivations for remaining ready. As an example of how this may function, look at Sanlam Indie’s Wealth Bonus, rewarding investment customers are given for getting insured. Eventually, the triumphant answer for an insurer is to not simply focus on making a profit but rather to offer quality, rewarding items that accomplish something beyond just guaranteeing to pay out claims.


Insurance firms systematically favor themselves, reaping substantial profits by leveraging client premiums. Statistics reveal a stark reality: out of every 100 premium-paying clients, a mere three file claims. Meanwhile, these companies lucratively invest all received premiums, exponentially boosting their financial gains. This industry structure, heavily skewed in their favor, ensures sustained profitability, an established formula honed over decades. Unfortunately, for the average policyholder, there is scant recourse beyond faithfully paying premiums and hoping for favorable outcomes.

John Otero

John Otero

John Otero is an industry practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in the insurance industry. He has held various senior management roles both in the insurance companies and insurance brokers during this span of time. He began his insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. He got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how he fell in love with the industry. He saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. John has diverse experience in corporate & consumer insurance services, across a range of vocations. His specialties include Major Corporate risk management and insurance programs, and Financial Lines He has been instrumental in making his firm as one of the leading organizations in the country in generating sustainable rapid growth of the company while maintaining service excellence to clients.