Australia has one of the most competitive insurance markets in the world, with a large number of insurers competing for business from a small population base. Established in 1987, the Insurance and Superannuation Commission (ISC) was the ultimate regulatory authority for the insurance industry in Australia. It was replaced by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. Life insurance firms, through premiums on policies and interest earned on accumulated funds, account for substantial annual savings. The companies invest in government securities, in company securities (including shares and fixed-interest obligations), and in mortgage loans and loans against policies in force. Most loans (to individuals and building societies) are for housing.
At the end of 1998, total assets of the 172 private general insurance companies amounted to approximately A $56.2 billion. Total assets of the public general life insurance industry for the same time was around A $25 billion, managed by 17 public insurers. Forty-three life insurance companies were managing A $175 billion in assets.