Mutual life insurance companies operate as policyholder- and member-owned entities, with that ownership selecting management to ensure that long-term benefits stand. Because these companies don't offer stock to outside parties, they enjoy freedom from seeking short-term profit and can provide members and policyholders with returns on excess premiums.
The goal of mutual life insurance companies is to provide members and policyholders with policies at or near cost. Some of these companies exist to provide self-insurance for employees of certain corporations or to members of certain professional or hobby groups. These companies receive the largest portion of their funding from premiums paid by members and policyholders, and when these companies demutualize to become publicly traded, members and policyholders normally receive stock options.