New business levels fell by 22% to €65.8m at financial services provider Zurich Life (Ireland), during the first six months of this year.
This was a higher fall than the average market decline of 13% and excluded investment-only figures. When these are included, Zurich Ireland’s new business annual premium equivalent was down by 14% on a year- on-year basis, to €77.4m.
Despite the disappointing headline figure — Zurich Ireland did, however, see continued strong profitability levels on new premiums, with a new business margin of 2.3% expected for this year as a whole; up from 2.2% for 2011 — Anthony Brennan, the CEO, still painted an optimistic picture.
“Recent reports have shown Irish consumer sentiment at a two-year high and rises in personal savings, disposable incomes and a continuing fall in credit card debt.
“I’m more hopeful — with consumer confidence building, combined with a demonstrated ability to save — that very soon we will see some disposable income returning to the savings and investment market. With the expected fall in bank deposit rates, this will create opportunities for non-deposit alternatives, such as unit- linked funds,” he said.
Zurich — which controls 15% of the Irish market — made strong ground in the first half of the year in the group risk market and income protection schemes provided by firms for staff. Business, in this regard, was up by 41% year-on-year to €2.8m.
Management has also reiterated its call on the Government to encourage the pension savings habit by putting forward “a position on tax relief for pensions that is equitable, permanent and makes long-term pension saving financially attractive to the consumer”.
On a group-wide basis, Zurich grew its operating profit by 17%, year-on- year, to $2.5bn (€2.02bn); with net income rising by 13% to $2.2bn and earnings per share rising by 16% to 13.99c.
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