Mixed first quarter results for life insurers

One Canadian insurer was able to reward shareholders for the first time since before the financial crisis, while one stumbled out of the gate.

Mixed first quarter results for life insurers
Sun Life Financial recorded a profit and increased its dividend for the first time since before the financial crisis, while Manulife stumbled out of the block in the first quarter of 2015.

The Toronto-based company’s profit was $441-million in the first quarter, compared with $400-million in the same time last year. The board of directors also raised the dividend six per cent to 38 cents.

"In Canada, Sun Life entered into a ground-breaking longevity insurance agreement, transferring the longevity risk for $5 billion of Bell Canada's pension plan liability to Sun Life, further strengthening our leadership position in the Canadian pension de-risking market," said Dean Connor, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sun Life Financial.

"Sun Life Global Investments performed well, delivering strong investment performance results to customers and expanding its product shelf, which drove growth of total sales 41 per cent over the prior year to $811 million."

Great-West Life also reported increased earnings of $700 million compared to $587 million during the same period in 2014.

Meanwhile, the outlook wasn’t quite as rosy for Manulife. The company’s net profit fell to $723 million $818 million a year ago due to the impact of its energy holdings on its investment business.

While their profits might have been mixed, all three insurers were united by strong growth on the wealth management side of the business.

The Toronto-based company, which has major operations in Canada, the United States and Asia, also recorded a rise in assets under management to C$821 billion from $680 billion.

Meanwhile, Sun Life posted The company reported another record quarter of assets under management and now oversees of $813-billion, up from $676-billion at the end of the first quarter in 2014. Mr. Connor attributed the 20-per-cent increase in part to a stronger U.S. dollar.

"Global assets under management rose… reflecting the continued strengthening of the U.S. dollar and market movement, with assets under management at MFS increasing to US$441 billion," Connor said. "We continue to grow our asset management pillar, completing the purchase of Ryan Labs Inc. which further extends our asset management footprint in the U.S."

Great West Life also saw a rise in their consolidated assets under administration, which stood at $1.2 trillion, up $114 billion from the previous quarter.