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Zurich bucks pensions trend to report 3% growth in first half (Irish Times)

04 November 2011
Zurich Life Ireland, formerly known as Eagle Star Life, has bucked a falling pensions market in the first six months of the year, growing new business by 3 per cent against a 40 per cent decline across the industry.

The company said the annual premium equivalent value of new business – the benchmark measure used to gauge sales in the pensions industry – rose 3 per cent to €95.1 million compared with €92.4 million in the same period last year.

Michael Brennan, chief executive of Zurich Life Ireland, said the company had moved into the top three life and pensions companies in the State.

Zurich’s profit margin on new business rose to 24 per cent from 19 per cent in the first half of 2008, according to the company.

The company’s sales of protection insurance rose 19 per cent on the same period last year, while the company held a 36 per cent share of the Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSA) market.

Life and pension sales accounts for between 80 and 85 per cent of the company’s business, with protection insurance accounting for about 10 per cent, he said.

Mr Brennan said the non-pensions savings market had “dried up with the falls in the markets” and due to uncertainty as a result of the global financial crisis.

Zurich has created 25 jobs with a new Irish business to service the insurer’s life businesses across Europe and will hire a further 25 staff before the end of the year.

He said the rebranding of the company from Eagle Star to Zurich was a factor in the strong performance in the first six months. He said the company had also benefited from steering clear of property funds and geared equity funds, where customers borrowed to invest in stocks.

Second-quarter earnings at Zurich, Europe’s fourth-biggest insurer, fell 16 per cent to $1.49 billion (€1 billion) on investment losses but were ahead of forecasts.