No trick to market-share growth, says Zurich boss
Company fares better than competitors as sales dip just 11pc
ZURICH Life boss Anthony Brennan yesterday insisted there was "no trick" to his company's continued growth, after the Swiss insurer released yet another set of market-beating Irish figures.
Yesterday's figures showed Zurich's new business sales fell just 11pc in 2009, beating an industry-wide fall of 26pc and pushing Mr Brennan's company to a market share of 15pc.
The data emerged on the same day as competitor Aviva revealed a 25pc fall in its life insurance sales for 2009, blaming "the poor economic climate" and "an increasingly competitive market place".
Several other peers share Aviva's experience of an increasingly inhospitable life insurance landscape, but Zurich has used the tough environment to more than double its market share in the past two years. "There's definitely no trick here, it's good hard work," Mr Brennan insisted yesterday.
He added that Zurich was benefiting from industry-leading IT systems and from being part of a "very large Swiss group" at a time when the public was "more concerned about financial strength".
Industry peers have suggested that while Zurich is aggressively growing its new business, its overall business may grow at a slower rate if people don't stick with the policies they take out.
Responding, Mr Brennan said Zurich had grown its assets under management -- a key factor in assessing the size of a life insurer -- by 28pc last year to more than €9bn.
He admitted that clients letting their policies lapse was still a "concern", but said the experience had been much better in the fourth quarter of 2009 than earlier in the year.
The detail of Zurich's results showed sales of more than €193m last year on an Annual Premium Equivalent (APE) basis, which takes the full contribution from regular premium sales and 10pc of the value of new single premium policies.
Single premium pensions were the best performers in the mix, growing by 21pc to €623m, reflecting higher levels of early retirement across the market place.
The rise was particularly strong across Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs), where sales more than doubled to €155.1m. Zurich's protection business also increased in absolute terms, growing by 4pc to €22.5m.
Mr Brennan credited the higher protection sales with helping Zurich to improve its margin from 2.7pc over the life of a policy to 2.9pc -- "the IT systems give more benefit on protection".
Both PRSAs and protection sales would be target growth areas for 2010, Mr Brennan said, while the company would also "concentrate on growing the overall customer base" beyond its current 300,000.
Zurich has recently created a European hub in Dublin, with 30 staff already in place and another 30 due to join in 2010. The European business generated APE sales of €28.8m last year, and Mr Brennan said Zurich had "very ambitious plans" for that division going forward.