2014 has been good to us in every respect.
Jos Baeten, CEO a.s.r.
Utrecht,
24
February
2015
|
00:00
Europe/Amsterdam

a.s.r. improves results again

Summary

a.s.r.’s sustainability-oriented policy is translating into an excellent performance. Net result rose to € 381 million, a € 100 million increase thanks, in particular, to a strong improvement in underwriting result. Operating expenses from ordinary activities were down € 36 million. The combined ratio in the Non-life segment improved to 94.9%. With total equity seeing a limited increase, the DNB solvency I ratio continued to rise in 2014, reaching 285%. This allows a.s.r. to provide sustainable support to its customers.

Major focus on customer requirements

  • Customers are increasingly happy with how a.s.r. does business, which is reflected in the highest Net Promoter Score since this benchmark was introduced in 2009.
  • a.s.r. is there for its customers when they need us. In the Non-life segment, a.s.r. paid more than € 1.6 billion in insurance benefits in 2014 to customers who filed a claim.
  • The Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO) and the ‘Eerlijke Verzekeringswijzer’ (Fair Insurance Guide) rate a.s.r. as one of the top three most sustainable insurance companies in the Netherlands.
  • The new occupational disability insurance policy offered by De Amersfoortse, which is specifically designed for self-employed persons, gives this group access to affordable disability insurance and meets a need in society.
  • The ‘Werknemers Pensioen’ (Employee Pension) contract has become an established name in the market. More and more employers opt for this product, which offers simplicity at low cost, can be arranged fully online and gives employees a choice of options.
  • The ‘Vernieuwde Voordeelpakket’, a package of non-life policies for private individuals, is acclaimed as unique in the market. Sales of this package saw substantial growth in 2014.
  • a.s.r.’s liability insurance policy for private individuals was awarded five stars for quality in the Moneyview comparison shopping test.
  • Similarly, a.s.r. bank’s ‘Lijfrente Spaarrekening’ (Annuity Savings Account) and ‘Extra Pensioen Uitkering’ (Extra Pension Benefits) also received five stars in the Moneyview test.
  • Doorgaan.nl, De Amersfoortse’s crowd funding platform for business owners, is successful.

Increase in net result to € 381 million (2013: € 281 million); drop in operating expenses

  • Net result rose to € 381 million, a € 100 million or 36% increase, in 2014. As a result, the return on equity was 12.4%.
  • The increase in net result was attributable to an improvement in underwriting result in the Non-life segment, a continuous focus on cost control and sound investment returns.
  • In 2014, an impairment on capitalized future profits, value of business acquired (VOBA), was recognized of previously acquired portfolios of unit-linked policies.
  • Total operating expenses continued to fall to € 541 million. Operating expenses from ordinary activities were lower on a structural basis. They stood at € 499 million, a € 36 million fall from 2013 thanks, in part, to further productivity improvements. The number of internal staff dropped by 7% to reach 3,513 FTEs on 31 December 2014 (31 December 2013: 3,789 FTEs).

Stable premium income from Non-life segment; premium income from Life segment down in line with market

  • At € 2,359 million, premium income from the Non-life segment was more or less stable (2013: € 2,392 million), which was partially attributable to growth in the occupational disability and health insurance portfolios.
  • In the Life segment, premium income fell in line with the market; it saw a 7% drop to € 1,543 million (2013: € 1,666 million). New life insurance contracts sold (APE) rose to € 140 million (up 115%) thanks, in part, to the buy-out of the Chevron pension funds (APE: € 37 million).

DNB solvency I ratio at 285% (31 December 2013: 268%); solvency II (SCR) ratio circa 175%

  • The DNB solvency I ratio continued to increase to 285% in 2014, which was due to such factors as the successful placement of a hybrid loan and the addition of net result. The effect of the Ultimate Forward Rate (UFR) was 81%- points.
  • Solvency II ratio (SCR), calculated using the parameters known to date, was circa 175%, based on the standard model.

Jos Baeten, CEO of a.s.r.: ‘2014 has been good to us in every respect. a.s.r. posted a net result of € 381 million for 2014, which represents a 36% increase from 2013. It turns out that we are successful in our efforts to continuously adapt to our ever-changing environment. Importantly, our policy to bring about structural new cost cuts while making our costs more flexible at the same time has proved effective. Our guiding principle is that we choose value over volume, which has resulted in a sound margin on premium income and a robust solvency ratio. a.s.r.’s DNB solvency I ratio continues to be strong, rising to 285% at year-end 2014. Our strategy is aimed at sustainable business practices, which we put into practice by being there for our customers when they need us, operating cost-efficiently, maintaining a continuous focus on improvements and being prudent in our insurance and investment strategies. The fact that this is bearing fruit is reflected in a return on equity of 12.4% and a 40% increase in dividends to € 138.9 million.

In 2014, we focused even more on embedding the principle of treating customers fairly in our business practices. Our products are not only increasingly easy-to-understand and are better tailored to customer requirements, but our solid financial position also contributes to the trust that our customers have in us. In addition, we continue to invest in excellent customer service and the expertise of our employees, because they define what we want to be as an insurance company.

The capital markets are characterized by continually low interest rates. The ECB’s decision to embark on quantitative easing increases the adverse effect for consumers who plan to hold on to their savings and, by extension, for insurance companies offering long-term savings products.

All segments are developing well. Premium income from Non-life was virtually stable; this segment’s combined ratio is structurally below 100% for all product lines. We are pleased that the ‘Vernieuwde Voordeelpakket’, a package of non-life policies for private individuals, is a favourite among consumers. Sales of this package have increased by over 80% over the past year. In the commercial P&C market, the number of large claims has dropped as a result of the policy we have pursued over recent years.

The occupational disability insurance business managed to shore up its position as market leader despite difficult conditions. The introduction of a new occupational disability insurance policy for self-employed persons clearly meets a need for the target group: adequate cover for the risk of occupational disability at a fair price.

We managed to improve our position in the pension market. The new ‘Werknemers Pensioen’ (Employee Pension) meets a need in this market. 700 employers opted for this employee pension contract in 2014. We are also doing well at retaining existing customers. The buy-out of Stichting Chevron Pensioenfonds (the Chevron pension fund), which involved € 370 million in plan assets, put a perfect close to the year and represented a success for our pension business.

The life insurance market, which is contracting, continues to demand our attention. We are adapting the organizational structure of our life business to developments in this market. As a result, we eventually plan to let go of half our people in this business. This has been a difficult decision, but it needed to be taken to have our costs keep pace with the rate of contraction in this portfolio.

Unit-linked policies continued to be a priority in the life business in 2014. We have now reached nearly 90% of unit-linked policyholders. In the last quarter of 2014, we managed to make contact with the specific group of 35,000 customers who hold non-accruing of low-accruing unit-linked policies. At year-end 2014, we had reached more than 80% of these customers.

With a view to strengthening our balance sheet and capital position even more, we issued a hybrid bond loan of € 500 million in 2014. a.s.r. now not only amply meets the solvency II requirements, but this loan has also helped to optimize our capital structure and created the conditions for reducing our interest expense. The interest that investors showed in subscribing for the loan, confirms to us that market has faith in a.s.r.

Another financial milestone was the success of the Dutch Prime Retail Fund. After a fourth placement in 2014, the Fund’s total externally placed assets rose to over € 530 million. A fifth placement was undertaken early in 2015.

The renovation of the a.s.r. building is in full swing. The entire building will have been renovated by the end of 2015. By that time, virtually all a.s.r. employees will have a workstation in the offices at Archimedeslaan in Utrecht. The people who already work in the renovated part of the building very much enjoy their new environment. The inspiring workplace will undoubtedly contribute to the provision of even better customer services. We are now entering the last phase of the renovation. As we did before, we will stay open for business during the renovation. Sustainability was the most important criterion in a.s.r. receiving the award for Best Office Building in the Netherlands in 2014.

Our sustainable investment policy earned us the highest rating awarded by the Fair Insurance Guide twice in 2014. In the VBDO survey, a.s.r. achieved a top three position for the fourth year in a row.

Development and sustainable employability also form the pillars of our HR policy. We have scaled down our pay-and-benefits package, while stepping up our investments in employee training and development.

We can look back at two successful ‘support campaigns’. The online platform doorgaan.nl welcomed dozens of business owners with great business ideas, which we not only facilitated with crowd funding, but also provided financial support to some of these business ideas. Over 2,000 investors raised more than € 500,000 in project finance. This helped various businesses to get their venture off to a successful start. ‘Andere Spelen’ (Alternative Games) is an a.s.r. initiative that was launched in 2014. Its aim is to encourage more children to participate in physical exercise by introducing them to lesser known sports. In this context, a large event was organized in Utrecht in November.

a.s.r. is on its way towards an autonomous and healthy future. We made great strides in that respect in 2014 too. With this in mind, I look back on the past year with a sense of contentment. In 2014, the Minister of Finance decided to postpone the dual-track approach to a.s.r.'s privatization to allow us to explore whether or not we wanted to submit a bid for VIVAT/REAAL. Together with a consortium of investors, which had been formed for the purpose of funding a potential acquisition, we thoroughly analyzed every aspect of such a bid. Based on our findings, we ultimately decided not to submit a final bid. In dialogue with NLFI, our shareholder, we will now continue to prepare for our privatization. The privatization process will start as soon as the Minister of Finance has taken a decision and informed the Dutch Parliament of the time schedule and procedure leading up to a.s.r.'s return to private hands. We are confident about this process, also given the great interest that many investors have already shown in a.s.r. Meanwhile, all our efforts will continue to be focused on our customers. After all, clients define our purpose of existence.

a.s.r. key figures (€ million)

2014

2013

Net result 1

381

281

Return on total equity

12.4%

10.6%

Gross written premiums

3,787

3,923

Operating expenses

-541

-547

- Of which from ordinary activities 2

-499

-535

Provision for restructuring expenses

-29

-24

Combined ratio, Non-life

94.9%

104.6% 3

New insurance contracts sold, Life (APE)

140

65

 

31 December 2014

31 December 2013

Total equity (including revaluation of real estate) 4

3,833

3,799

DNB solvency I ratio

285%

268%

Solvency II ratio (SCR) 5

ca. 175%

N/A

Total number of internal FTEs

3,513

3,789

1 Net result for 2013 and 2014 is affected by a number of incidental items that have hardly had any effect overall on developments in net result from 2013 to 2014.

2 Operating expenses from ordinary activities comprise total operating expenses exclusive of incidental items such as costs associated with preparing for the privatization of a.s.r. and investments in growth and strategic projects.

3 Adjusted for the additional WGA-ER expense item (return to work by partially disabled persons – own risk), the combined ratio for 2013 was 96.5%.

4 The unrealized revaluation of real estate included in total equity amounted to € 806 million at year-end 2014 and to € 784 million at year-end 2013.

5 The solvency II ratio (SCR) was calculated based on the standard model, which is usually more stringent than an internal model. The final required parameters will be adopted at European level in 2015 and 2016, which is why the solvency II ratio at year-end 2014 is somewhat uncertain.

Notes to a.s.r. key figures

  • Net result represents the net result attributable to holders of equity instruments.
  • Return on equity is calculated as net result attributable to shareholders divided by average total IFRS-based equity attributable to shareholders.

Dividend proposal

The Executive Board intends to distribute € 138.9 million in dividend on ordinary shares. As in previous years, this represents 40% of the net result after regular dividend distributions on preference shares and hybrid instruments.