Desjardins looks to reduce risk

By Alain Thériault | March 17 2010 02:42PM

Before being taken off the market, Desjardins Financial Security’s Helios Guaranteed Minimum Withdrawal Benefit (GMWB) product collected $400 million in net sales, and a portion of this money went into a 100/100r option, which protects all of an investor’s capital both at maturity, and in the event of death. After this 100/100r option was withdrawn in May, and after the GMWB was taken off the market two months later, sales were still strong in other options, and there was a marked improvement in November and December.

Now that the GMWB option has been terminated, the insurer will take stock before making further modifications to the Helios GLWB product. However, he says he is looking at guarantees that are considered very generous in the marketplace, such as the 7% bonus and the automatic resets that are triggered every year the value of investments are up. The most common features in the market are a 5% bonus and an automatic reset every three years. Desjardins may also try to reduce risk by readjusting the composition of its funds of funds. “We could also add other funds to be more in line with what advisors and consumers want,” says Mr. Bédard.

If a return of the GMWB is not in the cards for DFS, neither is a return to 100% guarantees of capital at maturity and at death. “We are not going there. The market has effectively eradicated this guarantee combination. The 100% maturity benefit could cause significant problems in the event of a market downturn,” he comments.


A few years ago, DFS put a plan in motion to accelerate growth in individual and group savings and insurance outside Quebec. This strategy is paying off. “In 2009, our individual savings sales were higher outside Quebec than they were inside Quebec. They accounted for 60%, compared to 40% from Quebec. The current year is still young, but our figures suggest the same trend,” said Mr. Bédard.

He adds that managing general agency (MGA) network contributed to Desjardins’ success. “SFL Partner of Desjardins Financial Security and the Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network made a significant breakthrough into the MGA market in 2009. For the most part, this breakthrough took place outside Quebec.” He adds that a large portion of the 60% of net sales in the rest of Canada can be attributed to MGA channel.

As a result, DFS will continue to put a great deal of effort into completing its distribution team outside of Quebec, where by the end of 2009 Mr. Bédard says the headcount had grown by 25 to 30%.