Premium growth on the upswing

By Hubert Roy | May 24 2011 07:35PM

According to information supplied by MSA Research and compiled by The Insurance and Investment Journal, Canadian life insurers increased their premium volumes by 8.3% in 2009.

The increase in premium volumes is greater than it has been in previous years. The industry saw gains of 7% in 2008, and 5.7% in 2007.

Concentration in the Canadian life insurance was even greater in 2009. The top ten players controlled 84.5% of the market in 2008, and this amount grew to 85.5% in 2009.

The Big Three, namely Great-West Lifeco, Manulife Financial, and Sun Life Financial, continue to dominate. In 2009, they accounted for 57.5% of the Canadian life insurance market.

Desjardins moves up
However, there is one noteworthy change in the top ten rankings. Desjardins Financial Security bumped Industrial Alliance from fourth place. Thanks to a 4% rate of growth in Canada, DFS broke the $3 billion dollar barrier in premiums. Industrial Alliance, on the other hand, saw a 5.6% decrease in its Canadian premiums and came in under the $3 billion mark.

The other top ten players in Canada were Standard Life Canada, SSQ Financial, RBC Insurance, Medavie Blue Cross and Aegon (including Transamerica and Canadian Premier).

One insurer was also ejected from the top ten, namely BMO Financial Group, which saw premium volumes related to the former AIG Life Canada book of business fall by 40%.

Contacted by The Insurance and Investment Journal, BMO Life's president Peter McCarthy explained the reasons behind the drop. "During the first six months of 2009, we had practically no sales because the AIG Life of Canada transaction had not been completed." He notes that the AIG brand's reputation suffered during the financial crisis, and advisors put business elsewhere. "On our side, we were unable to write new policies under our new name. It was necessary to wait until mid May to restart the machine. Things have returned to normal since then, but we lost half a year," he says.