Just over three years ago, when the Swiss National Bank abandoned the exchange rate floor against the euro and interest rates turned negative, we at Swiss Life had to brace ourselves for some difficult years ahead – and not just in Switzerland. Back then, only great optimists would have predicted that we could now be posting such strong results just a few years later. Despite challenging market conditions, the last financial year (2017) again saw Swiss Life perform positively in all units.
Thanks to a net profit of CHF 1013 million (previous year: CHF 926 million), an increase in the value of new business from CHF 296 million to CHF 351 million and a renewed increase in the fee result by 11% to CHF 442 million, Swiss Life remains on track for success. This means that the 2017 financial year saw a seamless continuation of the success story of recent years.
“Contracts running for terms of several decades are nothing unusual for us. We are proud of our ability to be there for our customers across such long cycles.”
Swiss Life posted an adjusted return on equity of 9.3%, which is within the 8–10% target. Moreover, in terms of the fee result, we have already achieved our objective under the Group-wide programme “Swiss Life 2018” sooner than planned. We are ahead of target for the value of new business and cash generation. Meanwhile the development of the risk result lies within the target range we were aiming for. Third-party asset management business also contributed to our success, as we once again made gains last year. As of the end of 2017, third-party assets under management stood at CHF 61.4 billion – an increase of 24%. In the light of all these results, we are able to propose to the General Meeting of Shareholders on 24 April 2018 an increase in the dividend from CHF 11.00 to CHF 13.50 per share – once again in the form of a withholding tax-free distribution from the capital contribution reserves.
Our successes are the foundation on which we are building the future of Swiss Life. This coming November, we shall be unveiling a new Group-wide programme to the public. We shall be maintaining our successful strategic thrust of recent years. Our plans nevertheless include selective further developments. After all, we see the technological challenges and changes in customer behaviour as offering great opportunities to expand our range of products and services. Needless to say, we shall also be announcing new financial objectives at the Investors’ Day.
The key reason for our success lies in our employees. They stand behind our ambitions and the management teams. This is the picture that emerges from last autumn’s Employee Survey: our employees’ commitment is outstanding – even by international comparison. This is an invaluable asset: in the business world it is always ultimately people who make the difference. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Corporate Executive Board, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all our colleagues for their great commitment and the success that has been achieved.
The life and pensions market remains a growth market. The need for people to be self-determined in structuring their pension provision will continue to increase. This is where we aspire to win over customers as a proactive and reliable partner. New technologies can help us to develop even better and more individualised services and products. The concept of digitalisation dominates business reporting. However, when debating digitalisation we should not confine ourselves to technological aspects. After all, one thing remains unchanged: a prosperous society relies on a culture of trust. At Swiss Life, we work with and for people – their needs are at the heart of what we do.
“We support people in living self-determined lives. That means following an individual path in many respects.”
Life insurers such as Swiss Life assume long-term commitments and in doing so have a stabilising effect on the financial system as a whole. Contracts running for terms of several decades are nothing unusual for us. The oldest policy we have that is still active was written in 1918. We are proud of our ability to be there for our customers across such long cycles.
We as Swiss Life also generate economic benefit. We create certainty even in uncertain times. Insurers like Swiss Life can help businesses and individuals to take risks without having to put their whole professional or personal survival on the line, thus encouraging innovation and investment. That is in addition to providing people in all life situations – but especially in old age – with financial security.
We support people in living self-determined lives. That means following an individual path in many respects. But when it comes to financial security and covering risks, our customers’ needs and demands are the same – this is both an opportunity and an obligation for us.
We would like to thank you, our esteemed shareholders, for the trust with which you are supporting us in this important task.
Chairman of the Board of Directors