insurance switzerland | Swiss Life maintained its leading market position in Switzerland in 2008 and made further progress in the implementation of its strategy. Operating costs were reduced by an additional 3%, a number of product innovations were successfully brought to market, the effectiveness of the sales force was enhanced, and the cooperation with AWD got underway. However, the distortions on the financial markets led to high impairments on investments, particularly in the fourth quarter, resulting in a loss of CHF 25 million for the financial result. A positive result of CHF 2556 million was achieved in the previous year. A segment loss of CHF 748 million was posted, vis-à-vis a segment profit of CHF 650 million for the previous year.

According to estimates by the Swiss Insurance Association (SIA), premiums in the Swiss Life insurance market increased 2.7% to CHF 28.5 billion in 2008. The increase in premiums amounted to 3.2% for group insurance and 1.4% for individual insurance. Following strong growth of 11% the previous year and the company’s reserved approach with regard to the promotions offered by many competitors, Swiss Life posted a slight drop in premiums of 3% to CHF 8172 million for the 2008 financial year. Around 80% of premium volume was derived from occupational benefits insurance. Premium volume, at CHF 6476 million, was down 3% in this area. Swiss Life’s share of the market stood at 32% (2007: 34%). Premium income for individual insurance declined by 1% to CHF 1696 million, and the market share also receded slightly to 19%. With an overall market share of 28%, Swiss Life maintained its leading position in its home market in 2008.

Insurance benefits, including changes in insurance reserves, fell by 8% to CHF 8059 million. This reduction is primarily due to a reduced need for provisions for future risks and lower savings premiums. The favourable claims experience also had a positive impact. The collapse of the financial result translated into reduced policyholder participation. This position declined from CHF 458 million in 2007 to CHF 112 million.

Key figures for Insurance Switzerland 
In CHF million20082007+/–
Gross written premiums, policy fees and deposits received8 1728 413–2.9%
Net earned premiums and policy fees7 9638 200–2.9%
Asset management and other commission income493828.9%
Financial result (without share of results of associates)–252 556n.a.
Other income292–24n.a.
Total income8 27910 770–23.1%
Net insurance benefits and claims–8 059–8 758–8.0%
Policyholder participation–112–458–75.5%
Interest expense–141–1336.0%
Operating expense–715– 771–7.3%
Total expense–9 027–10 120–10.8%
Segment result–748650n.a.
Assets under control70 36574 996–6.2%
Insurance reserves64 46267 256–4.2%
Number of employees (full-time equivalents)2 7432 792–1.8%

On the expenses side, Swiss Life was able to continue the positive trend of the last few years. Adjusted operating expenses were reduced by a further 3%, thanks to efficiency gains from the finalised integration of «La Suisse», the optimisation of processes, and the successful completion of projects. Total operating expenses declined by 7% to CHF 715 million.

In 2008 Swiss Life introduced a number of product innovations that are geared exclusively to client requirements. Back in the first quarter of 2008 the company launched “Swiss Life VitalityPlus”, a unit-linked product financed by periodic premiums which offers policyholders the option to waive death coverage in order to receive higher savings premiums. In the second quarter, the innovative group insurance product “Swiss Life ReturnPlus” was brought to market, enabling clients with supplementary BVG insurance to waive minimum guaranteed interest in favour of a higher expected return. The “Swiss Life Calmo Fund”, a unit-linked annuity product financed with single premiums, was introduced in the fourth quarter. The first product to be distributed via AWD is called “Swiss Life Champion Duo”. This is a unit-linked savings and risk insurance contract financed by periodic premiums. AWD made a significant contribution to the development of the product, and thus the launch via this distribution channel was also very successful. In addition to enhanced product development and increases in efficiency, the expansion of multichannel distribution, the focus on attractive client segments, and better realisation of the potential of the existing client base were further areas of emphasis for Swiss Life in the 2008 financial year.

On 1 September 2008, Ivo Furrer, formerly CEO Life Switzerland and Member of the Global Life Executive Committee of the Zurich Financial Services Group, joined Swiss Life as the new CEO Switzerland. He replaced Paul Müller, who withdrew from business operations after six successful years with Swiss Life and was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority in December 2008.

To further intensify client orientation and thus to expand its position as the number one life and pensions specialist, Swiss Life realigned its organisation in Switzerland at the beginning of 2009 and added further functions to the Corporate Executive Board. This creates the necessary conditions for focussing the expansion of multichannel distribution on attractive client segments, promoting innovation and further increasing both quality and efficiency.