Investment market turmoil aside, the strong euro, solid results and long-term demographic trends continue to give European life insurers reasons to expand abroad.
Credit analysts in the London office of Moody’s Investors Service say the big European insurers have rebounded from tough times at the start of the decade and now are pursuing growth in markets as diverse as China, Eastern Europe and India.
One major reason is Europe’s population, which is graying even more rapidly than the U.S. population.
“Longevity risk is a global issue,” says Dominic Simpson, a senior credit officer with Moody’s.
In some European markets, government agencies are still promising that they will find some way to meet their rapidly growing obligations to retirees, and, in some European markets, the residents seem to have bought about all of the life insurance and retirement savings and income products that they can buy.
Although many European carriers are focusing mainly on boom markets such as China, some continue to look for opportunities in North America.
Aviva P.L.C., London, for example, has increased the share of sales it gets from customers outside the United Kingdom and Europe to 18% of the total during the first half of the current year, up from just 9% during the first half of 2000.
“We are now very firmly classed as being international and are well on our way to being global,” Andrew Moss, Aviva’s group chief executive said during a recent briefing on the company’s plans.
Aviva says that expanding in the United States is a key part in its plan to become global and that selling indexed annuities is a key part of its plan to establish itself in the United States.
Aviva acquired AmerUs Group Company, Des Moines, Iowa, a major indexed annuity manufacturer, in 2006.
In North America, Aviva is hoping to double the volume of new sales within about 3 years while maintaining profit margins, the company says.
Aviva is gearing up to shift AmerUs to the Aviva brand name and to add financial institutions to the company’s distribution network, according to Tom Godlasky, chief executive of Aviva North America.
Aviva is supporting the indexed annuity sales program with a rigorous new compliance auditing program, Godlasky said.