Finnish pension insurance company Ilmarinen has reported a 6% return on its portfolio in challenging market conditions for 2015, compared with 6.8% the previous year.
Within its portfolio, worth €35.8bn at end-December, equities performed best, in spite of share price volatility.
The return on the equity portfolio was 11.6%, with Finland, Europe and Japan the top performers.
However, Ilmarinen said the US equity market return in dollars was modest, while returns from emerging market equities fell into negative territory.
According to Timo Ritakallio, president and chief executive at Ilmarinen, the company’s long-term investment strategy was a key element in its success.
He said: “The diversification across different asset classes and also geographically has proved successful. Last year, we also succeeded particularly well in the timing of our investment decisions.”
However, continuing low interest rates were reflected in the 1.2% return on Ilmarinen’s fixed income portfolio, compared with 2.4% the year before.
According to Ilmarinen CIO Mikko Mursula, low interest rates prompted investors to look for alternatives throughout 2015, leading to brisk activity on the real estate markets.
“Property once again proved its worth in our portfolio, with a return of 7.8%, compared with 5.4% the year before,” said Mursula.
“Last year, we continued to diversify our real estate portfolio outside Finland, buying properties in Germany, Belgium and the US, among other countries.”
Ilmarinen’s solvency remained strong. At end-2015, solvency capital was €8.2bn – 29.6% of the technical provisions, giving a solvency position of 2.0 times the solvency limit.
In terms of its operations, however, the company said the development of customer numbers did not reach the levels of previous years.
Ritakallio said: “We can be satisfied with our customer acquisition, but strengthening customer retention will be a focus area in our operations in the future.”
In other news, Norwegian public service pension fund KLP reported value-adjusted and book returns of 4% and 3.6%, respectively, for 2015.
KLP said good returns in the equity and property markets were the main contributors to Q4 profits, with value-adjusted returns of 2% for the last three months of the year.
Sverre Thornes, chief executive at KLP, said: “Poor prospects for economic growth and persistently low interest rates have resulted in higher risk premiums for debt instruments, unsettled equity markets and low commodity prices.
“Against that backdrop, it is now important to have sufficient solidity to withstand further fluctuations in the market. KLP has strengthened its financial buffers to be as well prepared as possible in facing challenging capital markets.”
Under the new Solvency II rules, KLP has a solvency ratio of 187% without the use of transitional rules for technical provisions.
When using these rules, the solvency ratio is 274%.
The group has freed up premium reserves of NOK19.6bn with changes to its disability financing, new disability rates and special conditions for the nurses’ scheme.
Thornes said: “NOK14.9bn of these assets is set to be used for solvency-promoting measures such as reducing the average guaranteed rate of return and making transfers to the risk-equalisation fund. The remaining NOK4.7bn will be returned to the customers’ premium fund.”
The large influx of new customers running public sector occupational pension schemes in recent years has continued.
During 2015, 22 public businesses and one municipality, with just under NOK2bn worth of assets in total, transferred to KLP.
Group assets under management rose to NOK543bn, from NOK491bn at end-2014, with the growth largely attributable to these customers.
In total, 91 municipalities, one county and 375 public businesses have chosen KLP as their provider since 2012.