SSQ Financial Group posts excellent results despite financial crisis



    QUEBEC CITY, April 27 /CNW Telbec/ - Despite the financial crisis, SSQ
once again achieved excellent financial results in 2008. The company continued
its progress while strengthening its position all of its sectors of activity.
During fiscal 2008, assets under management rose from $3.9 billion to $4
billion, representing an increase of 1.9% over the previous year. The total
volume of premiums and premium equivalents of SSQ enterprises rose from $1.7
billion to $1.8 billion, up 5.4% from the previous year. SSQ recorded a net
income of $25.8 million, providing an 11.3% return on shareholders' equity
compared to 13.6% in 2007.
    2008 provided an opportunity for SSQ to prove that it is a solid
organization that knows how to make wise business decisions. As in previous
years, SSQ continued to implement prudent and vigilant management practices.
This enabled SSQ to stand out in the insurance and financial services industry
by obtaining excellent results in 2008 despite the financial and economic
crisis.
    As for sound decision-making, SSQ didn't invest in any of the risky
financial products that fuelled the crisis, such as asset-backed commercial
paper (ABCP). In addition, the company is relatively unexposed to stock market
fluctuations and has made sure to maintain a high level of liquid assets.
    "We are very satisfied that we have been able to maintain both continued
growth and the quality of our products and services at SSQ in spite of the
financial crisis. Our results this year prove the wisdom of the strategic
choices we have made," stresses René Hamel, Chief Executive Officer of SSQ
Financial Group.

    
    The volume of business of all SSQ activities increased in 2008:

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        2008             2007     Variation
                              (in millions $)  (in millions $)        (in %)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Group Insurance                  1,090.7          1,007.7           8.2
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Investment and Retirement          544.6            541.5           0.6
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    General Insurance                  128.4            123.6           3.9
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    TOTAL                            1,763.7          1,672.8           5.4
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    

    Group Insurance

    2008 was the first year of the 2008-2012 strategic plan adopted by SSQ's
Group Insurance sector and it ended on quite a positive note. Record sales,
impressive growth in the Canadian market, a strong group renewal rate, and
increasingly solid ties with partners are all signs that SSQ is definitely on
the right path.
    The Group Insurance sector ended the fiscal year with new sales totalling
$118 million, representing a 73% jump over the previous year. Even more
impressive is the fact that 65% of these sales, that is $77 million, come from
groups outside Quebec.

    Investment and Retirement

    Conscious of serious concerns generated by the financial crisis, SSQ was
proactive in providing clients with clear information about the financial
market situation and reassuring them of the solid financial position of SSQ
Financial Group. And even with the downward spiralling financial markets,
SSQ's Investment and Retirement sector closed the year with assets under
management worth $2 billion.
    In striving to provide ever better customer service, SSQ continues to
diversify its product offering and quickly integrates any new products on the
market into its product offering. A number of new financial products were
added to ASTRA Fund, the cornerstone of Investment and Retirement's fund
offering.
    SSQ Investment and Retirement started up its operations in SSQ's Toronto
Office in 2008. This is concrete proof of its determination to continue to
develop relationships with new partners and to expand its business across
Canada.

    General Insurance

    The car and home insurance industry was hit hard in 2008 by highly
adverse climatic conditions and hence a higher than usual number of claims.
Even so, SSQ General Insurance continued to post positive growth with
annualized written premiums increasing by 13.7%, nearly double the rate of
growth of its main competitors.
    This growth is the result of the diversification of its service offering,
the excellent results achieved by its distribution networks, the signing of
more than 25 new group insurance agreements, and the hard work of all of its
employees, particularly its sales team.
    Finally, thanks to the dedication and excellent work of all, SSQ General
Insurance earned a number of awards and honours in 2008, including second
place in a customer satisfaction survey of Canadian home insurers (J.D. Power
and Associates).

    Real Estate

    In an ongoing effort to develop and diversify SSQ's real estate
portfolio, considerable progress was made in 2008 in construction projects.
After several years of preliminary work, the Green City project should start
up sometime in 2009. Having incorporated sustainable development concepts and
green technologies right from the initial design stage, the Green City project
will serve as a template for the development of future sustainable real estate
projects.

    About SSQ Financial Group

    With $2 billion in annual revenue and more than $4 billion in assets
under management, SSQ Financial Group is a leading mutual diversified
financial institution. The Group serves over one million clients and provides
jobs to over 1,500 employees. SSQ, Life Insurance Company Inc., the Group's
principal company, is recognized as a leader in the group insurance industry
and as an expert in the investment and retirement sector. SSQ Financial Group
is also a rising star in home and auto insurance.




For further information:

For further information: Elaine Dumais, Director, Corporate
Communications, SSQ Financial Group, (418) 650-3457, ext. 6292

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SSQ Financial Group

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