Mutual insurance, retirement and investment group LV= announces its financial results for the year to 31 December 2017 and publishes its annual report.
Richard Rowney, LV= group chief executive, said: “2017 has been a transformative year for LV= and I am very proud of what we have achieved. We secured a landmark strategic partnership with Allianz, delivered the first stages of our £100 million investment to transform our General Insurance product and distribution capability and brought together our Protection, Retirement and Heritage business areas under a single leadership as we begin to evolve Life into a broader health, wealth and knowledge business.
“At a headline level the Group’s operating profit was £158 million, up from a loss of £12 million in 2016 and the profit before tax was £122 million compared to a loss before tax of £49 million in 2016. This greatly improved financial performance was driven by the non-recurrence of the Ogden rate change which adversely impacted the 2016 results, plus positive contributions from both our General Insurance and Life businesses, the benefit of the sale of the commercial renewal rights to Allianz and favourable short-term investment fluctuations partially offset by the change in life valuation basis.
“LV= has a strong reputation for looking after customers and we are delighted that this was recognised by KPMG Nunwood in their Customer Experience Excellence Report where we moved up 68 places to rank 32nd across all industries. Our investment in Wealth Wizards is performing well and it is currently working with a number of household names across banking, life insurers and employee benefit consultancies to bring affordable finance advice to more people. Looking to the future and building on our experience with Wealth Wizards, we have also launched LV= Tomorrow signalling our investment in innovation to build new revenue streams.
“Throughout 2017 we continued to take a number of actions to improve our capital position and also the performance of our business including the strategic partnership with Allianz and the implementation of a cost reduction programme to significantly reduce our cost base. Our capital coverage ratio has increased to 180% from 140% at the end of 2016, measured on a standard formula basis. This time last year I said that we were working to get the Group back within its capital risk appetite and we have done this.”
Andy Parsons, LV= group finance director, said: “General Insurance operating profit grew to £121 million benefiting from improved rates and favourable claims experience. Encouragingly this result, which included £103 million of underwriting profit, has been achieved while strengthening reserves against future shocks such as the change to the Ogden rate experienced in March 2017 and also with less reliance on prior year releases (£46 million, down £8 million compared to 2016).
“Life operating profit improved significantly to £37 million from £13 million in 2016, helped by an £6 million increase in new business contribution from Retirement and Protection. The result was also impacted by £26 million favourable model and basis changes offset by £19 million adverse experience variances.
“Our Group surplus capital has increased by £331 million to a very satisfactory £698 million. This includes the positive impact of the general insurance transaction with Allianz (£444 million), capital generated from the general insurance business over the year (£170 million) and the adverse impact of a TMTP  recalculation at the year-end (£246 million).
“Gross expenses are down by £8 million to £431 million including a 4% reduction in operating costs. Savings have largely been achieved through strong day-to-day cost management discipline, a 400 reduction in headcount with minimum redundancies and an on-going review of discretionary spend. We will retain a continued strong focus on costs going forward.”
|FY 2017||FY 2016 Pre-Ogden||Change (%)||FY 2016 Post Ogden
|Gross written premiums
Our General Insurance business has performed strongly in 2017 and delivered an operating profit of £121 million compared to a £26 million loss in 2016 (2016: £113 million profit pre-Ogden) and a record combined operating ratio of 91.8%. This level of performance reflects our strong underwriting discipline, improvements in our efficiency, and favourable run-off in prior year reserves, offset by an increase in cost to repair vehicles and higher expected settlements for severe injuries as a result of Ogden. The business also benefited from a reduction in claims frequency, driven in part by the absence of large catastrophe events in the UK.
Our direct business continued to grow in both car and home insurance due to strong sales and market leading retention levels. Overall premiums grew by 5% to £960 million (2016: £913 million) and total policies increased by 3% to 3.7 million.
In broker we delivered an improved operating profit of £30 million. We have reshaped our distribution mix by reducing our exposure to purely aggregator business and widening our reach through key partnerships with motor manufacturers, retail brands and digital channels.
Following the disproportionately large decrease in the Ogden discount rate announced in February 2017, we were pleased that the Government subsequently committed to reforming the rate. We have consistently argued for a system that ensures fair payments for those injured while also reducing the cost of car insurance at a time when premiums are at a record high. Reform will require legislation, we therefore welcome the recent publication of the Civil Liability Bill and hope it will be passed quickly. We stand by our commitment to pass on 100% of any savings if the legislation is passed but, until such time, we will continue to appropriately reserve based on the current rate.
At the end of December, we completed the planned sale of a 49% stake in our General Insurance businesses to Allianz Holdings PLC for a consideration of £500 million. This deal was originally announced in August 2017 and the strategic partnership between both businesses came into effect on 28 December 2017. The combination of LV=’s strong brand, long-standing reputation in personal insurance and excellent customer service with the financial strength, digital expertise and data analytics of Allianz means we are well placed to continue to deliver profitable growth in an ever changing market
|FY 2017||FY 2016 Pre-Ogden||Change (%)|| FY 2016 Post Ogden
|Gross written premiums
||1|| £1.58 billion
||47|| £(69) million
||7|| £(26) million
Our General Insurance business has performed strongly in 2017 and delivered an operating profit of £121 million compared to a £26 million loss in 2016 (2016: £113 million profit pre-Ogden) and a record combined operating ratio of 91.8%. This level of performance reflects our strong underwriting discipline, improvements in our efficiency, and favourable run-off in prior year reserves, offset by an increase in cost to repair vehicles and higher expected settlements for severe injuries as a result of Ogden. The business also benefited from a reduction in claims frequency, driven in part by the absence of large catastrophe events in the UK.Our direct business continued to grow in both car and home insurance due to strong sales and market leading retention levels. Overall premiums grew by 5% to £960 million (2016: £913 million) and total policies increased by 3% to 3.7 million.
|FY 2017||FY 2016 
|Operating profit [1 & 4]
|New business contribution 
|Life new business sales  (PVNBP  basis)
|Retirement Solutions ||£1.72 billion
2017 saw further growth in our Life business as we continue to build both top and bottom line momentum. Operating profit of £37 million increased by £24 million over 2016 and new business sales broke through the £2 billion threshold for the first time to £2.02 billion, measured as the Present Value of New Business Premiums. This represents a credible performance in a year of considerable change.
During the year we brought together our Protection, Retirement and Heritage businesses promoting John Perks to the role of managing director for the combined Life business. We have also successfully repositioned the Life business to be cash and capital generative. This has involved closing capital consumptive products such as protection 50 plus and our protection financial advice service. In December we signed a deal with RGA to reinsure around £1 billion of deferred annuity liabilities, de-risking the balance sheet. Looking forward we have a clear focus on income protection, safe drawdown and equity release as the areas of the market in which we intend to compete.
Double digit growth in the pensions’ portfolio was also aided by savers looking to transfer funds from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution pension schemes. Income from our strategically important retirement advice service grew 25% year on year reflecting growth in our corporate solutions distribution and the signing of a number of deals with new partners to provide direct access to regulated advice to their customers.
Despite the closure of some product lines, Protection PVNBP sales grew 4% reflecting strong performance in term life and we completed the roll out of Fastway, our new quote and apply system, for IFAs which has helped increase sales volumes and control costs.
We achieved a good return on the main LV= with profits fund of 7.7% although this falls below the benchmark by 0.9% largely because of adverse performance on long-standing investments in property and alternatives.
Commenting on the outlook, Richard Rowney said: “We ended 2017 with a much improved capital position supported by strong trading performance in both our businesses. Despite challenging market conditions the Life business is well placed to build on its track record of profitable growth and the strategic partnership with Allianz allows us to continue to benefit from a growing personal lines insurance business while also leaving the Group better placed to invest in new digital opportunities and partnerships that we believe can be the growth drivers of the future.”