TORONTO, March 1 (Reuters) - Canadian insurance company Sun Life Financial Inc said it was looking for acquisition opportunities in business areas such as wealth management that are less impacted low interest rates.
“We are investing in areas of growth that are less dependent on what interest rates do,” Chief Executive Dean Connor told Reuters in an interview before the company kicks off celebrations to mark its 150-year anniversary on Monday.
“We are actively in the market place looking for acquisition opportunities, not just wealth but protection as well, and not just Asia, but the U.S. and Canada as well,” added Connor.
Insurers, especially those in the life segment of the industry, largely invest in bonds and other such securities, but the current low-rate environment has led to weaker yields from these securities, forcing insurers to trim benefits and raise the prices on products.
Many insurers have been forced to diversify into fee-based services such as wealth management to offset the impact of lower yields.
“Low interest rates continue to be a major headwind for the industry around the world. We have done a lot to reposition our company to thrive in such a world, but no one can completely immunize an insurance company from low interest rates,” Connor said.
Toronto-based Sun Life, along with its peers, was buffeted by the global financial crisis, however the company has since bounced back strongly, with its shares rising more than 150 percent since the depths of the crisis six years ago.
It agreed to sell its U.S. annuity and life insurance arm in 2012, exiting a business that had weighed it down. It has also established the Sun Life Investment Management business, and earlier this year it agreed to buy Ryan Labs Inc, expanding its investment management business into the larger U.S. market.
The moves have impressed both analysts and investors. Last month, Morningstar analyst Vincent Lui commended Sun Life on its efforts to diversify.
“With a lower-risk business mix in place, we think that the days of volatile earnings and depleting capital are finally in the rear view mirror for the insurer,” said Lui in a note.
Connor said Sun Life planned to continue on this trajectory, adding that the company was looking to add new capabilities and accelerate growth.
Reporting by Euan Rocha; editing by Clelia Oziel