Irish Life expects to create 150 new jobs across its business in Ireland this year as part of a growth strategy built around a recovery in the domestic economy.
Irish Life chief executive Bill Kyle said it had been successfully integrated with Canada Life following its purchase from the State by Canadian group Great- West Lifeco in 2013.
“Last summer we finished the integration,” he said. “It was a big piece of work but it went very well and all the goals we would have had for that were met,” Mr Kyle said.
“With the companies put together we now manage 15 per cent of all personal assets in Ireland and one in three adults has some form of savings with us.”
The Irish Life group currently has about €65 billion in assets, a million customers and 2,300 employees. This includes Irish Life, Canada Life and Setanta Asset Management. It also owns affinity broker Cornmarket and third-party administration group IPSI, has a 49 per cent share in insurer GloHealth and a 30 per cent holding in general insurer Allianz Ireland.
Mr Kyle said Irish Life was “looking forward” to growing its position in the health insurance market here but declined to comment on whether the company wanted to acquire Aviva Health, which is currently on the blocks.
In the property market, Irish Life Investment Managers spent about €400 million last year, focused on prime retail sites and “value-added” offices. This included the Sovereign Portfolio, which comprised eight retail investments and five office blocks and was acquired for €154 million. These are let to 28 tenants who pay combined rents of €7.4 million.
Patrick Burke, ILIM's managing director, said yields for high-grade offices were now about 4 to 4.5 per cent, while retail was performing strongly, helped by the rebound in consumer confidence.
“Rents are going to start recovering and have already significantly started recovering,” he said, adding that he did not believe this posed a threat to the economy’s recovery.
On the issue of funding for retirement, Mr Kyle said the State pension was unsustainable in the long term. Commenting on a recent report from consulting group McKinsey about whether the population here was ready for retirement, he said 71 per cent of working households were on track to retire without a significant standard-of-living adjustment, while the remainder would experience a significant standard-of-living drop.
“Most of these households not on track for retirement are in the mid- to high-income group and do not participate in a pension plan,” he said. “A surprisingly high number [22 per cent] of mid- to high-income households will also carry mortgage debt into retirement.”
Mr Kyle said Irish Life had not advocated any particular solution to the problem but wanted to participate in a public debate on the issue.
“We hope that will help lead to some really good public policy on the retirement system in Ireland going forward,” he said.