The life segment was the largest segment in the Spanish insurance industry in 2014, and accounted for 48.9% of the industry’s total gross written premium. The life segment is better developed than the non-life and personal accident and health segments, and posted a penetration rate of 2.4% in 2015. The life segment recorded a review-period growth in investment income, primarily due to a strong investment portfolio and a mix of equities and bonds. The country’s weak economic conditions affected the sale of life products-particularly endowment, individual life and group superannuation-causing a decline in the written premium.
After a few years of being labelled as one of Europe’s more unstable economies, recent figures indicate that Spain’s economy continues to recover quickly and GDP growth is expected to increase in recent years. Growth is largely driven by improved output and auto exports, although downside risk is presented by any additional shocks in the euro area. This economic upturn has also translated to growth of overall life premium following three successive years of declines. Life savings products, in total represent more than eighty percent of total premium. Risk policies have seen overall premium income growth recently, largely due to reactivation of the consumer and mortgage credit market.
According to the market research report “Life Insurance in Spain, Key Trends and Opportunities to 2020“, the faltering economy has had a big effect on the overall life market as consumers went back to traditional bank deposits and investment funds as methods for long-term savings. Distribution of insurance products in Spain is handled mainly by banks, brokers, tied and exclusive agents. Business is generated to a lesser extent through direct marketing, the internet and insurer networks of branch offices. Banks continue to be the major force in distribution and continue to remain the preferred choice for most consumers when considering life insurance and investment products effectively. However, the bancassurance share of life business has declined, while premiums for agents have increased, particularly in new business production. All other distributions channels saw their shares reduced in recent times.
Changes in the operation of local savings banks (cajas) have also had a drastic impact on insurers who sourced business from their networks. Between 2009 and 2015, the effect of the bancarisation of the Cajas de Ahorros plus the mergers and acquisitions of life portfolios of previously Caja-owned life insurers also lead to that many distribution agreements with insurers went away.
Under the new tax law, Law 26/2014 of 27 November 2014, from 1 January 2015 interest earned on deposits and life assurance policies that are held for five years are exempt from tax up to a maximum of EUR 5,000 (USD 5,450) per year. In the first 12 months of their existence the new “Savings Plan 5” products have proved to be very popular, with more than 300,000 clients signing up for them, worth EUR 1.2mn (USD 1.31mn) in deposits.
The principal concerns of insurers in 2015 to 2016 were compliance with the deadlines of LOSSEAR and ROSSEAR (Solvency II) requirements. In addition, low interest rates have affected sales of savings business and all companies are chasing risk products, giving rise to intense competition.
Market penetration and density (premium per capita) of life insurance has continued to improve well over the last 10 years. The figures indicate there is still potential for considerable expansion in the Spanish life market when compared to other Western European countries, depending on economic recovery. According to amendments made to the pension rules in August 2012, Spain’s retirement age will increase from 65 to 67 by 2027, which is expected to boost this sector.
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