We carried out major projects over the last year. The efforts have allowed us to make several substantial investments so as to concretely support our mutual’s longevity.
I am delighted with the results presented in this report. They show good profit, factoring in the latest investments, which attests to our team’s expertise and effectiveness. Given that the current cycle seems poised to persist, it is relevant to look at the economic context in which we are operating. It is characterized by persisting and historically low interest rates, which requires life insurers to be agile, proactive and efficient, particularly in our extremely competitive environment.
The year 2018 was marked by a group of initiatives that represent a major shift for UL Mutual, a shift that is in line with its roadmap. The Board of Directors is cognizant of the means management has deployed around the plan, and of its rapid action in dealing with additional issues. Management was able to respond positively to the new initiatives while skilfully resolving some unexpected bumps in the road, and exceed stated objectives. By refocusing on profitable growth for the coming years, we feel we will be able to achieve our ambitions.
We are sticking closely to the path set out in the strategic plan. We have made a noteworthy comeback in the distribution network, and believe we have won back a major position in Quebec, Ontario and Western Canada. Our modernization initiatives are also noteworthy. The biggest initiative was to continue with the digital shift for our business lines. The first phase will crystallize in 2019 in the area of individual insurance. Working closely with management, we have continued with planning work for the construction of a new head office, with project slated to begin in 2019. One key action in the last year was the acquisition of Magik-Net, a company that specializes in tech solutions for group insurance. The members of the Board and I value the cultural shift that is occurring at UL Mutual, one that confidently draws on all employees’ talent and accountability.
These many achievements were made possible by the constant support of my fellow directors, who
worked tirelessly on the committees and board activities. This was a very busy year: we met numerous times in order to deliver a dynamic, renewed governance. I must mention the arrival of Mr. Gérard Guilbault and Mr. Alain Bédard, whose knowledge and expertise is a strong complement to our existing strengths. With them, we have also been able to fulfil our desire to move to 9 directors. I am very proud that UL Mutual has such a well-balanced, diverse and expert Board of Directors. The Board actively pursued its professional development, taking a course in governance with the
support of the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations, headed by Mr. Michel Nadeau. Developing director’s expertise is at the heart of our priorities, and last year marks an important step forward, with the institution of an onboarding program for new directors. Training modules for IFRS 17 were
made available so as to equip board members appropriately to follow developments in implementing this important accounting standard by 2021. We have also migrated to an electronic platform that allows us to conduct board activities virtually, while providing better access to all documentation and reference tools.
We want to implement a very high-calibre governance, one that complies with the requirements of regulatory authorities, in the interests of both mutualists and our partners. We have thus continued to update numerous programs that bolster our sound governance practices. We continued with positive discussions with senior management on streamlining and optimizing reporting. The recent work facilitates director engagement in the oversight and risk management aspect of their role.
We are motivated to move ahead with our work with the same discipline and commitment to supporting our mutualists. The Board of Directors has introduced an annual meeting with management to review our strategic plan, so that we are aligned on the same ambitions and values. By regularly pooling senior management’s talent with the Board’s expertise, we are staying pertinent, agile and ambitious, as well as realistic in the context of rapidly changing markets and technology.
In closing, I want to spotlight the excellent contribution made by our President and CEO, Mr. Christian Mercier, who sets out a detailed report in the following pages. Special thanks also go to our mutualists, who have been giving us their confidence for 129 years now. I would also like to acknowledge the commitment, drive and efficiency of UL Mutual’s management team and employees. Thank you to our distribution network for its support, and concern with serving all of our mutualists well. Lastly, I’d like to acknowledge my board colleagues for their strong support and dedication in 2018.
Richard Fortier, IAS.A, FSA, FICA, CFA
Chairman of the Board