‘The year will go on record as the year in which we were confronted by major changes: social as well as economic. In view of this, we have had to adapt our existing perceptions to a new reality.’ Those were the opening sentences of our 2009 Annual Report. But it could serve just as well as the start of this report. One thing is certain: change is a constant.
In many respects, 2022 was again an exceptional and eventful year. Geopolitical tensions, falling stock markets, rising interest rates and inflation all made their mark on the global economy, while the prominence of the effects of COVID-19 steadily diminished. High inflation, driven by sharply rising energy costs, had a major impact on Dutch households and businesses. The effects were also felt at a.s.r., with higher costs and the need to set aside provisions.
Despite all these developments, we can look back on a good year for a.s.r. It was a year with strong commercial and financial results, a robust capital position and the announcement of the proposed merger with Aegon Nederland.
The proposed merger with Aegon Nederland is an important addition to a.s.r.’s rich history. The preparations for the merger are on track. The request for a Certificate of No Objection has been submitted to both the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) and the European Central Bank (ECB). We have also reported the plans for the proposed merger to the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). We look forward to the outcome of these processes with confidence. In the meantime, we are working on the plans for the coming period in working sessions with colleagues from Aegon N.V. and Aegon Nederland. The closing of the transaction will take place no sooner than 1 July 2023, and will be followed by the merger of the employers’ entities by 1 October at the earliest. I look forward to being able to meet and work with future colleagues from Aegon Nederland on forming a leading insurer in the Dutch market.
The proposed merger with Aegon Nederland can count on broad support. At two Extraordinary General Meetings of Shareholders, the vast majority of the shareholders of both a.s.r. and Aegon N.V. voted in favour of the acquisition of the shares of Aegon Nederland N.V. by a.s.r and consequently, with the merger of the two companies. We also feel the support at meetings that we hold with investors during road shows. We have also shared our management agenda for the coming years at those meetings. With all the efforts that we will make to implement the merger of Aegon Nederland and a.s.r. well, we are aiming for annual organic growth of between 3% and 5% for the Property and Casualty (P&C) and Disability product lines. We see opportunities in the merger with Aegon Nederland for the buy-out market for Pensions and opportunities for growth in the Pensions DC and the PPI markets. It should be clear that our priority is that our services for customers and financial advisors continue in full, as normal, and that we continue to provide them with the best possible service. On the financial level, the proposed merger with Aegon Nederland offers an opportunity to introduce a partial internal model2 (PIM) for Solvency II for the a.s.r. activities, enabling further capital synergies. We also see opportunities to realise cost synergies by migrating the Aegon Life service books to a.s.r. platforms after the proposed merger. This is something that we have already done successfully in recent years with the acquisitions of various Life portfolios.
To return to 2022, our financial results over the past year were good. Both the operating result and organic capital creation improved, and solvency also increased through a share issue of € 0.6 billion to finance the transaction with Aegon. The various product lines performed strongly. At Non-life, the organic growth of gross written premiums for the P&C and Disability product lines was well above target, at 9.1%, and gross written premiums increased by 3.7%. Gross written premiums for the Life segment were up 3.1%, mainly due to strong premium growth (by 21%) for the Employee Pension (Werknemers Pensioen), our successful DC proposition. Revenue for the fee-based elements rose by 5.6%, primarily due to commitments of investors in the real estate funds of a.s.r. real estate, through growth at Dutch ID B.V. in the Distribution and Services segment. Mortgage production fell in comparison with 2021, due to the fall in the refinancing market in response to rising mortgage interest rates. Demand for new home purchases was also lower as a result.
Our strategy is aimed at sustainable value creation for our stakeholders for the long term. We achieved that once again in 2022. Thanks to our good financial results in 2022, we can offer our shareholders prospects of a 12% higher dividend than in 2021. At the same time, our shareholders showed with their almost unanimous support for the merger with Aegon Nederland that they have confidence in the future of a.s.r. I am grateful to our shareholders for that.
Our objective is to be the best financial service provider for our customers. In order to achieve this, we offer a growing number of sustainable products and services and continually work to improve our service. Our Sustainability Mortgage is a good example of this. This product helps a growing number of customers to save on their energy consumption and so to make a contribution to the energy transition needed to reduce our society’s CO2 footprint. Another positive sign is that customers increasingly opt for sustainable damage repair via our network of sustainable repair businesses. This helps to reduce wastage on the way to a circular economy. And in order to enable us to serve customers still better, we encourage them to create personal digital environments where they can arrange their affairs themselves, online. More than half of our customers have now done so. This gives our employees more time for personal contacts on more complex questions.
This is reflected in the net promoter score (NPS-c), which remains high at +50. Improved customer service also led to a sharp fall in the number of complaints in 2022. Unfortunately, all these efforts have not yet led to an increase in the NPS-r. This fell by four points in comparison with 2021, to -11, in line with a fall in the overall insurance market. This is partly explained by reduced consumer confidence as a result of uncertainty relating to high inflation and rising energy prices.
Financial advisers are important partners for a.s.r. We believe in the added value of independent financial advice, as we take the view that an adviser will know a customer’s financial situation best and can therefore give the best advice. We are pleased that advisers value our products and services. This is reflected in various distinctions. In the IG&H Performance Monitor, which measures the satisfaction of intermediaries, a.s.r. was awarded the highest score for Income and Pensions and we are in the top three for Property and Casualty (P&C) and Underwriting. a.s.r. also won four nominations in the Adfiz Performance Survey, with gains in the Sustainable Development category.
a.s.r. is among the leading sustainable insurers in Europe. We do everything possible to remain in that group, as we genuinely believe that businesses that do not focus on a sustainable future will lose their licence to operate in the longer term. Shareholders, customers, (future) employees and society as a whole are increasingly taking sustainability aspects into account in their decision-making. This means that we continually seek opportunities to improve our performance on that level. We have translated this into ambitious goals. Our aim was to reduce the CO2 footprint of our investments by 65% by 2030. We have already reached this target. In 2024, we want to have impact investments of € 4.5 billion on our balance sheet. We have already invested € 2.8 billion for this, including in wind and solar farms and in solutions for energy storage. We have also committed to reducing the CO₂ footprint of our insurance liabilities to net-zero by 2050. One of our objectives is that in 2024, 40% of Dutch citizens will regard a.s.r. as sustainable, socially responsible, transparent and reliable. At year-end 2022, our sustainability reputation stood at 37%. This shows that we are on the right track.
Our employees are the key to our success. They took a positive view of a.s.r. in 2022, reflected in the results of the annual Denison scan, which measures the engagement of employees, and the weekly eMood measurements, which reflect a combination of vitality, job satisfaction and productivity. The annual results of the Denison scan reached 88, above our target of 85, and the average score for the eMood over the year was above 7. These are clear signs for us that our employees are doing well. Our employees are the bearers of our culture, of how we work together. We see that this culture and our mission are important drivers for working at a.s.r. In a competitive labour market, we are still succeeding in recruiting the right new employees for a.s.r.
We are cautiously positive about the outlook for a.s.r. I expect that we will achieve our targets in 2023 by remaining focused on the implementation of our strategy. In addition, after the closure of the proposed merger with Aegon Nederland, this will be implemented in a disciplined manner, within the set deadlines and in accordance with the agreements. We can only realise this through the continued efforts of all employees and the confidence of our shareholders, customers and intermediaries in a.s.r. I am very grateful for this. At the same time, we do not yet know how the geopolitical situation will develop this year and what the consequences of this will be for us all. One thing is certain: change is a constant.
CEO and Chair of the Executive Board