Dear fellow shareholders,
Looking back on all we’ve accomplished over the past year, I’m tremendously proud of the way our colleagues once again showed their creativity, resilience, and innovative spirit.
With the pandemic continuing to impact many of our markets through much of the year, our team focused on supporting our existing customers—and reaching new ones—knowing how important our products are to ensuring their well-being and financial future. Our colleagues also adapted to new ways of working, as we reopened our offices and migrated to our new Working Better approach. With international travel resuming, I had the privilege of visiting many of our teams for the first time since 2020, and it was wonderful to connect and re-connect in person after such a long time away. For me, it underscored the value of the time we spend together, and I’ve come away from each interaction feeling energized and optimistic about our future.
The end of 2022 marked five years since we embarked on our journey to become the most digital, customer-centric global company in our industry. At that time, we set out five strategic priorities—accelerate growth; digital, customer leader; expense efficiency; portfolio optimization; and high performing team—essential to achieving our bold ambition. Today, thanks to our disciplined approach, we’ve delivered record net income and remittances, significantly improved our Net Promoter Score (NPS), industry-leading team and culture, and strong market leadership positions across attractive markets and businesses. In Asia, we are not only at scale as a top three pan-Asian insurer, but we are well positioned to benefit from the significant growth opportunities in the region. In Global Wealth and Asset Management (Global WAM), we are a global leader in retirement, a top 10 global retail multi-manager, and one of the largest natural resource asset managers for institutional investors globally. We are a leading life insurer in Canada, and we are a global leader in behavioural insurance.
We continue to believe in the growing need for health, wealth, and retirement solutions, which have been amplified by the pandemic, and we are well positioned to capitalize on global megatrends. The global growth of household wealth remains a compelling opportunity. This is especially true in Asia, where the middle class is expected to grow 75% to 3.5 billion people by 2030. The size and proportion of an aging population globally is growing rapidly with one in six people expected to be over the age of 60 by 2030. And, as digitization continues to accelerate globally, success will be defined by those who are able to provide extraordinary experiences.
We are uniquely positioned to meet these opportunities with a diversified, scaled business, and have demonstrated that we have the right strategy to win, anchored in our five strategic priorities.
In 2022, our diversified Global WAM business recorded net inflows of $3.3 billion globally, against an industry backdrop of net outflows in North America. This performance extended our remarkable track record of delivering positive net flows in 12 of the past 13 years.
Our Global WAM and Asia results contributed to delivering 63% of our core earnings from our highest potential businesses against a baseline of 54% in 2017. We will continue to drive this momentum through our growing agency force, successful bancassurance partnerships, transformational digital offerings, and strategic expansion into high growth markets in the Asia region where, by 2025, we aim to generate 50% of our core earnings.
We’re bringing our growth ambitions to life in the most attractive high growth markets through partnerships like our 16-year exclusive bancassurance partnership with VietinBank in Vietnam, which has already shown strong momentum in its first year. We also became the first global wealth and asset manager to acquire a 100% stake in a fully operating public fund management company in mainland China through our investment in Manulife TEDA Fund Management Co., Ltd.
Delivering for our customers
We want to be the digital, customer leader in our industry, which is why we remain focused on providing simple, intuitive and innovative experiences across our business. Through those efforts, we’ve improved our NPS from +1 in 2017, to +20 in 2022, and improved our straight-through-processing (STP) rate from 68% in 2018 to 83% in 2022. We have also invested almost $1 billion to enhance our digital capabilities since 2018.
We’re proud of our leading suite and continued expansion of behavioural insurance offerings. In the United States, we achieved our highest ever full year domestic life insurance sales with the John Hancock Vitality PLUS feature, reflecting the increasing attractiveness of the Vitality feature as an option for health-focused life insurance consumers.
We’re continuing to innovate to provide our customers with unique wellness offerings. In 2022, we entered into a partnership with GRAIL, a healthcare company, offering access to Galleri®, their leading edge, multi-cancer early detection test to a pilot group of customers through John Hancock Vitality. We are the first life insurance carrier to make GRAIL’s Galleri® test available, enabling eligible customers to take proactive steps to better understand and make more informed choices about their health.
Driving expense efficiency
We continue to foster a culture of expense efficiency and prioritize our resources where they will be most effective. This focus has allowed us to contain the growth of our general expenses to less than 8% and improve our expense efficiency ratio from 55.4% in 2017 to 50.9% in 2022, with a commitment to our target of below 50%. We’re achieving this through digitization, simplifying and standardizing our processes, optimizing our structure, and careful management of our expenditures, embedding a culture of disciplined spending to enable growth.
Optimizing our portfolio
By the end of 2022, we freed up $9.0 billion of capital from our legacy portfolio, having previously achieved our 2022 target to release $5.0 billion of capital three years ahead of schedule in 2019. We have also made progress towards our business mix targets for long-term care insurance and variable annuities to contribute less than 15% of core earnings by 2025. We created value for our shareholders, executing two reinsurance transactions of our U.S. variable annuity block in 2022, releasing $2.5 billion of capital and buying back 4.1% of our common shares in 2022. Portfolio optimization remains a high priority as we continue to explore opportunities to reduce risk and release capital from our legacy businesses.
Our winning team and culture
None of this would be possible without the efforts and dedication of our high-performing team, and I’m very pleased that we achieved top quartile employee engagement scores in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Since 2017, we’ve seen continued improvement each year, and in 2022, we ranked in the top six percent amongst global finance and insurance companies. In addition, we have been consistently recognized as an employer of choice, including as one of the World’s Best Employers by Forbes for the third consecutive year.
We’ve continued to invest in robust learning and development, leadership, and recognition programmes, and we’ve enjoyed the opportunities for in-person collaboration that have emerged through our return to offices during 2022. These investments will be critical to providing us with a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage.
Our commitment to a healthier planet and community
As a health and wealth company, sustainability is about creating economic return while also addressing the world’s societal and environmental challenges. Whilst we are already net zero in our scope 1 and scope 2 operational greenhouse gas emissions, we are committed to further reducing our absolute emissions by 35% by 2035, and to achieving net zero scope 3 financed emissions in our General Account by 2050.
In 2022, we shared our Impact Agenda, an articulation of our long-standing commitment to empowering health and wellbeing, driving inclusive economic opportunities, and accelerating a sustainable future. Staying true to our Mission through our Impact Agenda is how we will create long-term value for our business, our communities, and the planet. It’s how we all win.
In recognition of our continued and strengthening commitment to sustainability performance, we were once again named to the S&P Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index, one of only seven insurers across North America to be included, and within the top 10% of our industry peers globally.
I’m tremendously proud of the progress our winning team has made: we’ve driven great change, delivered for our customers and shareholders, and bolstered a great culture in which all of our colleagues can thrive.
Our disciplined approach helped us remain resilient throughout the pandemic, while delivering record net income in 2022, a testament to our strong focus on delivering shareholder value as a team.
I am honoured to lead our winning team and want to acknowledge each of my Manulife colleagues around the world for their contributions to our shared achievements. Thank you.
I have the privilege of acknowledging our outgoing Chairman, John Cassaday, and of thanking him on behalf of our team for his 30 years of service as a member of our Board of Directors, including the past five as Chairman. During this time, he has made invaluable contributions to our growth, and in helping us to become the Company we are today. On a personal note, I have appreciated his support and wise counsel throughout my tenure. Thank you, John.
With John’s departure, I also have the privilege of welcoming our incoming Chair of the Board, Don Lindsay. As a long-standing member of our Board, Don has a deep knowledge of our business and I look forward to working even more closely with him in his new role.
In closing, I’d like to thank you, my fellow shareholders and customers, for the trust you have extended to me, and to our team. Our team is confident that our all-weather strategy, diverse business model, and considerable financial strength and flexibility position us well to win and deliver in 2023 and beyond. We will continue to work diligently to execute against our strategic priorities as we build the future of insurance and asset management, always keeping our mission—Decisions made easier. Lives made better.—at the heart of all we do.