The volume of assets managed in mutual funds and discretionary mandate assets increased by 13% to EUR 1,307.7 million compared to the 2020 year-end. Taking into account the business conditions anticipated until the end of the year, the Triglav Group estimates that its annual profit before tax will be within the planned range.
The financial results achieved were favorably influenced by the increased volume of written premium and less pronounced claims experience, while the continuing unfavorable conditions of interest rates and the formation of additional insurance technical provisions due to existing and anticipated business conditions also had an impact. Andrej Slapar, President of the Management Board of Zavarovalnica Triglav, said: "We have had a good start in 2021. Taking into account the business conditions anticipated until the end of the year, we estimate that our annual profit before tax will be within the planned range. In our operations, we take into account the continuing high uncertainty in the business environment, the unclear consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and the unfavorable conditions of low interest rates."
Underwriting activities. Backed by underwriting discipline, the Group achieved a 7% increase in consolidated gross written premium compared to the same period last year, or a total of EUR 371.7 million. Premium growth was recorded in almost all markets; in Slovenia it reached 5%, which is above the market growth, and in the markets outside of Slovenia it was 11%. Premium grew in all three insurance segments; the non-life insurance segment grew by 9%, while the health, life and pension insurance segments grew by 1% each.
The claims experience in the reporting period was less pronounced. Gross claims paid amounted to EUR 171.3 million, down by 4%, which can also be attributed to the fact that, unlike last year, no major CAT events were seen in the first three months of 2021. The Group's combined ratio was favorable, standing at 87.9%, with both the claims ratio and the expense ratio having improved. As at the reporting date, the Group's insurance technical provisions totaled EUR 3,142.0 million, up by 4% compared to the 2020 year-end.
Andrej Slapar said: "Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have observed a lower frequency of claims in some insurance classes, which is a result of lower economic activity due to business restrictions and restrictions on the policyholders' movement. We expect that by the end of this year we will pay out higher benefits to policyholders resulting from systemic healthcare solutions, and, in some other insurance segments, we will increase the value of our services even further. For this purpose, additional insurance technical provisions were formed, which is reflected in the Q1 results."
Investment portfolio and assets under management. The situation in the financial markets this year again affects the rates of return on the Group's extensive investment portfolio worth EUR 3.5 billion and thus on the level of insurance technical provisions. There were no significant changes in investment activity and composition of the Group's portfolio this year.
As at 31 March 2021, the Group managed clients' assets of EUR 1,307.7 million in mutual funds and discretionary mandate assets via Triglav Skladi. Compared to 31 December 2020, their volume increased by 13% as a result of net inflows and the situation in the capital markets. By holding a 32.9% market share, Triglav Skladi is one of the leading managers of assets in investment funds in Slovenia.
Cost management. Total consolidated gross operating expenses increased by 5% to EUR 75.8 million as a result of a rise in some insurance business expenses, in particular acquisition costs. The share of operating expenses of the insurance business in gross written premium was favourable at 18.4%, which is at the level of the comparable period last year.