Assurant Inc. (NYSE:AIZ) Q4 2017 Earnings Conference Call Transcript
Feb 09, 2018 • 08:30 am ET
Welcome to Assurant's Fourth Quarter 2017 Earnings Conference Call and Webcast. (Operator Instructions)
It is now my pleasure to turn the floor over to Suzanne Shepherd, Vice President of Investor Relations. You may begin.
Thank you, Kelly, and good morning, everyone. We look forward to discussing our fourth quarter and full year 2017 results with you today. Joining me for Assurant's conference call are Alan Colberg, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and Richard Dziadzio, our Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer.
Yesterday, after the market closed, we issued a news release announcing our results for the fourth quarter and full year 2017. The release and corresponding financial supplement are available on assurant.com.
We'll start today's call with brief remarks from Alan and Richard before moving into a Q&A session.
Some of the statements made today may be forward-looking. Forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by these statements. Additional information regarding these factors can be found in yesterday's earnings release as well as in our SEC reports.
Our previously-announced acquisition of The Warranty Group is expected to close in the second quarter, subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions. As such, the 2018 outlook provided on today's call does not include any contributions expected from The Warranty Group acquisition nor the financing plan.
During today's call, we will refer to non-GAAP financial measures, which we believe are important in evaluating the company's performance. For more details on these measures, the most comparable GAAP measures and a reconciliation of the two, please refer to yesterday's news release and financial supplement available on assurant.com.
I will now turn the call over to Alan.
Thanks, Suzanne, and good morning, everyone. We are pleased with our results for the fourth quarter and full year 2017. We delivered on our financial commitments to shareholders while also building a stronger Assurant for the future. Specifically, for full year 2017, we generated net operating income growth of 9%, excluding reportable catastrophes, well ahead of our initial expectations due to business growth, and $12.5 million of net one-time benefits.
Operating earnings per diluted share, excluding catastrophes, grew by 22%, surpassing our long-term average annual target of 15%. And we completed the return of $1.5 billion in capital to shareholders, as planned.
In 2017, we also achieved key milestones in our multiyear transformation, which we believe position our company for continued profitable growth. We invested in our digital and data analytics areas, and we also established capability centers for enterprise strategic account management, customer experience, robotics and artificial intelligence. These are just a few examples of investments to strengthen our competitive advantage.
Through our newly-formed enterprise procurement group and other initiatives, we've made good progress toward our $100 million gross expense savings target. These savings, largely sourced from third-party spending, have and will fund ongoing investments in the business while expanding margins over time.
We've also continued to manage capital prudently with the goal