Greetings. Welcome to Tiptree's First Quarter 2020 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator instructions]. Please note this conference is being recorded.
I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Sandra Bell, Chief Financial Officer. Thank you. You may begin.
Good morning and welcome to our first-quarter 2020 earnings call. We are joined today by our executive chairman, Michael Barnes; and CEO, Jonathan Ilany. You can find the slides that accompany this review on our investor relations website. Please note that some of our comments today will contain forward-looking statements based on our current view of our business, and actual future results may differ materially
Please see our most recent SEC filings, which identify the principal risks and uncertainties that could affect future performance Before I turn the call over to Michael, just a few additional housekeeping items: Today, we will discuss certain adjusted or non-GAAP financial measures, which are described in more detail in this morning's presentation. Reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures and other associated disclosures are contained in our SEC filings, the appendix to our presentation and posted on our website.
With that, I will turn the call over to Michael.
Thank you, Sandra, and good morning to everyone. We are entering the second quarter of 2020 at an extraordinary time as social distancing measures to combat COVID-19 are significantly impacting global economies and financial markets. While financial market volatility and the resulting unrealized mark-to-market losses drove a 15.2% decline in our book value, we believe our underlying business fundamentals and capital base are well-positioned to get the company through these uncertain times.
Throughout our company, our management teams and all of our employees continue to show remarkable resiliency and remained focused on serving our customers and business partners. Despite the uncertainties surrounding global social distancing measures that began in February and reached the United States in mid-March, we continued to see positive sales growth across our businesses in the first quarter.
Operating EBITDA was up 25%, reflecting the solid underlying operating fundamentals of our businesses. In Tiptree Insurance, gross written premiums of $277 million were up 40% over the prior-year first quarter, while net written premiums grew 10%. We continued to maintain this growth without compromising our underwriting profitability, as our combined ratio remained consistent with prior quarters at 93%.
In January 2020, we acquired Smart AutoCare, which we expect to accelerate our growth in auto warranty as social activity gradually returns to more normal conditions. Our insurance portfolio ended the quarter at $529 million, up 14% year over year, in line with our underlying premium growth. While equities and some other investments were impacted by unrealized mark-to-market losses, we believe our capital position remains strong relative to our claims liabilities.
We were fortunate that our reduction in corporate credit exposure and increased allocation into agency securities had a positive effect for the quarter. More than 76% of the portfolio is currently held in highly liquid securities with an average rating of AA. While operating EBITDA was
Chief Financial Officer
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