Manulife Financial Corp. boosted a key profitability target as it emphasized the big changes the company has gone through in recent years. 

The insurance giant said Tuesday that it is targeting a core return on equity of at least 18 per cent by 2027, up from its current target of 15 per cent.

Manulife says it has also increased its target for cash generated by its subsidiaries that is passed along to the parent company to $22 billion for the next three years, up from $18.4 billion for the past three.

The updates came at the company's investor day in Hong Kong, its first in the region since 2017. 

Chief executive Roy Gori said the higher targets come after significant changes since the company's last investor day in the region, including off-loading risk while looking to capitalize on global trends.

“We have transformed Manulife and we are, as a result of that, a radically different company today to the one we were in 2017.”

The insurer has been working to shed assets with a low return on equity, including in its long-term care coverage.

In December, the company announced a $13-billion re-insurance deal that included what it called the largest long-term care component the insurance industry had ever seen. In March, it announced a deal to reinsure $5.8 billion of universal life reserves that it says was the largest deal of its kind in Canada.

Reinsurance deals involve shifting the risk of existing insurance policies, and a chunk of their premiums, to another company to free up capital by reducing liabilities.

As it cuts its exposure to legacy assets, the company is focusing on growth markets that have higher return potential, including Asia.

Gori said the insurer, which been operating in Asia since 1897, sees tremendous potential in the region as its middle class is set to grow to 3.5 billion by 2030, up from two billion today.

“What is encouraging in Asia is definitely the shift toward more protection business, the focus on that, and focus on health."

He says the company will also benefit from the expected doubling of the global population of people over age 65 by 2050, and the company's scale will allow it to adapt well to the increasing push to consumer digitization.

The company has also been pushing to expand its health side of the business, including its vitality insurance product that offers rewards for healthier living, said Gori.

“We are refocusing our business from one that’s centred on death and claims to one that is about helping customers live longer and healthier lives.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2024.

This is a corrected story. A previous version had incorrect wording around remittances.