SSQ Investment & Retirement set to launch ASTRA Guaranteed Income

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QUEBEC CITY, Oct. 2 2008 – SSQ Investment and Retirement is set to launch its new minimum guaranteed income product: ASTRA Guaranteed Income.

ASTRA Guaranteed Income offers all the security of annuity products (predictable income regardless of market conditions, guaranteed income for life, 100% protection of capital or even higher in the event of death, possible protection from seizure and easier estate planning), while offering the flexibility and growth potential of variable investments (ability to select and modify investments, possible increases in capital and income over time, possibility to make withdrawals at any time, and choice of registered or non-registered plans).

Clients have a choice of segregated funds available for investing under the ASTRA Guaranteed Income product. Like all segregated funds, they offer a guarantee upon maturity and a guarantee upon death. What makes this product different from SSQ’s regular products is the Guaranteed Minimum Withdrawal Benefit (GMWB), which allows SSQ to use the amounts invested to calculate the maximum amount a client can withdraw annually without affecting the guarantees. When clients respect the maximum withdrawal amount, SSQ guarantees 100% of the capital investment in the form of annual payments, and lifetime income payments after age 65. If no withdrawals are made during a given year, clients will be eligible for a 5% annual bonus on the guaranteed amount. In addition, resets can be used to crystallize capital gains to increase guaranteed amounts.

Product enhancements already planned

Because the investment market is constantly changing, SSQ Investment and Retirement is always looking for ways to adapt its products to the needs of its clientele. “We are continuously on the lookout for the best financial products the market has to offer and act quickly when a new product comes along. Before the start of 2009, we plan to lift the 15-year restriction on bonuses and to make the payment of lifetime income amounts available a whole year earlier,” says Michel Pelletier, Vice-President of Actuarial and Product Development at SSQ.

SSQ is innovating: new ASTRA Celestia Funds

In addition to its new ASTRA Guaranteed Income product, SSQ Investment and Retirement is also offering an innovative new family of balanced funds: ASTRA Celestia. These balanced funds are suitable for all investor types. Contrary to most balanced funds, ASTRA Celestia Funds focus more on foreign equity and include a significant portion of specialty asset classes like real estate, infrastructure and commodities. These specialty assets, as well as the other asset classes in these funds, are managed by firms specialized in pension fund management not usually available to individual investors. Due to their diversification, ASTRA Celestia Funds have the potential to decrease portfolio volatility in the long term and increase returns. The addition of this new fund family will enable SSQ to offer a wider range of balanced funds to clients wishing to invest in its ASTRA Guaranteed Income product.

About SSQ Financial Group

With $2 billion in annual revenue and more than $4 billion in assets under management, SSQ Financial Group is a leading mutual diversified financial institution. The Group serves over one million clients and provides jobs to over 1,400 employees. SSQ, Life Insurance Company Inc., the Group’s principal company, is recognized as a leader in the group insurance industry and as an expert in the investment and retirement sector. SSQ Financial Group is also a rising star in home and auto insurance (SSQ General Insurance Company Inc.) and realty management (SSQ Realty Inc.).

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