Bank of Ireland Life, the life and pensions subsidiary of the Bank of Ireland Group, has announced an increase of 21% in its new business sales for last year.

Bank of Ireland Life, which includes New Ireland Assurance, said that its total annual premium equivalent grew by 21% to €284m. Pension annual premiums rose by 22% to €137m, while unit linked lump sum sales jumped by 82% to €550m.

The bank also said that increases in SSIA contributions were up by a massive 87% to €9.4m. This compared to a figure of €5m in 2003.

'Underpinned by this strong sales performance, Bank of Ireland Life is confident that, when industry figures are published later in the year, they will show a market share increase of between 2% and 3% for the company,' a statement said this morning.

Bank of Ireland Life's Managing Director Brian Forrester said he was positive for the year ahead.

'We expect to see the pensions market remain buoyant, underpinned by the Government's strong commitment to increasing pensions coverage in Ireland,' Mr Forrester said.

'Improved returns from equity markets and growing investor confidence suggest that equity based investment sales will continue to increase. I am confident that we can follow this year's success with another great year in 2005,' he added.