Sun Life building and Place Ville Marie, downtown Monteral

Sun Life Financial Inc. says net income for the first quarter was $806 million, up more than 21% from $665 million a year earlier.

The Toronto-based company says diluted earnings per share were $1.37, up from $1.13 for the same quarter last year.

This was the first earnings quarter for the company under new accounting standards which came into play Jan. 1.

Sun Life says the higher net income reflects higher underlying net income as well as a gain on the Feb. 1 sale of its sponsored markets business from subsidiary Sun Life Assurance to Canadian Premier Life Insurance Company.

The company increased its common share dividend by three cents to 75 cents per share.

Sun Life president and CEO Kevin Strain said in a press release that the company saw strong growth in its health and protection sales.

In Canada, Q1 individual insurance sales were up 21% year over year to $136 million, driven by higher participating life sales.

Wealth sales in Canada were down 23% year over year to $3.09 billion, driven by lower defined-contribution sales in group retirement services and lower mutual fund sales in individual wealth.

As of March 31, Sun Life had total assets under management of $1.36 trillion, up 0.9% from $1.35 trillion the year prior and up 3% from $1.32 trillion as of Dec. 31, 2022, driven in part by favourable market movements and by the acquisition of 51% of Monument, Colo.–based Advisors Asset Management Inc., which closed on Feb. 1.

Underlying net income for the Canadian business segment grew 53% to $316 million, reflecting higher investment income, higher margins in group disability insurance and higher individual insurance premiums.