Today's call will reference our earnings announcement, statistical package and webcast slides, which are available in the Investor Relations section of our website at manulife.com.As in prior quarters, our executives will be making some introductory comments. We will then follow with a question-and-answer session. Available to answer questions about their businesses are the Heads of Asia, the U.S., Canada, Investments and General Account Investments. Today's speakers may make forward-looking statements within the meaning of securities legislation. Certain material factors or assumptions are applied in making forward-looking statements, and actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied. For additional information about the material factors or assumptions applied and about the important factors that may cause actual results to differ, please consult the slide presentation for this conference call and webcast available on our website, as well as the securities filings referred to in the slide entitled Caution Regarding Forward-Looking Statements. [Operator Instructions] With that, I'd like to turn the call over to Donald Guloien, our President and Chief Executive Officer. Donald? Donald A. Guloien Thank you, Anthony. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. I'm joined on the call today by our CFO, Michael Bell, as well as several members of our senior management team, including our U.S. General Manager, Jim Boyle; our Canadian General Manager, Paul Rooney; our Asian General Manager, Bob Cook; Warren Thomson, our Chief Investment Officer; Scott Hartz, our Executive Vice President, General Account Investments; Cindy Forbes, our Chief Actuary, and Rahim Hirji, our Chief Risk Officer. Also with us today is Steve Roder, who as we announced this morning, will be joining us as our new CFO. This morning, we announced our first quarter 2012 financial results. We reported net income of $1.2 billion for the quarter, which is up from $985 million in the first quarter of 2011. We entered 2012 with a very solid foundation for growth. Our first quarter reflects strong markets, positive hedging results, 35% higher Insurance sales and stronger underlying earnings relative to the fourth quarter of 2011.
The strength of our underlying earnings reflects our healthier business mix, with the emphasis on wealth management, Insurance products with less risks, higher margins and higher returns. While we're very pleased with our results, the first quarter was not without its challenges. We experienced poor policyholder experience, which we expect at largely a random fluctuation and mutual funds sale's slightly lower than last year. That being said, we reported record funds under management of $512 billion, which fuels current and future fee revenue. In Asia, we delivered record Insurance sales. This demonstrates, among other things, that investments in our brand and distribution are paying off. In Canada, our broad-based diversified financial services strategy has resulted in strong Insurance sales led by record sales in our Group Benefits business. In the United States, we continue to leverage our distribution strength, to deliver solid Insurance, mutual funds and 401(k) sales.On the investment side, mutual funds managed by Manulife Asset Management received 8 Lipper Awards and our general account asset performance continue to be a strength of the company. In conclusion, I'm pleased with our solid first quarter results, favorable markets, positive hedging results, strong insurance sales and stronger underlying earnings relative to the fourth quarter of 2011 all contributed. We believe these results will provide investors with a sense of the potential of our company and where our strategy is leading us. Before I turn things over to Michael Bell, I'd like to say a few words. This is Mike's last quarterly earnings call, and I want to give credit to Mike and the team for improving the transparency and understandability of the finances of our company. As I mentioned, we're bringing in a new CFO, Steve Roder, who will continue to lead these improvements. Steve brings to Manulife 25 years of experience in public accounting and his integrity values, professionalism and communication skills will ensure that our disclosure continues to be of the highest quality. In addition, Steve's deep understanding of the financial services market in Asia will be a key asset given our heightened focus on the region. I'm looking forward to working with Steve when he joins us formally at the beginning of June. Michael will be staying with us to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities. Mike has helped guide Manulife through some of the most challenging times, and I want to thank him for all his considerable contributions. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com