Birmingham life office, the Wesleyan Assurance Society, has again produced sector-leading investment returns.

The society, which offers specialist financial services to doctors, dentists and teachers, yesterday posted a gross investment return on its £2.1 billion with-profits, life and pension fund for 2005 of 21.3 per cent.

That compares with the 10.4 per cent achieved by the Wesleyan's far bigger rival, Standard Life. Policyholders are reaping the rewards of the society's refusal to get sucked into the technology, media and telecoms stock market bubble of the late 1990s.

That ensured its capital base stayed firm and the group did not have to shore up its finances by selling shares at a loss during the subsequent three-year bear market.

With UK and overseas equities comprising some 72 per cent of its with-profit asset allocation, the Wesleyan has gained far more from the market upturn than have rivals who bought into gilts.

Investment director Mike Lewis said: "Our equities, particularly UK mid-caps, and our substantial property port-folio - in aggregate making up over 80 per cent of our with-profits fund - did very well for us again last year.

"We believe our overall return will compare most favourably with the majority of our competitors.

"Wesleyan's cumulative with-profits fund return for the five years 2001-2005 inclusive is now 38.4 per cent (plus-6.7 per cent per annum compound). We believe this is also a well above industry-average performance."

Tim Pindar, Wesleyan's actuary, added: "We will shortly be announcing our bonuses for with profit policies, and I expect these to be very competitive.

"We already feature exceptionally highly in top ten tables for payouts and our position is likely to improve following such a good investment return, reflecting the excellent value we have provided to our with profits policyholders by staying heavily invested in equities."