Swiss insurer Zurich has beaten analyst estimates with strong first-half figures, including a 21% hike in net profits, helped by higher premiums and strong results in its life business.

The insurance giant reported a net income of $1.8 billion and a 17% increase in operating profits to $2.3 billion. This was an improvement on analyst forecasts, which had put first half revenues at between $1.5 and $1.7 billion and operating profit at between $2.1 and $2.3 billion.

Zurich attributed the strong results to growth in its general insurance division, which represents more than half the business, where profits hit $1.38 billion, up from $1.26 billion a year ago.

Life insurance also performed well, seeing a 22% rise in profits from $440 million to $536 million in the first half of the year. The company said new products and changes in the business model over the last two years contributed to the results. The unit also achieved strong results in Germany, Switzerland and the UK.

Zurich said it is now on track to meet its goal of generating operating improvements of $500 million in its general and life insurance operations over the full year.