Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial
Sun Life Financial
Type Public
Industry Financial Services
Founded 1865 in Montreal, Quebec
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario
Key people Donald A. Stewart, CEO
Dean A. Connor, President
Kevin P. Dougherty, President (Canada; Sun Life Global Investments)
Westley V. Thompson, President (US)
Dikran Ohannessian, President (Asia)
Colm J. Freyne, CFO
Stephen C. Peacher, Chief Investment Officer
Mark S. Saunders, Chief Information Officer
Products Financial Services, Financial planning and advice, Life insurance, Health insurance, dental insurance, disability insurance, Investments and retirement savings
Revenue increase $15.510 billion CAD (2009)[1]
Net income increase $622 million CAD (2009)[1]
Employees 29,180 including India and China joint venture company employees (2008)[2]

Sun Life Financial Inc. is an international financial services company known primarily as a life insurance company. Based in Toronto, Canada, Sun Life and its partners provide insurance, retirement and investment solutions for individuals and businesses around the world including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. Sun Life ranks number 236 on the Forbes Global 2000 list for 2010.



Pre-World War II

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, as The Sun Insurance Company of Montreal in 1865 by Mathew Hamilton Gault, an Irish immigrant who settled in Montreal in 1842, its operations actually began in 1871. By the end of the nineteenth century it had expanded to Central and South America, the United States, the United Kingdom, West Indies, Japan, China, India, North Africa and other international markets. During the next five decades the company grew and prospered, surviving the difficulties of World War I and the large drain on its finances through policy claims arising from the large number of deaths caused by the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918.

The company's original Dominion Square building in Montreal was built in 1918. Capping a Montreal construction boom that began in the 1920s, the company completed construction of the expansion of its headquarters with its new 26-storey headquarters north tower in 1933. Although the new head office of the Royal Bank of Canada at 360 St. James Street in Montreal was taller by several floors, the Sun Life Building was at the time the largest building in terms of square footage anywhere in the British Empire.

To the memory of J.P. Lansfield: E.T Dawson: D.C. Elder: H.D. Hodkinson of the staff of this branch of the Sun Insurance Office who fell in the war 1939–1945
Sun Insurance WWII memorial, now at the UK's National Memorial Arboretum

World War II

In World War II the British Crown Jewels as well as the gold reserves of several European countries were moved to what is now known as the Old Sun Life Building for safekeeping.[3] The Sun Life Company also reports that this building "...and its basement was the secret storage location of British securities during World War II." [4]

Post-World War II

During the post-war period, the company's successful business strategies made it one of Montreal's largest white-collar employers, one of the top corporations in Canada, as well as a global player in the life insurance field. For the first half of the 20th century, the city of Montreal had been the economic hub of Canada, but it was losing ground to Toronto. As early as 1950, Toronto's economic activity surpassed Montreal's with regards to stock market trading and capitalization. The advent, in the 1960s, of political and terrorist movements demanding Quebec independence from Canada cast a pallor of uncertainty over the business community. In 1977, the newly elected sovereigntist Quebec government passed the Charter of the French Language (known as Bill 101), making the use of French language mandatory for medium- and large-scale companies when communicating with French-speaking staff. This law was received negatively by the English-speaking business community, many of whom perceived that the historical rights of the English-speaking minority should be respected. On January 6, 1978, the company scaled down the Montreal facilities to serve as a branch service bureau while shifting its head office to rented space in Toronto, Ontario. Officially, Sun Life said it was motivated by the political instability and economic uncertainty of Quebec's future, but skeptics said it was the company's unwillingness to comply with the requirements of Bill 101. In 1979 the company acquired a property at University Avenue and King Street in downtown Toronto and constructed a major ultra-modern office complex called Sun Life Centre, which was completed in 1984.

Bill 101 required more than French communications with French-speaking staff. It made French the official language of the workplace. It also provided that present and prospective employees who could not speak English not be discriminated against because of their inability to speak English.

For the largest employer of English-speaking people in Montreal, this would make things very difficult. Many, if not most, of Sun Life's Head Office employees in 1979 could not speak French fluently. Sun Life was quite clear that this was the reason for their move when they made the announcement. The PQ government was quick to label Sun Life "bad corporate citizens" and claimed that if "they had only warned us, we could have worked something out." [5]

The downsizing of Sun Life's Montreal office did not take place overnight. Transfers and moves were made on a per department basis and did not commence until several months after the announcement of the move.

The transfer of Sun Life's Head Office from Montreal to Toronto is viewed by many to be the start of an exodus of corporate entities from Montreal, but Sun Life was not the first company to leave. Many companies had left long before Sun Life did, only on a much quieter, private basis.

There were several other key activities in the post-war years including the decision by Sun Life to leave many markets, including China and India, because of economic and political changes. In 1962, Sun Life became a mutual company and bought back its shares for $65 million in total. In 1973, Sun Life opened its American subsidiary's new headquarters in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts at the outskirts of Boston.

1980s – 1990s

Sun Life continued to expand its wealth management business with the 1982 acquisition of Massachusetts Financial Services (MFS), the Boston-based investment management and mutual fund company. It entered the mutual fund business in Canada by forming Spectrum Mutual Fund Services in 1987 and a decade later, acquired McLean Budden, a Canadian investment management firm. International expansion continued in the 1990s. In 1995, Sun Life entered the Indonesia market through local company PT Asuransi Modern Sun Life, now called PT Sun Life Financial Indonesia and opened a Representative Office in Beijing in preparation to enter China. A year later, Sun Life opened a services centre in Waterford, Ireland, to provide technology and business processing support for Sun Life business units.

In 1999, Sun Life officially returned to India and China when it established two joint ventures – Birla Sun Life in India with local partner Aditya Birla Group, and Sun Life Everbright in China with partner China Everbright Limited. Over the next decade, both operations grew rapidly – by September 2008, there were 132,460 Birla Sun advisors working in 600 branches across India while Sun Life Everbright opened its sixth branch in Guangzhou, bringing its presence to 18 cities in China.

The Sun Life building in Montreal, Quebec

2000 to present

In early 1998, Sun Life announced its intention to demutualize. In March 2000, its Initial Public Offering (IPO) started the trading of its shares on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges.

In 2002, Sun Life combined its operations with Clarica Life Insurance Company of Waterloo, Ontario. Founded in 1870 as Mutual Life of Canada, Clarica was known as The Mutual Group before it went public in 1999. Waterloo, Ontario became the home to the Canadian operations while a regional office and Sun Life’s corporate headquarters remained in Toronto. There are also regional offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax and Calgary. After the operations were integrated, the Clarica brand name continued to be used for certain products and activities until its retirement in 2007.

In 2005, Sun Life opened a service centre in Gurgaon, India to provide business processing and technology support for Sun Life Financial business units around the world. That same year, Sun Life purchased CMG Asia and CommServe Financial, the Hong Kong insurance and pension operations of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, tripling its customer base and adding group insurance and pensions to its business lines.

In 2007, Sun Life purchased the employee benefits business of Genworth Financial, placing itself in the top 10 in the U.S. group benefits market.

In 2008, Sun Life sold its 37% interest in CI Financial Income Fund to Scotiabank. Sun Life had originally acquired a significant ownership interest in the firm by selling its mutual fund subsidiaries to CI Financial in 2002.[5] While it no longer owns an interest in CI Financial, Sun Life continues to have a distribution arrangement with CI Financial.

At September 30, 2008, Sun Life had assets under management of Cdn $389 billion and including joint ventures had more than 28,000 employees and 147,590 advisors in 22 countries serving more than 25 million customers worldwide. Birla Sun Life is ranked as one of the top six privately owned life insurers in India.[6] While in Canada, Sun Life is ranked #1 in several lines of business including Defined Contribution Pension Plans, Group RRSPs and Deferred Profit Sharing Plans.[7]

Sun Life Financial Inc. shares trade on the Toronto, New York, and Philippines stock exchanges. It is one of Standard & Poor's Global 1200 companies.

In 2009, Sun Life began an aggressive nationwide ad campaign in the United States touting their strength and the fact that they did not accept any bailout money. The commercials parody the concept of naming rights, where a couple naïve employees go around the country attempting to put the company's name on various sun-themed things, from KC and the Sunshine Band to Cirque du Soleil to the state of Florida. In a case of life imitating art, they would actually purchase naming rights to the former Dolphin Stadium in Miami.

On January 18, 2010, Sun Life purchased the naming rights for the home field of the Miami Dolphins for a reported US$7.5 million per year.[8] Under the five year contract the stadium will be named Sun Life Stadium.

Awards, sponsorship and philanthropy

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In 2008, Sun Life received the following awards:

  • Named one of the 50 Best Corporate Citizens in Canada[9]
  • Sun Life’s China operations recognized for exceptional corporate social responsibility
  • Insurance and Financial Communicators Association Award of Excellence for the Canadian Sun Life My Financial Plan website
  • The Canadian Children’s Aid Foundation's Corporate Award recognizing more than 25 years of support, including sponsorship of The Sun Life Financial Health and Well-Being Fund.
  • In Canada, The Globe and Mail Business for the Arts Award
  • Sun Life named Child-Friendly Company in the Philippines
  • Sun Life’s Hong Kong operations received Lipper Fund Awards
  • Birla Sun Life awarded Mutual Fund House of the Year for 2007 in India
  • Sun Life’s Hong Kong operations named “Caring Company” for sustainable commitment in good corporate citizenship.
  • Top 50 Best Companies to Work For in Ireland
The Sun Life Financial Canadian headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario

Among other contributions in 2008, Sun Life provided financial and other support to the following organizations and initiatives:

  • The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation’s "Restart a Heart, Restart a Life Campaign"
  • ORBIS Canada’s India Childhood Blindness Initiative
  • Canada’s National Ballet School
  • Canadian Hearing Society’s Doctor Referral Program
  • Vancouver International Children’s Festival’s Adopt a Class program
  • West Park Healthcare Centre’s Spasticity Program
  • Segal Centre for Performing Arts at the Saidye
  • University of New Brunswick and Sun Life Financial Fitness and Lifestyle Assessment Centre
  • Saint Elizabeth Health Care’s First Nations communities program
  • Montreal Heart Institute
  • Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre Company Rush Program
  • Disaster relief work in China
  • One Nigh Live in support of Sunnybrook Foundation [10]

Sun Life is also the name sponsor of Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, home of the Miami Dolphins football team (NFL), the University of Miami Hurricanes football team (NCAA), the annual Orange Bowl college football bowl game, and until 2012, the Florida Marlins baseball team (MLBNational League).

Corporate governance

Current members of the board of directors of Sun Life Financial are:[11]

  • Ronald W. Osborne, FCA (Chairman)           
  • George W. Carmany, III
  • John H. Clappison, FCA
  • David A. Ganong, C.M.
  • Krystyna T. Hoeg, CA
  • William D. Anderson, CA
  • Martin J. G. Glynn
  • Jon A. Boscia
  • Dean A. Connor
  • David W. Kerr, CA
  • Idalene F. Kesner
  • Mitchell M. Merin
  • Bertin F. Nadeau
  • Hon. Hugh D. Segal, CM
  • Donald A. Stewart
  • James H. Sutcliffe, FIA
  • Richard H. Booth


  1. ^ a b "2009 Annual Report: Consolidated Financial Statements". Sun Life Financial Inc.. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  2. ^ "Globe Investor – Sun Life Financial Inc. Company Snapshot". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b "CBC reports on Sun Life leaving Montreal in 1978". CBC News. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  6. ^ "Market share of Life Insurance Companies in India". Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  7. ^ 2008 Capital Accumulation Plan Report, Benefits Canada, as of June 30, 2008
  8. ^ Lefton, Terry (2010-01-18). "Dolphins sell stadium naming rights to Sun Life". 
  9. ^ "Best 50 Corporate Citizens 2008". Archived from the original on 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  10. ^ "Sunnybrook Foundation". Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  11. ^ "Sun Life Financial Inc (SLF:US): Board of Directors - Business Week". Retrieved 2010-01-25. 

External links

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