Great-West Lifeco looks to U.S. and Europe for expansion

JACQUELINE NELSON | The Globe and Mail

Great-West Lifeco Inc. is looking south of the border and in Europe for new customers.

The Winnipeg-based insurer and wealth manager says there are plenty of opportunities to build its business in developed markets such as the U.S. and Britain, where competition is fierce but large players are buying smaller ones to gain scale. This will mean competing with major financial firms, but the company has already begun to acquire businesses in these regions and plans to boost its focus on technology to attract more consumers.

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“We could really participate in good growth in the U.S., and we’ll look to acquisitions to bolster that,” Paul Mahon, chief executive of Great-West, said on a recent trip to Toronto. “And in the U.K.? That’s a market that is not fully consolidated either.”

Great-West is Canada’s stealthy insurance giant, sometimes overlooked due to its head office location outside Toronto’s financial core, its holding company structure and because its shares are less widely held than those of competitors.

More than 67 per cent of the company’s outstanding shares are owned by Power Financial Corp., which is backed by Canada’s wealthy Desmarais family.

But 12 million Canadians – one in three – are connected to Great-West through a product or service. The company also operates multiple international insurance and wealth-management brands throughout the U.K. and the United States, such as London Life Insurance Co., Irish Life Financial Services Ltd. and Putnam Investments, and consolidation will be the ticket to building a presence in these markets. That, and keeping an eye on how tech companies such as Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are changing consumers’ expectations for service.

Because Great-West has built its strength in similar Western economies, it often gets the benefit of employee collaboration on new products from Europe, the United States and Canada.

“We can use that commonality of that Western world phenomenon to leverage commonalities across our organization,” Mr. Mahon said. “In the Far East, you’d be be thinking about products we were maybe selling at Great-West Life or London Life 20 or 30 years ago.”

Mr. Mahon said it would be outside Great-West’s wheelhouse to expand into emerging economies and Asia, where large Canadian competitors Manulife Financial Corp. and Sun Life Financial Inc. have had huge growth in insurance and wealth management in recent years.

Instead, Mr. Mahon is looking to the fragmented U.S. market, where the rising cost of regulation stemming from changes after the financial crisis – such as the Dodd-Frank Act – are also making it more efficient to be a larger player.

Last year, U.S. business arm Great-West Financial bought J.P. Morgan Securities Canada Inc.’s retirement plan services unit, which does administration of defined-benefits pension plans, marketing and client services. The business is being integrated with part of Boston-based asset manager Putnam Investments, and will fall under the company’s recently created brand Empower Retirement.

Building in the United States will take time. “Particularly in the massive U.S. market, these investments carry great long-term potential if execution is strong,” Robert Sedran, an analyst at CIBC World Markets, said in a note. “[In the medium term] the costs will likely outweigh the benefits, especially since it is natural for the size of the opportunity to sometimes compromise near-term expense discipline.”

Great-West is more cautious in Europe because of instability in the Euro zone, but has a positive outlook. “As we look to the U.K. and Ireland and Germany, those would be markets we’d see as sound and stable and strong,” Mr. Mahon said. In early 2013, Great-West bought Ireland’s biggest life insurer for $1.75-billion, a move Mr. Mahon said is not only a good strategic fit, but has also benefited from the country’s economic recovery.

Amid the hunt for growth, the pool of opponents is getting broader. “It’s not just traditional life insurers that we view as competition any more. You look to financial services evolving out of Wal-Mart,” he said, adding that even some drug stores are selling pet and travel insurance at the end of the aisle. “And then there’s digital players like Google – what will Google Finance become?” he said.

Customers’ digital experiences should be compared not to what Manulife might offer them, but to what they are getting from Amazon.com Inc. and other digital players, Mr Mahon said. In the future, insurers will not get a pass on a lousy digital experience just because life insurance has long been dominated by paper forms, he added.

At the same time, Mr. Mahon must ensure all changes fit well with the independent cultures of Great-West’s unique businesses. “As you try and create commonality or sharing, you also have to balance that out with making sure you maintain those strong capabilities in markets,” he said. “We’re in growth mode, but it’s thoughtful growth.”

Ecclesiastical Insurance Named One of Canada’s Top Employers for Young People, 2015

TORONTO, ON (Marketwired) – For the third consecutive year, Ecclesiastical Insurance has been named one of Canada’s Top Employers for Young People. The news was received with enormous pleasure and pride by the company’s leadership and by employees across Canada.

The editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers conduct this national competition, now entering its 14th year, in order to recognize organizations that provide the best programs to attract, develop and retain younger employees. As part of the selection process, the Editorial Committee reviews a wide range of initiatives, among them training and mentoring programs, tuition assistance for specific courses or professional designations, as well as career management, advancement and retention.

“We are delighted to receive this prestigious designation for the third time and honoured to be included among many of Canada’s most highly-respected organizations,” said Jacinta Whyte, Deputy Group Chief Executive, Ecclesiastical Insurance, and General Manager & Chief Agent for Canada. “Above all, we are extremely proud of our Business Intern Program and of the young women and men who have graduated to increasingly responsible positions in our company.”

“Our program, based on an accelerated rotational model, is designed specifically for university graduates looking to build careers in the commercial insurance industry,” added Lorna McIntosh, Vice President, Human Resources. “Our Interns have the opportunity to learn about every area of our business and to acquire professional designations. As part of their rotation, they are also placed with non-profit organizations so that they may participate actively in good corporate citizenship. This approach enables young employees to become not only well-rounded insurance professionals but also strong, civic-minded business leaders.”

Being recognized as one of Canada’s Top Employers for Young People speaks to the quality and dedication of all Ecclesiastical employees. Their commitment to the program and to the young people who participate in it have enabled us to foster a culture of learning and mentorship throughout our organization.

About Ecclesiastical Insurance
Founded in 1887 and with offices in Canada since 1972, Ecclesiastical Insurance is a specialist insurance provider. Working closely with the national independent broker network, Ecclesiastical provides customized insurance solutions and services to faith organizations, retirement communities, education facilities, arts & culture institutions, funeral service providers and registered charities and non-profit groups.

Contact:

Lorna McIntosh

Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc

Vice President, Human Resources

Phone: 416-484-4902

E-mail: lmcintosh@eccles-ins.com

The Co-operators acquires majority of The Edge Benefits

GUELPH, ON and NEWMARKET, ON, May 5, 2015 /CNW/ – The Co-operators announced today that it has purchased a majority interest in The Edge Benefits. The current management team will remain in place and The Edge Benefits will continue to operate independently.

The Edge Benefits is a successful, financially strong company that will benefit from the backing of a national multi-product insurance company. The Co-operators will help ensure its continued stability and long-term success in promoting its best-in-class product offerings from leading Canadian insurers.

“This was a natural fit, as the two organizations share similar values and have an established successful relationship,” said Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators. “We look forward to the future, as The Edge Benefits will continue to operate independently, with the same business model and management team.”

The two organizations have enjoyed a strong and successful relationship since 2013, with Co-operators Life Insurance Company supplying simplified disability products through The Edge Benefits.

“The completion of this transaction will enable the EDGE brand to continue its dominant position in providing lifestyle protection plans to the self-employed marketplace,” said David Prince, one of two co-founding partners of the EDGE, along with Jeff Neale. “With The Co-operators, we foresee significant synergies that will build on the legacy we have established over the past 30 years.”

To enable business continuity, Mr. Prince will continue as Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Edge Benefits until December, 2017.

About The Co-operators:
The Co-operators Group Limited is a Canadian-owned co-operative with more than $38 billion in assets under administration. Through its group of companies it offers home, auto, life, group, travel, commercial and farm insurance, as well as investment products. The Co-operators is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. The Co-operators is listed among the 50 Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt; Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada; and the Top 50 Socially Responsible Corporations inCanada by Sustainalytics and Maclean’s magazine. For more information visit www.cooperators.ca.

About The Edge Benefits:
The Edge Benefits takes a simplified approach to offering complex living benefit solutions to Canadian consumers. It provides the self-employed and small business owner with insurance solutions specifically designed to meet their needs. Located in Newmarket, Ontario, the Edge Benefits has 80 employees and more than 45,000 policyholders. Approximately 14,000 licensed insurance advisors across Canada select the EDGE products when offering living benefit solutions that meet their clients’ needs. For more information, please visit www.edgebenefits.com.

SOURCE The Co-operators

Economical donates $10,000 to relief efforts in Nepal

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WATERLOO, ON, April 27, 2015 – In response to the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal, Economical Insurance, one of Canada’s leading providers of home, auto and business insurance, is donating $10,000 to the Canadian Red Cross to support relief efforts that are helping people cope with the disaster.

“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this tragedy,” said Karen Gavan, Economical’s president and CEO. “Today, we join Canadians all across the country in sending our support to the people of Nepal at this difficult time.”

About Economical Insurance
Founded in 1871, Economical Insurance is one of Canada’s leading property and casualty insurers, with approximately $2.0 billion in annualized premium volume and $5.2 billion in assets as at December 31, 2014. Based in Waterloo, this Canadian-owned and operated company services the insurance needs of more than one million customers across the country. Economical Insurance conducts business under the following brands: Economical Insurance, Economical, Western General, Economical Select, Perth Insurance, Family Insurance Solutions, Federation Insurance and Economical Financial.

For further information, contact:
Doug Maybee
Economical Insurance
(T)519.570.8249
(C)519.404.0989
doug.maybee@economical.com

IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. to Acquire First Prairie Financial Inc.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – April 7, 2015) – IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. (“IDC WIN”) and First Prairie Financial Inc. (“First Prairie”) are pleased to announce that they have signed a Letter of Intent and entered into negotiations for IDC WIN to acquire First Prairie, a leading regional MGA in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The transaction is subject to completion of due diligence and the finalization of terms.

Paul Brown, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IDC WIN stated, “We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with First Prairie. They are a highly ethical and professional organization and one of the top regional MGAs. This acquisition will give us a very strong presence in one of the main markets in the country.”

Brown noted that First Prairie Advisors will continue to benefit from having access to First Prairie staff and services, as well as from the additional value that IDC WIN brings as a leading National MGA. “It is a perfect fit for a number of reasons,” said Brown. “First Prairie’s leadership and staff are a great addition to the IDC WIN team.”

“We had IDC WIN on the top of our list as a partner for the next stage of our evolution, as we went through the process of finding a national firm with which to integrate,” said Ken Aberg, President of First Prairie. “We wanted our staff and advisors to feel confident in going forward that our culture would remain and we would have much more to offer in terms of products and services.”

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2015.

About IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc.

IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. is one of Canada’s leading life insurance Managing General Agencies, servicing more than 2,000 advisors across the country through 19 major insurance carriers. IDC WIN prides itself on its service, knowledge and commitment to the Canadian insurance industry, bringing a sharp focus and exceptional standards of operation to all areas of its processes. IDC WIN is about exceptional people servicing dedicated and entrepreneurial advisors, and assisting their clients to meet their insurance and financial goals. To learn more about IDC WIN, visit www.idcwin.ca.

About First Prairie Financial Inc.

First Prairie Financial Inc. was established in 1999 by co-founders Ken Aberg and Joe Ruddell. Operating from their head office in Edmonton, and a branch office in Calgary, the organization has grown to become one of the leading distributors in the industry, with its pledge of “Serving Western Canada’s Premier Insurance and Financial Advisors”. First Prairie is committed to providing the highest standard of professional personalized service. To learn more about First Prairie Financial, visit www.fpfinancial.com.

CONTACT INFORMATION

  • Paul Brown
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
    IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc.
    Telephone: (604) 689-8289
    Email: pbrown@worldsourcewealth.com

Hub International Acquires Assets from Cortex Financial

 

Chicago April 6, 2015

Hub International Limited (Hub) announced today that its subsidiary Hub Financial Inc. (Hub Financial) has acquired the assets of Cortex Financial, a Thornhill, Ontario-based managing general agency.  The acquisition broadens Hub Financial’s footprint in Canada and its reach to financial advisors and insurance brokers seeking multi-fund insurance and risk solutions while maintaining their independence. The business will be managed out of Hub Financial’s Woodbridge, Ontario office.

About Hub’s M&A Activities

Hub International is committed to growth through organic efforts and acquisitions. It continues its aggressive pace of identifying and acquiring entrepreneurial brokers that are dedicated and focused on providing local market specialization, while at the same time looking to leverage the resources and tools of a global brokerage.  For more information about Hub’s M&A activities visit www.WeAreHub.com.

About Hub International

Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Hub International Limited is a leading global insurance brokerage that provides property and casualty, life and health, employee benefits, investment and risk management products and services through offices located in North America. For more information visit www.hubinternational.com.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Marni Gordon
Hub International Limited
Director, Corporate Communications
Phone: 312.279.4601
Marni.Gordon@hubinternational.com
Brokerage and Banker Contact:

Clark Wormer
Hub International Limited
Director, Mergers & Acquisitions
Phone: 312.279.4848
Clark.Wormer@hubinternational.com

Source: HUB International Limited

 

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