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Sun Life Financial, Inc. is a Canadian financial services company known primarily as a life insurance company. It is one of the largest life insurance companies in the world, and also one of the oldest with a history spanning back to 1865.

Sun Life Financial, Inc.
IndustryFinancial Services
Founded1865; 154 years ago (1865)
Montreal, Quebec
HeadquartersSun Life Global Headquarters, One York Street
Toronto, Ontario
Key people
William D. Anderson, FCPA, FCA, Chairman
Dean A. Connor, President and CEO,
ProductsFinancial Services, Financial planning and advice, Life insurance, Health insurance, dental insurance, disability insurance, Investments, pension plans, institutional asset management and retirement savings
RevenueIncrease CA$ 26.997 billion (2018)[1]
Increase CA$ 3.511 billion (2018)[1]
Increase CA$ 2.914 billion (2018)[1]
AUMDecrease CA$ 951.1 billion (2018)[1]
Total assetsIncrease CA$ 1 trillion (2019)[1]
Number of employees
37,000 employees (2018)[2]

Sun Life Financial has a presence in investment management with over CAD$1 trillion in assets under management operating in a number of countries.[3] Sun Life ranks number 273 on the Forbes Global 2000 list for 2019.



Pre-World War IIEdit

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, as The Sun Insurance Company of Montreal in 1865 by Matthew Hamilton Gault (1822-1887), an Irish immigrant who settled in Montreal in 1842, its operations actually began in 1871. By the end of the 19th 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 head office of the Royal Bank of Canada on St. James Street 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.

Chartered in 1865, its traditional base business worldwide remains life insurance, but it now also has significant asset management operations. In 1919, it was the first Canadian company to offer group life insurance. Having begun its first US operations in 1895, the company sold its first group life plan in the U.S. in 1924.

World War IIEdit

Sun Life Global Headquarters at One York Street in Toronto, Canada

In World War II, the gold reserves and securities of several European countries were secretly moved to the Sun Life Building for safekeeping. A persistent rumour that the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom were illegally shipped out of the United Kingdom during WWII and stored there was deliberately spread in Montreal to account for increased activity at the building.[4]

Post-World War IIEdit

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 the independence of Quebec 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. The 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. the new government also promised a referendum on Quebec sovereignty, injecting instability into the Montreal business community.[5] On January 6, 1978, Sun Life became the first large company to leave Quebec post-election, announcing that it would move its head office to rented space in Toronto, Ontario.[5][6][7] 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.[7] In a reaction the next day, the province's finance minister Jacques Parizeau called Sun Life "one of the worst exporters of Quebec capital",[8] and threatened to freeze some $400 million CAD in assets.[8][9]

In 1979, the company acquired a property at University Avenue and King Street in downtown Toronto and constructed a new office complex, the Sun Life Centre, which was completed in 1984.[10]

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.

Sun Life Place in Edmonton, Alberta

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 were not fluent in French. Sun Life was quite clear that this was the reason for its move when it 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."[11]

The downsizing of Sun Life's Montreal office did not take place overnight. Transfers and moves occurred on a departmental basis and did not commence until several months after the announcement. By 1980, 300 head office employees were located in Toronto.[12]

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 repurchased its shares for $65 million in total. In 1973, Sun Life opened its American subsidiary's new headquarters in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts outside Boston.[citation needed]

1980s – 1990sEdit

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 (subsequently sold to CI Financial) and a decade later, acquired McLean Budden, a Canadian investment management firm (subsequently folded into MFS). 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 Group. Over the next decade, both operations grew rapidly – by September 2008, there were 132,460 Birla Sun Life 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


In early 1998, Sun Life announced its intention to demutualize. In March 2000, its Initial Public Offering (IPO) started the trading of Sun Life Financial Inc. 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. The former head office for Mutual Life Assurance Company at 227 King Street South in Waterloo became the home to Sun Life's Canadian operations, while a regional office and Sun Life's corporate headquarters remained in Toronto. The company also maintains regional offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax and Calgary. After it integrated operations, the company used the Clarica brand name for certain products and activities until 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 U.S. 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 Canadian mutual fund subsidiaries to CI Financial in 2002.[13]

At September 30, 2008, Sun Life had assets under management of C$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 Insurance is ranked as one of the top six privately owned life insurers in India.[14] 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.[15]

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 its strength and the fact that it did not accept any bailout money. The commercials parody the concept of naming rights, where a couple of 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, on January 18, 2010, Sun Life purchased the naming rights for the home field of the Miami Dolphins in Miami Gardens, Florida for a reported US$7.5 million per year.[16] Under the five-year contract the stadium is named Sun Life Stadium. The naming rights expired in January 2016.


In 2013, Sun Life acquired 49% Aviva PLC's Malaysian insurance joint venture with lender CIMB Group. Sun Life acquired the business along with Malaysian state investor Khazanah Nasional, which also purchased 49%. They each paid approximately CDN$300 million. CIMB retains 2% interest.

In 2015, Sun Life acquired the Employee Benefits business of Assurant Inc. The transaction closed in March 2016, creating the sixth-largest group benefits business in the U.S.

Following its formation in 2014, Sun Life Investment Management (now known as SLC Management) expanded with three acquisitions: Bentall Kennedy, Prime Advisors Inc., and Ryan Labs Asset Management.

The Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association announced that Sun Life will become their jersey sponsor beginning with the 2017-18 NBA season.

Asset managementEdit

Sun Life’s asset management operation includes subsidiaries MFS Investment Management, which serves individual and institutional investors around the world, and SLC Management, which provides investment solutions[buzzword] for defined benefit pension plans, insurance companies and other institutional investors globally.

As of March 31, 2019, SLC Management's collective operations have assets under management of C$212 billion (US$159 billion)[17].

SLC Management was established in 2019 and includes the following group of companies:

  • Bentall Kennedy
  • Prime Advisors Inc.
  • Ryan Labs Asset Management
  • Sun Life Institutional Investments (US & Canada) Inc.

The company operates in India as Birla Sun Life Asset Management. Established in 1994, Birla Sun Life Asset Management Company Ltd. (BSLAMC), investment manager for Birla Sun Life mutual fund, has been a joint venture between the Aditya Birla Group and Sun Life Financial Inc. since 1999. Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund is the fourth largest Fund house in India based on domestic average assets under management as published by AMFI for the quarter ended March 31, 2014.

Sun Life Financial also has strong asset management presence in Philippines. It is currently the largest non-bank affiliated asset management company in the country with almost P47 billion in assets under management (AUM) as of December 2014.


Sun Life Global Headquarters in Toronto, Ontario is located at One York Street in Toronto's South Core.

The building was developed by Menkes Developments Ltd, and Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), which is also a tenant of the building.

The 800,000 square-foot office tower is LEED Platinum certified under the Canada Green Building Council.

This location along the Gardiner Expressway is a prominent position on the Toronto skyline,

Before the Corporate Office moved to its new Global HQ at One York Street, the Sun Life Centre on King Street served as its headquarters. Previously, Sun Life Building in Montreal was the head office. The Sun Life Building in Montreal is a historic 122 m (400 ft), 24 storey office building at 1155 Metcalfe Street on Dorchester Square in downtown Montreal.

Toronto Raptors Jersey SponsorshipEdit

Former Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard wearing the Sun Life patch on his jersey

The Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association announced that Sun Life will become their jersey sponsor for the 2017-18 NBA Season.

This agreement was extended into the 2018/19 season, and is the first jersey patch partnership in the team's history.

The Sun Life patch appears on the front left shoulder of Raptors game jerseys.

Jersey sponsorships were introduced league-wide as part of a three-year NBA pilot program.

Corporate governanceEdit

Current members of the board of directors of Sun Life Financial are:[18]

  • William D. Anderson, FCPA, FCA (Chairman)
  • Dean A. Connor (President & CEO)
  • Martin J. G. Glynn (Corporate Director)
  • M. Marianne Harris (Corporate Director)
  • Sara Grootwassink Lewis, CPA, CFA (Corporate Director)
  • James M. Peck (Corporate Director)
  • Stephanie L. Coyles (Corporate Director)
  • Scott F. Powers (Corporate Director)
  • Hugh D. Segal, OC, OONT, CD (Principal of Massey College, University of Toronto)
  • Ashok K. Gupta (Corporate Director)
  • Barbara G. Stymiest, FCPA, FCA (Corporate Director)


  1. ^ a b c d e Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "nn" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^
  3. ^ Sun Life reaches Q1'19 milestone of $1 trillion Assets Under Management. Sun Life. pp.'19+milestone+of+$1+trillion+Assets+Under+Management?vgnLocale=en_CA&id=123259.
  4. ^ Alfred Draper (1979). Operation Fish: The Race to Save Europe's Wealth, 1939–1945. Cassell. pp. 255–257. ISBN 978-0-304-30068-6.
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ Rowland Mans (1978). Canada's Constitutional Crisis: Separatism and Subversion. Institute for the Study of Conflict.
  10. ^ Mike Filey (1 October 1997). Toronto Sketches 5: The Way We Were. Dundurn. pp. 137–. ISBN 978-1-4597-1330-7.
  11. ^ Reporters: Karen Birchard, Richard Inwood (January 6, 1978). "CBC reports on Sun Life leaving Montreal in 1978". The World At Six. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "CBC News - CI Fund acquires Sun Life mutual fund business". 22 May 2002. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  14. ^ "Life Insurers Market Share". March 14, 2008. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  15. ^ 2008 Capital Accumulation Plan Report, Benefits Canada, as of June 30, 2008[dead link]
  16. ^ Lefton, Terry (January 18, 2010). "Dolphins sell stadium naming rights to Sun Life". South Florida Business Journal. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  17. ^ "Sun Life Announces Establishment of SLC Management".
  18. ^ "Board of Directors".

External linksEdit