In April, Great-West Life Assurance Company (GWL), London Life Insurance Company and Canada Life Assurance Company of Canada proposed amalgamating into a single brand: Canada Life. On Oct. 3, 2019, policyholders from the three firms voted to approve the move.
“The goal of this tie-up is to improve the experience for our customers and advisors by being more efficient and agile, such as by developing and launching products faster in the marketplace,” says Monique Maynard, president of Quebec Affairs and chief actuary, Canada, for all three insurers.
In April, the organization set a goal that all individual products and services in Canada would be provided under the new brand within 12 months, and within 24 months for the group insurance segment.
After GWL acquired London Life (in 1997) and Canada Life (in 2003), all three brands continued alongside one another. It made sense then, because there were different products and operating systems, says Maynard. “But over the years, products and systems have been harmonized and a large number of employees have been working for all three brands. As for advisors, whether term or universal life insurance was from Canada Life or London Life, it was pretty much the same product, and all this operationalization was getting very cumbersome,” she explains.
Canada Life President and CEO Paul Mahon outlined the goal of the process last July. “The move to a single legal entity will allow us to streamline our operations, focus more on our investments in technology and innovation, and improve the experience of advisors and policyholders,” said Mahon.
The amalgamation process began nearly three years ago, and should be officially completed by January 1, 2020, if all necessary approvals are obtained as planned, according to Maynard.
Now that policyholders have approved, it’s now up to the regulators and the federal finance minister to give their blessing.
GWL, a life insurance company, was founded in Winnipeg in 1891. Power Corporation became a major shareholder in 1969. Today, the three insurers serve more than 13 million customers across Canada and have more than 11,000 employees, mainly located in their major centres in Montreal, London, Toronto, Regina and Winnipeg.
33 years at GWL
Maynard was appointed president of Quebec Affairs in November 2016. A Franco-Manitoban, she was born in the village of Saint-Malo, south of Winnipeg, and grew up on a farm with five brothers and sisters.
“Family is the mainstay in my life. Because of my roots, it made sense to go to [GWL], which is ‘the’ company in Winnipeg,” says Maynard. She joined the firm after receiving a bachelor of commerce with a major in actuarial mathematics from the University of Manitoba. “I’ve been with the company for almost 33 years now.”
Initially, Maynard planned to spend a few years with the insurer and then set up her actuarial practice — entrepreneurship runs in her family.
“My father was a farmer, but also a building contractor. My older sister became an accountant. She’s an entrepreneur, like my two brothers. So, it’s a way of life that spoke volumes to me. But the company’s vision, rooted in simplicity, stability and authenticity, reflected my own values, and I decided to stay on,” she explains.
Maynard felt some frustration early on, as she had imagined she would be helping people in a frontline role at GWL. “After finishing my actuarial studies, I was offered a position with the group insurance arm, as I’d hoped. But the chief actuary approached me and told me that they’d rather I took another position in the valuation department. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I made the move. It was the best decision I’ve made in my career.”
This experience, which lasted five years, equipped Maynard with solid product knowledge, particularly about risk assessment and price-setting. “It gave me the opportunity to acquire the skills I needed to realize my full potential and move forward,” she says. Maynard has since held senior roles in product and business development, pricing, claims, underwriting, new business administration and client service for individual insurance.
Listening to advisors
As president, Quebec Affairs, Maynard provides strategic direction on all issues and initiatives that affect customers in Quebec. She also represents the companies in the community, the industry and with the government, as well as with the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA).
In this latter role, Maynard supported CLHIA’s decision last May to withdraw Guideline G19 on advisor compensation for group benefits and group retirement services. “Advisor feedback was very important in this case. You have to listen to what our advisors want in order to understand what’s best for them,” she explains.
Maynard insists that “our relationship with advisors is of the utmost importance to us. The new Canada Life’s growth potential relies heavily on them.”
Advisors and employees were involved from the outset in the process of amalgamating the entities and adopting a new common brand, she says. “We received feedback from the focus groups. Our advisors helped determine how things were going to work and move forward.”
No changes the distribution networks are expected to under the new brand, Maynard adds. “We’ll continue to have networks embracing all sales channels, from our exclusive network to the other side of the market, with general agents and independents. This is important to us, because by being able to distribute our solutions in the marketplace in every possible way, we reach people the way they want us to.”
Maynard also sees no threats to advisors from online insurance sales directly to clients, a process made possible in Quebec by the recent passage of Bill 14.
Sales through advisors will always remain the primary insurance distribution channel “for our company and the entire industry,” she says. “Internet sales do not replace existing channels. They only result in adding an alternative. More Quebecers will have access to insurance” with this new channel, “but advice remains essential and will continue,” she says.
However, customer habits and needs are changing, including how they work and want to access information, adds Maynard, who refers to the digital transformation underway at Canada Life. Alongside the amalgamation, the company is also leveraging technology to facilitate the introduction of online tools to “improve the service we provide to advisors to support them in providing service to their customers.”
Maynard talks in particular about a newly launched digital platform for advisors that links into back-office administrative systems to provide direct access to customer and policy information.
She also mentions the launch of SimpleProtect in March 2019. This tool allows advisors to complete insurance applications online in an average of 20 minutes. In some cases, a policy can be issued instantly. Initially, the tool was used to submit term life applications. Since then, critical illness insurance has been added to the coverage supported.
In 2014, the market share for direct premiums written in Quebec by all three of Great-West, London Life and Canada-Life stood at 11.87%, according to a 2018 report on financial institutions by the Autorité des marchés financiers. In 2018, this share was relatively flat at 11.85%.
When asked about her Quebec growth goals, Maynard says that there are “budgets that must be respected, but for me, figures are just figures. The important thing is that when I’m out and about in Montreal and say that I work at Canada Life, people say, ‘I know that company. It helped my brother or sister.’ It moves me to hear a story of a customer we really helped out. That’s why we’re here and why I’ve stayed with the company for over 30 years.”
Maynard, who is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, was appointed chief actuary, Canada for all GWL companies nationwide in mid-2017. In this role, she is responsible for approving newly developed products, confirming company reserve calculations and implementing all actuarial policies and practices.
“My two roles go hand in hand,” she says. “By serving on the national executive in my technical role, I can influence the strategy and direction the company is taking, while my position as president, Quebec Affairs, allows me to bring a more local perspective, to indicate what the needs are here for our customers and advisors and have influence for Quebec and Canada.”
In a nutshell, “you can’t think of being a leader in Canada without being very well established in Quebec,” concludes Maynard.