Life Insurance Companies in Canada – Who Owns Whom

The variety of life insurance companies in Canada is not what it appears to be in the Canadian market. From a consumer perspective, there are nearly 50 life and health insurance providers, but the reality is a bit different…

Canadian Life Insurance companies

Here you can download this infographic as a PDF

What are a few key things to start with?

1. The majority of the market is owned by three life insurance giants: Manulife Financial (who also owns, among others, John Hancock in the U.S.A), Sun Life Financial, and Great-West Life.

2. The majority of life insurance companies operate nationwide because there are no significant provincial regulations similar to those in car insurance industry.
As we analyzed life and health insurance companies in Canada, we identified five groups of insurers. The size of an insurance company reflects its assets under management (AUM) based on life and wealth segments of the company’s business.

As we analyzed life and health insurance companies in Canada, we identified five groups of insurers. The size of an insurance company reflects its assets under management (AUM) based on life and wealth segments of the company’s business.

Group #1: The Big 3

These are three gigantic companies, which, altogether, hold the majority of the market while playing in all segments of the life insurance business: individual life and health, group life and benefits, wealth management, pension plan administration, and (some of them) banking.

These companies grew both organically and through acquisitions:

  • Manulife acquired Standard Life and Maritime Life in Canada, and John Hancock in the U.S., where it operates under that brand.
  • Sun Life Financial acquired Clarica Life Insurance.
  • Great-West Life Assurance Company made two significant acquisitions – London Life Insurance and Canada Life Insurance.

Group #2: Universal Insurers

Universal insurers are insurance companies that interact in both the non-life and life insurance space. Often, they will be selling home insurance, car insurance, and commercial insurance (as examples of non-life insurance products), but also life insurance products. This is so they can appeal customers as a one-stop shop.

Prominent examples of companies that fall into this category are Desjardins Insurance (including its acquisition of State Farm Canada), Industrial Alliance, La Capitale, SSQ Financial Group, The Co-operators, and Wawanesa Life.

Group #3: Independent Life and Health Insurance Companies

These companies see life and health insurance as the core of their offering and focus on these products. They either have Canadian origins, such as Empire Life, Foresters, Equitable Life of Canada, Green Shield of Canada, Assumption Life, Humania, and Canadian Protection Plan, or they came from the U.S.A., such as Ivari (former Transamerica) or Primerica.

Group #4: Banks

A while ago, banks realized that helping people with their finances may also involve providing advice on life insurance, savings, pensions, and other related products. As a consequence, all banks now offer life insurance products: RBC Life Insurance, TD Life Insurance, BMO Life Insurance, ScotiaLife Insurance, CIBC Life Insurance, etc. It is important to know, however, that these products are typically less sophisticated than the products of The Big 3.

Group #5: Other Providers

These are company associations like Blue Cross insurance and CAA (The Canadian Automobile Association) insurance. Usually, they have provincial branches of the association.

Given the fact that CAA does not have insurance as its core activity, but still wants to offer it to its own members, the company works with Manulife, who underwrites CAA life insurance, AMA life insurance, BCAA life insurance. This is a typical scenario for association-provided insurance.
Canadian P&C insurersWe hope that you have found this overview and the infographic helpful, and that you’ve learned more about life and health insurance companies in Canada. We also thank Lorne Marr from LSM Insurance for his insight about the life insurance market in Canada. Please, consider that the insurance landscape is constantly changing, and therefore, this picture can constantly evolve.

Searching for a similar overview of property and casualty insurance companies in Canada – you can find it here (or by clicking on the picture).

Source of AUM data: Annual reports / Company websites

Posted in Insurers, life

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