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Manulife Financial president and CEO Donald Guloein is shown at the company's annual general meeting in Toronto in 2011.Adrien Veczan/Reuters

The acquisitions are piling up at Canada's major insurance companies, and there may be more to come.

With capital levels shored up and risk controls tightened in the wake of the recession, insurers have entered a stage of growth that has so far been characterized by a peppering of deals. As the country's three largest insurance companies reported their quarterly results this week, management teams indicated that they're constantly evaluating opportunities to add to their businesses.

Some transactions have been large, but many of the deals rolling in recently have been small enough not to disclose a purchase price, such as the Manulife Financial Corp. 's acquisition of a software provider meant to boost client engagement and the two investment managers that Sun Life Financial Inc. picked up. Still, management teams at both insurers say these deals target key strategy points.

Dean Connor, chief executive officer of Sun Life, said his company has entered an "opportunistic growth phase" that follows a period of reducing the company's risk profile postcrisis, marked by the sale of a U.S. annuity business in 2012.

"We're in a phase now where we are driving growth ... and we have positioned our balance sheet with enough excess capital and liquidity to take advantage of [mergers and acquisitions] opportunities that we uncover to help accelerate that growth," Mr. Connor said in an interview after the company posted second-quarter earnings that beat expectations by a wide margin.

In that latest quarter, the insurer acquired real estate investment manager Bentall Kennedy Group for $560-million and U.S.-based investment management company Prime Advisors Inc. for an undisclosed sum. It also closed a deal for fixed-income-focused U.S. asset manager Ryan Labs Inc.

The latter two asset management deals were the product of a careful hunt by Sun Life, Mr. Connor said. "We set out a deliberate list of companies – asset management firms – that we thought would be a great fit for our strategy and, of course, they weren't for sale," he said. Eventually, the insurer and its targets came to friendly agreements.

Mr. Connor said Sun Life has now been approached by other asset management companies that wonder if there might be a place for them in the insurer's stable.

Meanwhile, Manulife's latest moves have put the focus on distributing insurance products in Asia and bolstering customer support, after completing the $4-billion purchase of Standard Life's Canadian operations earlier this year.

In the most recent quarter, Manulife said it would buy San Francisco-based Guide Financial Inc., a software provider that uses artificial intelligence and behavioural finance principles to aid clients' decision-making processes on investments. The deal represented a step toward the insurer's strategic priority to focus more on building customer relationships, said chief financial officer Steve Roder.

Manulife also came to a 15-year agreement to provide insurance through Singapore-based DBS Bank Ltd., which has millions of customers in China and beyond. Asia has been a huge growth area for the company, with insurance and wealth management sales climbing by double digits in recent quarters.

"We'll keep going with growing our agency force and growing our bank distribution and making sure we have a good portfolio of diverse businesses across the Asian region," said Mr. Roder, when asked how the business may look to expand. Manulife reported a second-quarter profit of $600-million, a decrease from the same time a year earlier. This decline was driven largely by interest-rate changes. Manulife's adjusted core earnings were in line with expectations.

Great-West Lifeco Inc. could be said to have kicked off the wave of postrecession acquisitions when it bought Irish Life Group Ltd. for $1.75-billion in 2013. In July this year, the Winnipeg-based insurer completed another smaller deal in the region, buying investment and tax-planning firm Legal and General International Ireland Ltd. (LGII). That followed a deal for the annuity business of British insurer Equitable Life Assurance Society.

"We're always on the hunt and thinking about growing through acquisitions," Paul Mahon, CEO of Great-West, said on a conference call. Great-West posted a 7-per-cent increase in quarterly profit to $659-million, but the results fell short of projections.

Mr. Mahon added that a strong capital position also lends flexibility. "We'll be continuing to look for opportunities, but we'll also be moving forward with share buybacks and considering options," he said.