Manulife Financial Corp.'s new efforts to boost the growth of its Canadian business and reach more Quebeckers begins today.
The $4-billion dollar deal to acquire the Canadian unit of Edinburgh-based Standard Life PLC has officially closed, adding 2,000 new employees and 1.4 million customers to the Canadian division of Manulife.
Now comes the integration process, including a push to connect with residents in Quebec, where Manulife has historically had a limited presence. The other part of the transaction's appeal was in wealth management, including nearly doubling assets under administration in its group retirement business and adding $6-billion to the mutual fund business assets.
And customers are beginning to recognize Manulife as more than a company that sells life insurance, says Marianne Harrison, general manager of Manulife's Canadian division. "I think they are starting to see us on the wealth management side. Our earnings are almost 50-50, a little bit higher on the insurance side," she said, adding that the company is launching a new advertising campaign aimed at spreading that message.
Ms. Harrison said one of Manulife's first orders of business will be looking at the collection of wealth and insurance products both companies sell to make sure they are priced consistently, and not competing with each other. The company will spend the next year evaluating products such as segregated funds, where Standard Life has strength. "We want to get in there and really understand those products and the pricing behind those products, and be able to put those on our shelves as well," Ms. Harrison said.
The deal comes as Manulife and other insurers are grappling with sinking interest rates, alongside fallen oil prices and a wallowing Canadian dollar.
"The interest rates certainly have a big influence on our business. It certainly makes us pause in the short term, but from the long-term perspective, you know, we will get through this," Ms. Harrison says. In the meantime, the company is adjusting rates in its banking arm, following other Canadian lenders, as well as adjusting pricing on the payouts side of its insurance business.
Over all, the market will be looking for Manulife to offer reassurance about its capital requirements and expected profits when the company reports earnings on Feb. 12, Peter Routledge, an analyst at National Bank Financial, said in a note to clients.
Looking at Standard Life, Mr. Routledge said the deal has "the potential to reward Manulife shareholders to a much greater extent" than the 3 cents a per share for each of the three years following the closing that the insurer has forecast.
But Ms. Harrison says Manulife's targets to get value out of the Standard Life business are aggressive. "I think we have a lot of work ahead of us in terms of achieving our synergies we're committed to in the Canadian division. And I don't think it's a slam dunk."