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File photo of the Manulife Financial headquarters in Toronto.Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

Manulife Financial Corp. has hired Linda Mantia as its chief operating officer, luring her away from Royal Bank of Canada where she was seen as a rising star.

Ms. Mantia will join the insurance giant on Oct. 3 as a member of the global leadership team, and she will oversee about 7,100 people internationally.

Her role will include mapping out corporate strategy, standards and processes, among other duties and responsibilities. She will also have a responsibility for the company's innovation initiatives including investing and forming partnerships with outside businesses and startups that can help Manulife better compete with rivals, process data and connect with customers.

"Linda is a collaborative, innovative and transformative leader, with deep roots in digital disruption and a passion for delivering exceptional customer experiences," said Donald Guloien, CEO of Manulife, in a statement. "The proven track record of success she has built throughout her career is not only directly relevant to the COO role, but also aligns closely to our customer-centric strategy."

Ms. Mantia was a well-regarded executive at Royal Bank of Canada, where she had served as executive vice-president of digital, payments and cards – a pivotal role given the importance all banks are placing on their online and smartphone capabilities.

In her role at RBC, Ms. Mantia handled many of the issues that have come to define banking in recent years. She helped shape the company's approach to increased competition from financial technology firms, or fintech, and its strategy for rolling out mobile-payment applications for smartphones.

She also spoke eloquently on both topics, noting for example that the strength of fintech firms is that they can address the needs of specific types of customers and that mobile payments would likely require ubiquity, in terms of merchants and smartphone brands, before the services became truly popular.

Her name was attached to RBC's recent launch of Apple Pay in May, when she noted in a release that "innovation and advancing mobile payments are fundamental to how we are meeting the evolving expectations of our clients and ensuring that we are everywhere our clients want us to be."

RBC said no successor has yet been named for Ms. Mantia's position at the bank.

The COO role is relatively new at Manulife, created in 2013 and held since then by long-time Manulife executive Paul Rooney, who has been with the company 30 years. He will stay on with the insurer until the year's end to transition out of the role.

The addition of Ms. Mantia to the executive team adds a third woman to the 16-person committee. This appointment also marks Manulife's ongoing shift in the C-suite toward executives with diverse backgrounds and experiences, rather than those who came up through the insurer's corporate ranks.

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