Matt Hands, VP, Insurance and MoneySense
Sun Life Financial is the oldest life insurance provider in the Canadian market, and one of the ‘big three’ providers, along with Manulife and Great West Life. Among those, Sun Life is the largest life insurance provider as measured by Canadian premiums.
Sun Life Financial is also a global financial services company with operations in dozens of countries around the world. As far as Canadian life insurance goes, Sun Life has a major focus on employee-paid plans, but also offers competitive private life insurance policies. Sun Life has also been voted Canada’s most trusted life insurance brand in the Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Survey for 10 years running.
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Sun Life was founded by in 1865 Irish immigrant Matthew Gault, originally called The Sun Insurance Company of Montreal. By the end of the 1800s, Sun Life had a significant international presence, with operations in South America and the US, the UK, Africa, and throughout Asia. In 1919 Sun Life became the first Canadian company to offer group life insurance, which it began selling in the US market in 1924.
Sun Life was founded in Montreal, with its Dominion Square building being built in 1918. However, the company left French Canada in 1978, shortly after the passing of Bill 101 - the Charter of the French Language - by the newly elected sovereigntist Quebec government. The bill mandated the use of the French language for larger companies when communicating with French-speaking staff. As the largest employer of English speakers in Montreal, this posed an enormous, perhaps logistically impossible, task.
Sun Life moved gradually relocated its headquarters to Ontario, with operations primarily split between Waterloo and Toronto. Since 2017, the Sun Life corporate headquarters have been located at One York Street, Toronto. The United States headquarters for Sun Life are based out of Wellesley, Massachusetts, near Boston.
Sun Life has a strong life insurance product offering, including term life, whole life (both participating and non-participating), and universal life insurance.
Sun Life term life insurance has four products but they can be separated in two - the SunSpectrum/SunTerm products, and the two Sun Life Go products. The former products are typical term life policies, available for terms of 10, 15, 20 or 30 years, renewable until age 85 and convertible to permanent until age 75 - they only differ by their maximum and minimum coverage amounts. The Go products are simpler and require less personal or medical information, non-renewable for 10 or 20 year terms. Because less information is required, premiums are higher and policies are not convertible to permanent life insurance.
Sun Life permanent insurance is one of the simplest of its product lines, but that isn’t saying much! There’s a guaranteed whole life insurance product that will cover Canadian residents aged between 30 and 74 for up to $25,000. There are also two versions of a standard permanent life insurance policy, with different minimum coverage amounts. The latter policies both have a range of optional extras, including limited payment terms with term-to-100 options, joint and single plans, policy loans, living benefits, accidental death benefits, and many more.
Sun Life participating life insurance comes in three varieties, each providing the ability to accumulate cash values in addition to your premiums. The difference between each product is essentially how fast the cash value accumulates, including one policy that is fully paid up within eight years! Accumulating cash value quickly results in more flexibility, but it also means higher premiums in the short term. The policies that accumulate cash value slower do have additional limited payment options, however, and all of them are available as single or joint policies.
Universal life insurance from Sun Life is one of the most flexible universal policies available, alongside the offering from Manulife. Three separate products, ranging from a simple fund plus coverage option up to a policy targeted at business owners, each offer amazing flexibility of life insurance policy as well as of tax-advantaged investment strategies. As with all universal life insurance policies, however, these policies are the most expensive on offer, and are best suited to high net worth individuals.
Sun Life insurance pros
- Alongside Manulife, Sun Life has the most sophisticated lineup of life insurance products, especially for permanent life insurance.
- Sun Life was the first Canadian company to offer group policies, and have some of the best employee-paid life insurance policies available
- Sun Life have been awarded the Reader’s Digest most trusted life insurance brand award for ten years running
Sun Life insurance cons
- With such a comprehensive product lineup comes a lot of added complexity, and navigating which policy is right for you is very difficult without the help of a broker
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Generally speaking, Sun Life Financial has very strong financial strength ratings. Here are Sun Life’s ratings from the four major credit rating agencies:
- Standard and Poor’s: AA (Very strong)
- Moody’s: AA3 (High quality)
- A.M. Best: A+ (Superior)
- DBRS: AA low (Excellent)
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Matt Hands, Business Director of Insurance
With 6+ years of experience at Ratehub.ca, Matt’s focus has been on growing its newest business unit, Insurance. He is a thought leader and a valuable resource to respected publications across Canada. read full bio
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