Great-West Lifeco

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Great-West Lifeco Inc.
Traded asTSXGWO
IndustryWealth management
Life and Health insurance
Founded1847; 172 years ago (1847) as Canada Life Assurance Company
FounderJeffry Hall Brock[1]
Key people
Raymond McFeetors chair
P. A. Mahon pres,ceo,chair
William Lovatt cfo,exVP
Bob Reynolds pres,ceo USA op
William Acton pres,ceo Canada Life Capital Corp
Arshil Jamal exVP CapMan
Productsannuities pension
RevenueC$10.529 bil Ytd June'13
C$1,103 mil Ytd June'13Increase11%[2]
AUMC$596 bil June'13Increase[2]
Total assetsC$264.158 bil June 30, 2013Increase7.7%[2]
Number of employees
19,000 (2008)[3]
DivisionsGreat-West Life Assurance
Great-West Life Annuity
Putnam Investments
Empower Retirement
HQ of American division Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company
Greenwood Village, Colorado

Great-West Lifeco is an insurance centered financial holding company (corporation) that operates in North America (USA and Canada), Europe and Asia through 5 wholly owned, regionally focused subsidiaries. Many of the companies it has indirect control over are part of its largest subsidiary The Great-West Life Assurance Company; the others (Great West Life & Annuities Financial Inc and Putnam Investments, LLC) are managed by US based subsidiary Great-West Lifeco US Inc. Great-West Lifeco is indirectly controlled by Montreal billionaire Paul Desmarais through his stake in the Power Corporation of Canada (owned by the family since 1968) which owns 72% (down slightly from 74.6% in 2005) of Great-West Lifeco.[4][5] In the first half of 2011 premium income made up 63.99% of total revenue up from 56.07%.[6] The hyphen in the company's name was originally a typesetter's error.[7]

For the three months ended June 2013, 63% of revenue originated in Canada, 26% from the US, 10% from Europe. Group retirement products (Canadian sales up 49%) and 401k markets (US Great West Financial sales up 34%) remain key areas of growth for the company.[2] Lower UK wealth management single premiums negatively affected growth. Boston-based Putnam Investments accounts for nearly a quarter of all assets under administration. Approximately half of company profit comes from Canada, a third from Europe and the rest of the United States. In the third quarter of 2010 British sales outpaced all other regions with 45% growth followed by the USA financial services business (up 41%).[8]

In 2009 100% owned subsidiary London Life ranked 14th among Canada's largest private companies.[9]


The earliest roots of any of the companies under its management were set in 1847 Hamilton, Ontario by subsidiary Canada Life (then known as Canada Life Assurance Company); current Canada Life parent The Great-West Life Assurance Company began in 1891 in Winnipeg. Its second oldest company London Life was founded in 1874 and taken over by Great-West in 1997, one year after it purchased the Canadian operations of the Prudential Insurance Company of America[10] The original name of Canada Life included the word Assurance in place of insurance, something that was more common among British companies.[11]

When created in 1890-1891, thirty-one of the 40 insurance companies in Canada were foreign-owned and none of the Canadian-based ones were managed from Western Canada. Great-West's founder started the company as an attempt to raise capital needed locally to develop farm land and retail businesses.[1] Great-West's first president was Winnipeg mayor Alexander Macdonald who took on that role in 1892; the founder Jeffrey Hall Brock was managing director. Its first death claim was in 1893 for $1000, and in 1912 two Titanic policyholders were covered.[12] In 1906 Great-West entered the American market starting in Fargo, North Dakota, followed by Michigan and Minnesota in 1920 and later Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Kansas, California, and Pennsylvania in the early 1940s. Within its first decade it successfully entered Eastern Canada, had market exposure in every Canadian province and became one the industry's leading companies in terms of growth and size; by 1896 it was present throughout Canada. Brock got sick and was forced to leave Great-West in 1912, three years before he died. He was succeeded as CEO by C.C. Ferguson in 1915. During the next twenty years the company's finances were negatively affected by World War I, the 1918 flu epidemic and the great depression but its market position remained strong; the stock market crash of 1929 and World War II had a positive impact on the company. The company was highly diversified, with investments spread amongst mortgages and government bonds. Great-West's early success in Western Canada was due in part to high insurance rates and a lack of financing available to farmers.[12] In 1979, US and Canadian operations became separate due mostly to rapid US growth. In 1969 Great-West was purchased by Power Corporation, which made it into a wholly owned subsidiary. In 1982, Great-West began offering a universal life policy which differed from those offered by competitors. Two years later, in 1984, the Power Financial Corporation was created to be a holding company for Great-West and its numerous businesses.[7]

Great-West Lifeco began an acquisitions spree on February 17, 2003 when it purchased Canada Life Financial for US$4.7 billion followed by Indiana Health Network incIHN three years later in 2006 and Putnam Investment Trust on August 3, 2007 for $3.9 billion (from Marsh & McLennan Companies).[13] On April 1, 2008 subsidiary Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company sold Denver based Great-West Healthcare to CIGNA for about US$1.9 billion.[14] With the transaction Great-West Lifeco lost about 1.9 million customers (about three quarters of their medical employers).

Other acquisitions include the 2006 takeover of US Bancorp's retirement plans business which added $104 billion in assets at the time[15] and more retirement plans the same year but from MetLife.[16]

July 18, 2013 - Canadian subsidiary Canada Life Limited completed the takeover of Irish Life Assurance.[2]


Jeffry Hall Brock born in Guelph, Ontario received his education at Montreal's McGill College. Prior to Great-West he was a salesman in St. Louis, Missouri and later worked for R. G. Dunn & Company of New York followed by Ogilvie & Company. In 1876 he married Louisa Adelaide Clara, the daughter of a priest. He moved back to Winnipeg in 1877 and helped start W. R. Brock & Brother. He established the Great-West Company in 1892, the first insurance company in Western Canada.[1]


  • Great West Life & Annuity Insurance Company is a company that provides individuals and businesses in all of the USA's states with life insurance, retirement benefits (which are paid for by employers) and annuities distributed by its own brokers and institutions. This division began operations in the USA on May 28, 1997.[5]

  • The Great West Life Assurance Company is Canada's biggest insurance company. The subsidiary became Canada's leader in 2003 when it paid Cdn$7.3 billion (US$4.7 billion) for Canada Life Financial.[4][19] Products include trust securities.
  • Canada Life was founded in 1847 and operates in Ireland, Canada, the UK, Germany, and the Isle of Man. Business focusses on insurance (life, disability, creditor and critical illness) and wealth management. European business goes back to 1903 and provides different regions with different products (insurance and savings are offered in every region except the UK (where annuities and group insurance are provided) and Germany (where business comes from pensions and critical illness).
  • London Life is a 140-year-old business currently serving 2 million Canadians. Operates under the banners Great-West, Freedom 55 (savings, investments, retirement, insurance and mortgages), Quadrus Investment Services Ltd. (mutual funds), London Reinsurance Group (international business).
  • Putnam Investments Money manager in the business of fixed income equity, asset allocation in addition to other types of equity. customers include institutional investors. Putman accounts for 44.4% of total assets in the USA (in the form of mutual funds and institutional assets)[8] and $124B worth of American mutual fund and institutional account assets under administration.[6]

On February 19, 2013, Great-West Lifeco acquired Irish Life for €1.3 Billion.


  1. ^ a b c "Jeffry Hall Brock (1850-1915)". Retrieved 2011-01-08.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "2013 2Q Report" (PDF). July 31, 2013.
  3. ^ "Great-West Lifeco Inc. Hoovers". Retrieved 2011-01-08.
  4. ^ a b Simon, Bernard (2003-02-18). "Great-West Lifeco to acquire Canada Life for 4.7 billion". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b "VARIABLE ANNUITY I SER ACC OF FIR GRT WEST LI & ANNU INS CO, Form 485APOS, Filing Date Feb 25, 2005". Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Great-West Lifeco 2011 Second Quarter Report" (PDF). August 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Power Corporation of Canada Business Information". Retrieved 2011-01-08.
  8. ^ a b "Great-West Lifeco 2010 Third Quarter Report revenue, income on page 31 of 33" (PDF). 2010-11-10.
  9. ^ "Rankings of Canada's 350 biggest private companies". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 2010-06-18.
  10. ^ "London Life – More Than 130 Years of Service". Retrieved 2011-01-08.
  11. ^ "Urban Myths:Great-West Life". Archived from the original on February 15, 2008. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  12. ^ a b "Winnipeg's Insurance Company". 2009-04-12.
  13. ^ "Great-West Lifeco's U.S. subsidiary announces agreement". 2006-10-31.
  14. ^ "Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company". 2008-04-01.
  15. ^ "Great-West to buy U.S. retirement plan business". Reuters. 2006-11-30.
  16. ^ Desloge, Rick (2006-07-16). "Great-West buys MetLife unit".
  17. ^ "Broncos, Empower Retirement agree to deal for stadium naming rights". Denver Post. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Broncos agree to terms with Empower Retirement on 21-year deal to name stadium 'Empower Field at Mile High'". Denver Broncos. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  19. ^ "Insurance Companies in Canada". Retrieved 2011-01-07.