When many people hear the name Sun Life, they think insurance. But Sun Life is trying to get the word out that it's more than just an insurance company. The company has an impressive global investment offering that now includes more than 70 mutual funds and over $23 billion in AUM. From group retirement services to its advisor network, Sun Life’s overarching goal is to help clients achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives. At the heart of those efforts is Jacques Goulet, who took over as president of Sun Life Financial Canada in 2018.
“When I joined Sun Life just over a year ago, I instantly saw the passion that employees and advisors have for our clients,” Goulet says. “We put clients at the centre of everything we do. We recently aligned the retail division of our business to be closer to our Canadian executive team. This allows the leadership to focus on the advisor, who is at the core of our client experience and the growth engine for the organization.”
Goulet believes Sun Life's advisors, who provide holistic advice to Canadians, are critical to the client experience. “This ties in nicely with our newly created client experience office,” he says, “which focuses on helping the organization deliver a great client experience, regardless of where and how clients interact with us.”
At home and abroad
Goulet’s view of the relationship between advisors and their clients traces back to his roots in Shawinigan, Quebec, where his family still operates a plumbing business. Clients were always at the centre of his family's business, and that's something Goulet was keen to bring to his current role.
“This mindset is also shared by our network of financial advisors across Canada, who embrace an entrepreneurial mindset and adopt new technology while focusing on each individual’s needs,” he says. “Driving business and strong performance is essential to any organization. What sets you apart is how you treat your clients, and more importantly, how your clients feel at the end of the day.”
Professionally, Goulet’s background is in actuarial science. He earned his degree from Concordia University and is a fellow of both the Society of Actuaries and the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. He spent 29 years working for Mercer, where he held a variety of leadership positions in Canada, the US and Europe. As president of health and wealth at Mercer, he oversaw the firm’s global retirement, health, investment consulting and investment management business.
“After studying actuarial science, my career started to take shape going in one of two directions: consulting or insurance,” he says. “I jumped at the opportunity to enter the world of consulting, and as they say, the rest was history. It was an interesting time, given the pension industry was booming. It gave many people, including myself, an exciting career path with diverse opportunity.”
Perhaps the greatest impact on Goulet's career was his role spearheading Mercer’s Toronto office, which led to an opportunity to be CEO of Mercer France. That resulted in numerous global opportunities, which Goulet credits for shaping him into who he is today.
“Working around the world has given me the opportunity to experience diversity in so many ways, and it's something that I’m truly passionate about and continue to focus on in my role at Sun Life,” he says. “Having a diverse and inclusive company is a key to business success.”
Now he's putting that notion of diversity to work with Sun Life. Goulet says he's focused on building diverse teams – the company has made organizational commitments to address areas of gender equality and visible minorities at the leadership level.
“Women, for example, represent a dominant share of the financially active population in Canada, and we know that they are more likely to work with female advisors,” Goulet says. “We also know that by 2028, figures show women are expected to control close to $4 trillion in financial assets. It’s not just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing.”
Sun Life is also committed to helping its advisors succeed by creating platforms, infrastructure, tools and resources to help them provide holistic advice to their clients. In addition, Goulet says the company is continuing to develop its insurance and investment solutions and invest in new technology to not only offer an omni-channel experience, but also help advisors grow business. This commitment to technology can already be seen with Sun Life’s app, which is the number-one client-rated app among financial institutions.
“We are in a unique position to help Canadians with the two things that matter most in their lives – their health and their wealth,” Goulet says. “Through our top talent, we’ll continue to deliver meaningful products and services to Canadians. We will do all of this while accelerating our digital journey and making sure we deliver on our purpose for our clients.”
For those just entering the investment industry, Goulet has a couple of pieces of advice. “The most challenging times of my career have been the moments when I forced myself to step outside of my comfort zone,” he says. “I’d recommend to anyone to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. Don’t be afraid to travel into the unknown. Be curious and show a vested interested in the things around you.
“The other thing is don’t wait,” he adds. “If you want something, go for it. Raise your hand and ask. You need to be your biggest advocate. Having supportive mentors to lean on along the way will also help.”