“A Canadian company with a Filipino heart.”
Rizalina Mantaring thinks this would best describe one of the oldest multinational companies that has been doing business in the Philippines since World War II. She should know. Rizalina “Riza” Mantaring is the president and CEO of Sun Life Financial Group of Companies in the Philippines, and she says working for a company that has been in the country for more than 120 years is an amazing experience.
“We founded the life insurance industry here, we’re even older than the Republic of the Philippines, and through the years we’ve become part of the nation’s history.” But what she says really struck her was the story of how Sun Life had helped Filipino policy holders get their claims after the war.
“After World War II, all our records were buried, and people were dying and families were coming and making claims, and they had nothing to prove they were policy holders.” It was during these tough times, she said, that Sun Life made a unilateral decision to pay all claims, even without documents attesting to the validity of the claims. It was also a time when Filipinos’ honesty and integrity shone through, because after doing a much later inventory, the company found that all claims were legitimate.
Sun Life is one of the world’s leading financial service companies. Celebrating 150 years in 2015, it was chartered in Canada in 1865, and with headquarters in Toronto, the company and its partners now operate in key markets worldwide, such as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, India and Singapore. As of the end of December 2014, the Sun Life Financial Group of Companies had total assets under management of $734 billion.
The Canadian company came to the Philippines in 1895, with the appointment of British trader H.J. Andrews and Co. to represent Sun Life Financial in Manila, three years before the country secured independence from more than 300 years of Spanish rule. Sun Life suspended its business operations when Japanese forces invaded the Philippines during World War II, but it continued to run underground operations. Immediately after the war, the company paid out the equivalent of US$1.2 million in death claims. It was the only insurance company that, based solely on trust in Filipinos, paid the claims even without documents from the policy holders.
In 2000, the company listed with the Philippine Stock Exchange, and became a subsidiary of Sun Life Financial Services of Canada. Today, Sun Life Philippines is a diversified financial services institution, offering products such as life insurance managed and distributed by Sun Life of Canada (Philippines) Inc.; mutual funds under Sun Life Asset Management Company Inc.; and education and retirement plans administered by Sun Life Financial Plans Inc.
According to its corporate records, the company now employs close to a thousand employees, and with over 5,000 financial advisors nationwide. More important, it has over a million individual and group life policy holders to date.
In 2014, Sun Life was ranked as the number one life insurance company in the Philippines in terms of total premiums, totaling P30.7 billion, while its joint venture company with the Yuchengco Group called Sun Life Grepa Financial Inc. posted P7.04 billion in premiums also in the same year.
The diminutive and lovely lady boss of Sun Life Philippines emphasized that their company is also known to have been the pioneer in conceptualizing a financial literacy campaign called “It’s time,” designed to help empower every Filipino to act on his financial needs. “We are a company that puts our customers first,” Riza says, and “we’ll do what it takes to protect and empower the customer.” She adds that they have families that had been insured with them for seven generations, and this is a testament to the mutual trust that the company had forged with Filipinos.
Riza says the insurance industry is one she had learned to love, although she says she would never have thought that she would be here in the first place. As a graduate of an engineering course, she started her career with a consulting firm in information technology. She joined Sun Life as head of its Asia Pacific Information Systems department in 1992, where she was soon given more responsibilities for operation areas of the Philippine subsidiary, until she was made president and CEO in August of 2009.
When asked why she switched from IT to the insurance industry, Riza said, “I really enjoyed It, but I felt it wasn’t something I wanted to do forever. As I got older, I started looking for diversification, and explore other aspects.” Today, she continues to do so, this time by adopting a healthy and active lifestyle, especially running in marathons during her spare time. She proudly states that she has completed the New York, Chicago, Berlin and Paris marathons, and is constantly preparing for another run. It has become her passion she says to be able to pursue all the things she likes doing, whether it is for her career, pushing for her financial literacy campaigns or simply trying to be fit and healthy for herself, her people in Sun Life and her family.