Great-West Life

The Great West Life Insurance Company, or Great West Life, is a large Canadian life insurance company.

Great West offers health insurance, life insurance, reinsurance, investment and retirement solutions for both individuals and group schemes. The majority of its work is focused on providing services to companies, and unlike groups such as Sun Life it does not aim at any size of business. It is focused as a life insurer and pensions provider and does not get involved with auto insurance, home insurance or business insurance.

Although it is a large provider of group solutions it also provides individual solutions offering other consumer finance products such as mortgages, savings, credit cards, tax free savings accounts (TFSA) and registered education savings plans (RESP).

Great-West Life Market Share

Great West Life has a 22.1% market share of the pension and life insurance sectors, it covers 32,000 employee benefit plans and through these plans nine million Canadians have a plan covered by Great West Life. Due to its large market presence and concentration on group retirement and insurance plans it has very low unit costs.

Competitors in Canada are other large life insurance providers such as Industrial Alliance, Manulife and Sun Life.

It manages $80 billion in investment assets; $38 billion of this is in segregated funds. Its Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) was forced to announce a temporary halt to withdrawals to stop a run on the assets of the trust. In recent years it has been trying to grow by acquiring liabilities from companies that are looking to leave pension provision, such as Fidelity in Canada and Equitable Life in the UK.

Great West Life has 18,400 employees around the world, with about 9,000 in Canada.

Great-West Life International Presence

Great West Life also owns the United Kingdom life insurer, Canada Life which is active in the UK, Ireland and Germany. It used to have a large US healthcare division which was sold for $1.5 billion to the US company Cigna in 2007 and it still trades under the name “Great West Healthcare”. Great West still has a large retirement provision division in the United States, Great West Retirement Services which provides pension plans for employers. Great West is a member of the Swiss Life network and has been since 1977.


Great West Life was the first Canadian company to introduce internet based reporting and administration for group administrators through its GroupNet program. Self service access is also available to plan members. Part of its service offering is a sophisticated disability management program that is dealing with claims management and can also help with safety in the work place and absence managing.

Great-West Life Corporate Structure

Great West is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the stock ticker symbol GWO, although it is mostly owned by the Power Financial Group of companies. Other companies in the group include The Canada Life Assurance Company and the London Life Insurance Company. It is headquartered in Winnipeg in Manitoba, where it was founded in 1891. Great West is heavily involved in promoting the awareness of mental health issues in the work force.

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