The Ascension

After a six-year hiatus, Robert Moreau returns to Assumption Life as its CFO to help maintain the company’s foothold as a niche player and one of Canada’s best employers

SRobert Moreau, Assumption Lifeuccess has not changed the culture at New Brunswick-based Assumption Life, a life insurance provider and asset manager consistently ranked among the best places to work in Canada. For Robert Moreau, vice president and CFO, this accomplishment reflects a workforce dedicated to pursuing growth and its sense of ownership. Here, Advantage takes a look at the metrics surrounding his career track and how he’s helping Assumption Life to make a continuous impression on the labour market.

A 2007 homecoming

While Moreau’s current tenure at Assumption Life dates back to 2007, he first joined the company as a financial analyst in 1997, after working for a large provincial accounting firm. “I left Assumption to take on a CFO role with one of the major employers in New Brunswick, a high-growth, diverse manufacturing company conducting business internationally,” says Moreau, who was there from 2001 to 2007. “It was a great opportunity, as I was responsible for the company’s finance and technology portfolios, with a mandate to implement the appropriate structures that would consolidate business acquisitions and enable higher customer-service levels in order to achieve growth targets. But I was drawn back to Assumption in 2007, when a CFO role opened up.”

$110 million policyholder equity

When Moreau rejoined Assumption Life, he was tasked with implementing changes that would help the organization continue its growth on a national scale. One change, however, he didn’t anticipate: the financial sector was on the verge of a crisis. “That was quite an adjustment,” Moreau says. “In addition to the uncertainty of the highly volatile markets, the industry had to retool the way it was doing business, as a lot of regulatory standards were also coming into effect. I had to learn fast and demonstrate nimbleness to accommodate this new reality.” But despite the financial crisis, Assumption Life recorded earnings of $4.3 million in 2008, and total policyholder equity reached $81.1 million, up nearly 4.1 percent over 2007. Today earnings have surpassed $9 million, and policyholder equity has reached $110 million.

85,000 policies

According to Moreau, understanding the needs of your stakeholders and setting yourself apart from your competitors is key to succeeding in the life insurance business. “With 85,000 active life insurance policies, we define ourselves as a niche player, which means being capable of innovation is fundamental to our long-term success,” he says.

Moreau is passionate about everything he does, from sports to community service. In his spare time, he can be found coaching his children’s hockey games or serving in his role as the current chair of the Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, the largest francophone business network in Atlantic Canada, with close to 1,000 members.

1-week issuance

“We grow our business by understanding who we are, how we can be different, and how we can take advantage of opportunities,” Moreau says. “Where are the specific areas with room to grow and differentiate? Our objective is to add value to our distribution network.” To that end, Assumption Life’s portfolio of niche products caters to underserved areas of the market. One example is the quick-issue life insurance policy, which is preapproved if the customer answers a limited number of questions. “Our objective is to issue a policy within a week,” Moreau says. “Also important to our success is the way we manage relationships with our sales distribution network, fostering a business relationship based on effective delivery of services.”

$2 billion in AUM

Assumption Life also operates an asset-management agency and has approximately $2 billion in assets under management. “Our strategy is to provide asset-management solutions not just to our current life insurance sales distribution network but also to pension funds, and we have a subsidiary that offers private wealth management,” Moreau says. “It’s one of the growth areas in which we offer customized solutions.”

14% more employee engagement

This year, Assumption Life has been recognized as one of the 50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada. The comprehensive list, published on PROFITguide.com, is the result of a survey conducted by the Queen’s School of Business Centre for Business Venturing in partnership with Aon Hewitt that measures employee-engagement trends. The company stood out for initiatives that promote employee health and well-being, respect for family-life balance, and congenial coworker relationships. According to the survey, the level of employee engagement at Assumption Life is 79 percent, as opposed to 65 percent among all companies surveyed.

A top-22 employer

Assumption Life’s recognition as a great place to work dates back years, and the trend continues today. In 2014, Progress magazine placed Assumption Life 22nd on its list of the 101 best employers in Canada. “We have a very committed workforce, and they treat this organization as their own,” Moreau says. “That goes a long way. When you have a truly engaged workforce, like we do, employees speak highly of the organization.”