It takes a certain degree of steadiness to maintain an insurance and financial services company for 130 years. But it also requires a willingness to adapt and integrate new ideas. Insurance professionals know that the winds of change are coming for them, and incoming Manulife CEO Roy Gori, the 48-year-old Australian Citigroup executive who has never lived outside the south Pacific, is primed to initiate just that sort of a shake-up.
"I do think that, because our industry is so complex, it's primed for disruption. You've seen other industries that have been disrupted by new market entrants who have really been hell-bent on creating a much more simple solution for customers," said Gori, in a recent profile from The Globe and Mail.
"When a ship has been moving in a certain direction for as long as [Manulife] has, to get it to change course is not something that is very easy. It's very difficult."
Accomplishing a goal of that magnitude requires astute preparation, and Gori appears to be ready to hit the ground running. The CEO has already outlined five key priorities: reviewing the company's capital breakdown so that it can isolate weak points and amend them, cost cutting and automation preparation, facilitating growth specifically in wealth- and asset-management and Manulife's Asia division, making customer desires a top priority, and installing a new leadership team—the last priority being one that has already been addressed.
At the core of all of these changes, though, will be the urgency to modernize a largely traditional business model.
"Anything you want to do today pretty much can be done with your mobile phone and with a few clicks of a button. Our industry has not evolved at all and has not embraced that transformation. If anything, we are as complex, or more complex, than we were 15 years ago," Gori said, alluding to the cumbersome applications that people fill out for insurance.
For Manulife to be a leader in the modernization of insurance in Canada, it will take a lot more than just Gori's dedication to the cause—something that he certainly recognizes.
"We need to have the 35,000 people that work for us, and the 70,000 agents that work for us, as passionate about this journey as I am."
We'll soon find out if that actually happens.