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What are the biggest life insurance companies in Canada?

by Mark Cluett
20 min read

Choosing a life insurance company in Canada can be an arduous task. It might not come to mind immediately, but this country is a hotbed for the industry. The biggest life insurance companies in Canada compete to offer you coverage, hold large global assets, and provide insurance and financial services to people all over the world. As per the CLHIA, there are more than 150 life and health insurance companies in Canada, which is great for consumers looking for choice.

However, with so many life insurance companies in Canada to choose from, how do you narrow down your choices or rank them when attempting to pick the right insurance company for your unique needs. 

One option is to look at the biggest life insurance companies in Canada.

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What are Canada’s biggest life insurance companies?

Below is a list of the top 32 life insurance companies operating in Canada. What do we define as the biggest? There are different metrics on which we can rank the companies – based on their length of existence, financial strength, grades granted to them by independent rating agencies, and more. From an insurance perspective, we’ve ranked Canada’s top life insurance companies based on the annual life insurance premiums they collect from their policyholders.

List of the Biggest Life Insurance Companies in Canada by Annual Premiums

CompanyFoundedHeadquartersFinancial Strength Rating*Annual PremiumsTotal Assets
1Manulife1887Toronto, ONA+$39.2 B$200 B
2Canada Life1846Toronto, ONA+$36.4 B$219.7 B
3Sun Life1865Toronto, ONA+$20.9 B$173.2 B
4Desjardins1948Levis, QC--$9.2 B$39.8 B
5Industrial Alliance1892Quebec City, QCA+$8.6 B$58.3 B
6RBC Insurance1864Toronto, ONA$4.2 B$15.1 B
7Wawanesa1896Wawanesa, MBA$3.5 B$9.6 B
8SSQ1944Quebec, QCA-$2.5 B$12.4 B
9La Capitale1940Quebec City, QC--$2.3 B$6 B
10BMO Life1817Toronto, ONA$2.0 B$11.2 B
11Co-operators1945Guelph, ONA$1.3 B$6.5 B
12Foresters1874Toronto, ONA$1.3 B$2.6 B
13Equitable Life1920Waterloo, ON--$1.0 B$4.2 B
14Empire Life1923Kingston, ONA$1.0 B$15.5 B
15ivari1927Toronto, ONA+$830.9 M$11.5 B
16Combined of America1922Chicago, IL--556.1 M$0.9 B
17Blue Cross1939IndependentA-413.7 M$1.3 B
18Primerica1977Duluth, GAA+311 M$3.7 B
19Assurant1902Toronto, ONA-279.7 M$2 B
20Knights of Columbus1882New Haven, CT--210.6 M$3.9 B
21Humania1874Saint-Hyacinthe, QC--$158.3 M$0.6 B
22Assumption1903Moncton, NBA-$157.8 M$1.7 B
23UL Mutual1889Drummondville, QC--$144.8 M$2.2 B
24Western Life1961Toronto, ONA$143.7 M$0.3 B
25American Income1951Waco, TX--$134.2 M$0.4 B
26National Bank1859Montreal, QC--$121 M$0.2 B
27TD Life**1855Toronto, ON--$112.6 M$0.2 B
28Scotia Life**1832Toronto, ON--$56.4 M$0.2 B
29CIBC Life**1961Toronto, ON--$45.1 M$0.2 B
30Canadian Premier1955Toronto, ONA$27.3M$0.2 B
31FaithLife1972Waterloo, ON--$22.7 M$0.4 B
32Reliable Life1887Hamilton, ON--$12.0 M$0.02 B

Top 10 Largest Canadian Insurance Companies by Annual Premiums (in billions)

biggest insurance companies in canada by annual premiums

Top 10 Largest Canadian Insurance Companies by Assets (in billions)

biggest insurance companies in canada by assets

Source: Company annual reports, OSFI financial data, A.M. Best Company

** Financial metrics displayed for life insurance businesses of the respective companies. Founding dates of respective parent companies.

Manulife is one of the largest companies in the world, so it’s no wonder it tops the list of biggest insurance companies in Canada based on written premiums. With operations in the United States of America through their John Hancock subsidiary, Manulife is one of the biggest insurance companies south of the border as well. 

While the top of the list is filled with expected names like the recently amalgamated Canada Life (the new year makes the merging of Great West Life, London Life, and the namesake official), Sun Life,, Desjardins, iA Financial Group, and RBC, there are also names less familiar to the entire country. While companies like SSQ and Wawanesa are not household names in Ontario, they are some of the largest Canadian insurers, taking in billions of dollars in premiums every year.

Short descriptions of the biggest insurance companies in Canada

The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company

Manulife Canada is a subsidiary of Manulife Financial Corporation, a Canada-based multinational insurance and financial services provider. Manulife has an extensive presence in South East Asia and also in the United States, where they operate through their John Hancock division. They were incorporated in 1887 as the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company and are the largest insurance company in Canada. They offer an extensive range of personal and group insurance and investment plans. Manulife also operates Manulife Bank, which offers chequing and savings accounts, credit cards, and mortgages.

The Canada Life Assurance Company

In 2019, Great West Life merged their sister companies, London Life and Canada Life into the single Canada Life brand. Canada Life offers a variety of personal insurance solutions including term life, disability, critical illness and creditor insurance. Canada Life also offers Investment and savings solutions such as segregated funds and annuities, mortgages, and business insurance.

Desjardins Financial Security

Desjardins offers a large range of financial and insurance services in Canada. Their major focus areas are life and health insurance and wealth management services for individuals, and property and casualty insurance. They also offer business services including point-of-sale payments and cash management. Desjardins Insurance operates through a network of financial advisors concentrated in Quebec and Ontario, but has a presence across Canada.

Industrial Alliance Life Insurance

iA Financial Group is one of the largest insurance and wealth management groups in Canada; they also have operations in the United States. They were founded in 1892, and offer both individual and group benefits products. They also deal in property management and real estate, offering spaces for lease in major cities across Canada. iA Insurance offers life, vehicle, and travel insurance for individuals. They offer savings and investment plans including registered plans and securities.

RBC Life Insurance Company

RBC Insurance is the insurance operating entity of Royal Bank of Canada, which is one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies. RBC Insurance offers a wide range of life, health, home, auto, travel, wealth, and reinsurance advice and solutions, as well as creditor and business insurance services to individual, business, and group clients. RBC offers individuals the additional option of RBC Private Insurance, a comprehensive risk protection package designed on an individual basis.

Wawanesa

Wawanesa Mutual, founded in 1896 with executive offices in Winnipeg, is the parent company of Wawanesa Insurance, which distributes life insurance products and services throughout Canada. Wawanesa also offers automobile, farm, home and commercial business coverage. Wawanesa operates Wawanesa General, which offers P&C insurance in California and Oregon.

SSQ Insurance Company Inc.

SSQ Insurance was founded in 1944 in Quebec as SSQ Mutual Group Insurance. In their initial years of operation, they were a group insurance specialist. They currently offer products for life, critical illness, home, auto, and travel for individuals. They also offer group insurance plans and investment accounts. SSQ has a focus on sustainable development and societal responsibility.

La Capitale

Since their inception in 1940, La Capitale Financial Group has offered insurance and financial services products across Quebec, and – since 2006 – have increased their presence throughout Canada. They offer personal insurance, investment accounts, and mortgages. They also offer real estate rentals across Quebec and Ontario.

BMO Life Assurance Company

BMO Insurance is a member of the BMO Financial Group, which was founded in 1817, and is another of Canada’s largest financial institutions. BMO Insurance offers term and permanent life insurance, accident, travel, and critical illness insurance. BMO Insurance also offers income annuities and guaranteed investment funds.

Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada

Sun Life Financial, Inc. is one of the largest life insurance companies in the world, and also one of the oldest, with a history spanning back to 1865. Apart from Canada, they have a presence in the US and in seven Asian markets, including China and India. Sun Life Canada offers a wide variety of products across life, health, and other individual insurance such as travel, mortgage, and business owner insurance. They also offer savings and retirement income plans and investment products. 

Co-Operators Life Insurance Company

The Co-Operators Group Limited is a leading Canadian multi-line insurance and financial services co-operative with $41.7 billion in assets under management. Their subsidiary companies provide solutions in four core areas: life insurance, property and casualty insurance, institutional asset management, and brokerage operations. Co-Operators operates through a network of financial advisors and has term life, permanent, critical illness, and mortgage protection products.

Foresters Life Insurance Company

Foresters Financial is a financial services provider operating in Canada, the US, and the UK. They provide life insurance, savings, retirement, and investment solutions and were founded over 140 years ago, in 1870. Many of Foresters’ products have a charitable benefit feature, where Foresters makes a charitable contribution on the policy owner’s behalf, to a charity of their choice. Foresters underwrites the insurance products offered by Canada Protection Plan.

The Empire Life Insurance Company

Empire Life was founded in Kingston, Ontario in 1936, with service, sales, and marketing centers across Canada. They offer a full range of financial products and services, including life and critical illness coverage, investment options, and group health benefits and RRSP plans. They are known for their permanent participating life insurance products, particularly Empire Estatemax.

Equitable Life Insurance Company of Canada

Equitable Life Insurance Canada is the largest federally regulated mutual life insurance company in Canada.  They offer individual life and health, savings and retirement, and group benefits solutions. Similar to Empire Life, Equitable is also known for their participating whole life insurance product, Equimax. 

ivari

Ivari was previously known as Transamerica Life Canada. Now it is owned and operated by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CCPIB). Ivari has a whole range of term life, universal, and critical illness insurance products. They also offer investment products including annuities and inforce products.

Combined of America

Combined Insurance Company of America is owned by the US-based Chubb Insurance. They were founded in 1922. Combined provides personal home and supplemental health coverage plans. It also provides worksite solutions to complement employer paid benefits programs.

Blue Cross Life

The Canadian Association of Blue Cross Plans represents independent Blue Cross member plans operating in regions across the country. Blue Cross specializes in group and individual health and dental benefits, as well as travel health insurance. Blue Cross members also receive discounted access to vision care, medical, and other products across Canada through the Blue Advantage program.

Primerica Life

Primerica Canada was started in 1986 and is a subsidiary of Primerica Life Insurance Company. They offer term life and disability insurance products. Primerica also has Financial Needs Analysis (FNA), debt consolidation, investment management and pre-paid legal services.

Assurant Life

Assurant Life specializes in insurance-funded end-of-life planning, such as funeral insurance, final expense insurance and executor protection. They offer associated services such as assessment and handling of all final documents. Assurant began in 1902 as a family-owned funeral business; however, they now operate through a network of over 300 advisors across Canada.

Canadian Premier Life

Canandian Premier Life is a subsidiary of Securian Financial Group, an insurance and financial management company. They offer credit, life, and critical illness insurance for individuals. They also offer business insurance to retailers, helps create customized products for financial institutions and helps affinity groups create member benefit programs.

Knights of Columbus

Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal organization – they were founded in 1882 as a mutual benefit society of Catholic immigrants to the United States. They offer term, permanent, long term care, and disability plans to their members. Apart from insurance and investment management, the Knights of Columbus organize and fund a variety of charity work.

Humania Assurance Inc.

Humania Assurance was founded in Quebec in 1874 as a mutual society. They offer both term life as well as no-medical life insurance products. Their product portfolio is varied, with mortgage, disability, travel, and accident insurance among others. 

Assumption Mutual Life Insurance Company

Assumption Life has term, permanent, and participating life insurance products for individuals. They are known for their no-medical term life plans. Assumption also offers group benefit plans, including group term and group savings, and retirement and commercial mortgage insurance.

UL Mutual

UL Mutual is now UV Life Insurance. Founded in 1889 in Quebec, they are the 5th oldest insurance company in Canada. They offer life, permanent, critical illness, and child insurance. They also offer group insurance and retirement products.

Western Life (Acquired by Wawanesa)

Wawanesa Life and Western Life are amalgamated as one company, as of January 1, 2020. All Western Life policies have been transferred to Wawanesa, though Western’s brokerage network will continue to operate under the Western name. 

American Income Life Insurance Company

American Income Life is an international company offering insurance products in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. Founded in 1951, it focuses on working families and has specialized life, accident, and supplemental health insurance products for members of credit unions, labor unions, and other associations.

National Bank Life Insurance

National Bank Insurance is a subsidiary of National Bank of Canada and is comprised of 4 Canadian companies, National Bank Life, National Bank Auto|Home, National Bank Insurance Firm (which distributes insurance products), and NBC Assistance (which offers a variety of assistance services). National Life is not limited to term life; it is one of the few Canadian insurers to offer identity theft insurance through their Securizone product.

TD Life

TD Life Insurance is part of TD Canada Trust, one of Canada’s best-known financial conglomerates. They have many different options for term life insurance and also offer a number of other insurance options, such as credit protection, car, motorcycle/rv, and condo insurance.

Scotia Life

ScotiaLife Financial is the insurance division of Scotiabank – another of Canada’s largest financial institutions. They offer life, health, home, auto, creditor, and travel insurance. With a motto of “Surprisingly Simple Insurance”, Scotia Life aims to simplify the insurance application process.

CIBC Life

CIBC Insurance is the insurance arm of CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce), one of Canada’s biggest banks. CIBC Term Life and CIBC Critical Illness are individual insurance products. Apart from these, CIBC insurance also offers travel, creditor, home, and car insurance.

FaithlifeFinancial

FaithlifeFinancial is a US-based fraternal benefit society which also operates in Canada. Founded in 1972, They are inspired by Christian values and offer a number of types of life and living benefit insurance and investments.

Reliable Life

Reliable Life has been providing insurance solutions to Canadians since 1887. Reliable Life focuses on student accident and travel insurance for both short-term and long-term travel and is part of the Old Republic International group, listed on the NYSE.

Why should you choose a bigger life insurance company?

There are many reasons to choose a large life insurance company for your financial security needs. Their size lets them offer more choice to their policyholders, be that in products or higher coverage amounts. More often than not a large insurance company can meet your coverage needs. However, when contemplating life insurance coverage for your finances, debts, or loved ones, you don’t want a company’s size to be the only metric that dictates the size of the insurance payout you leave behind. 

Other advantages larger insurance companies can offer:

Expertise, size and longevity: Most of Canada’s largest insurance companies have been in business for decades; some have histories which date back to the mid-1840′s. When a company has been involved in an industry that long, one can be certain it understands the complexities of the life insurance landscape, knows how to manage risk and grow assets (important for those seeking whole life insurance), and has a history of meeting long-term financial obligations.

The other advantage here is larger more established companies can offer more than just term life insurance products, and their suite may include whole life insurance, disability insurance, critical illness insurance, long term care insurance, and amongst many more products.

Flexible hours and customer service: Due to their size and breadth of coverage – both in dollar amount and the amount of service they offer countrywide – bigger insurance companies can offer support availability after-hours and on weekends. Plus, as they employ more agents, you may connect to one faster, on the phone or over other digital means, speaking of which …

Technology: Larger insurance companies have access to greater technology, research, and development budgets, and in turn offer their customers more advanced means of doing business. Whether looking for support, to make changes to existing plans, or anything else you need to do to your life insurance policy to ensure it’s working for you, the biggest insurance companies make that easy with more advanced websites and mobile applications.

cost of life insurance

What impacts the cost of life insurance?

Why should you choose a smaller life insurance company?

Just because there are many advantages to working with the biggest life insurance companies in Canada doesn’t mean you should stop considering purchasing life insurance with a smaller company. When contemplating life insurance coverage for your finances, debts, or loved ones, you don’t want a company’s size to be the only metric that dictates the insurance payout you leave behind. Many small to mid-sized life insurance companies may offer specific products more suitable for your personal needs. 

There are plenty of small- to medium-sized insurance companies in Canada, and many have been in business just as long (and meeting financial obligations just as long) as their larger counterparts

Reasons to consider working with smaller life insurance company: 

Price: Larger insurance companies can sometimes be more expensive than their smaller counterparts. This can be for many reasons, like the larger capital requirements that may be imposed on them by the government, funding the technological advances outlined above, or a focus on other segments of their business that require more funds.

While you can save some money working with a smaller company, term life insurance prices usually remain pretty even amongst the top insurance companies in Canada.

Features: Smaller life insurance are usually more nimble and able to introduce product or process changes (in response to consumer requests) faster than some of the larger life insurance companies. Some smaller companies offer additional features – optionally paid for (also called riders) or freely embedded – within their life insurance policies that may be more relevant for your unique situation.

For example, if your preference is to receive an electronic policy or if you want  non-medical coverage, there may be more options available to you from mid-sized insurance companies. 

Personal choice and ethics: Some people just prefer working with smaller companies and this extends to life insurance. A smaller company may be able to provide a policyholder more personalized service, which is especially attractive if it’s their loved ones who have to deal with said company if and when they pass.

As well, some Canadians elect to obtain life insurance through companies which align with their ethics like the Christian-based Faithlife Financial or the Knights of Columbus.

What if my insurance company goes out of business? 

While its normal to have questions about the longevity of your insurance provider, it is very unlikely to happen in Canada. The Canadian insurance industry is highly regulated at both a provincial and federal level.

Simply put, government agencies make sure and monitor that insurance companies in Canada stay solvent and operate such that they stay open for business and have enough funds to cover their liabilities should any worst-case-scenarios occur. Many of Canada’s large life insurance companies are also graded by global credit and financial rating agencies such as AM Best.

In the unlikely event that your insurance company somehow goes out of business, Assuris (a not for profit organization that protects Canadian life insurance policyholders if their insurance company fails) will protect your policy. Designated under the Insurance Companies Act of Canada and funded by the life insurance industry, Assuris helps mitigate the impact on a Canadian policy holder of a failure of a life insurance company.

Every life insurer that is licensed to sell policies in Canada is required by the regulators to become a member of Assuris. Assuris first and foremost attempts to transfer your policy to a solvent Canadian insurance company and at all times insures that you will retain at least 85% of the insurance benefits you were promised.

Best critical illness insurance

Best critical illness insurance companies in Canada

What else to consider when choosing a life insurance company

Ratings and Reviews
There is no end of online insurance reviews you can check out. Whether it be ratings from AM Best or other providers of financial strength ratings, online reviews (Google, TrustPilot, Reviews.io and others), or word of mouth from friends and family who have already purchased life insurance.

Do they offer the type of products you want?
Make sure a potential life insurance provider offers  the coverage amount, term, and – most importantly – features you want.  An innovative, Canadian, online life insurance broker like (ahem) PolicyAdvisor, can help you check different combinations of life insurance terms, benefit amounts, and coverage features to determine which company and product best suits your situation and needs.

Can you increase the length of your coverage later if your circumstances change?
Consider if you purchase term life insurance when you’re single, but, as you get married or have children down the line your needs may evolve. In those cases you it may be beneficial to have a policy provider that lets you convert your term life coverage into a whole life coverage. In this case, participating whole life insurance is what you are looking to add, and this may narrow down your choice of providers to those that offer this particular feature. 

Does the insurance company offer lower premiums to those with healthier lifestyles?
If you are in good health and maintain a balanced lifestyle, insurance companies may offer lower premiums. This is sometimes referred to as a preferred risk classification, but the category names vary amongst companies, with titles such as optimum, elite, preferred plus, preferred, etc. 

Different life insurance companies have varying thresholds for offering such preferred premiums. Some may offer preferred ratings for coverage amounts of $250,000 and above, while others may only offer them if the amount applied for is at least $500,000. Conversely if you have any pre-existing health issues, you may want to consider insurance companies that offer non-medical insurance, or in some cases guaranteed issue policies.

Still have questions about the different life insurance companies in Canada? 

Our advisors are happy to answer your questions about what is offered by Canadian life insurance companies – big and small. PolicyAdvisor.com is an online insurance broker that lets you compare insurance quotes from 20 of the country’s best insurance companies. Schedule a call or try out our instant insurance quoting tools to see how much you can save by comparing quotes online.

The information above is a brief representative summary intended for indicative purposes only. It does not include all terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, termination and other provisions of the policies described, some of which may be material to the insurance company and policy selection. 

A.M. Best financial strength ratings displayed above are an independent opinion of an insurer’s financial strength and ability to meet its ongoing insurance policy and contract obligations. It is not a warranty of a company’s financial strength and ability to meet its obligations to policyholders.

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