Manulife, Canada Life, Sun Life, Industrial Alliance, Empire Life, and Desjardins are some of the largest life insurance companies in Canada, maybe even in North America.
Since life insurance helps protect your family’s future, you want to go with a trusted name. Each of these insurers is a member of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. All of them offer a wide range of products.
Along with the big companies, consider smaller names with solid financial health ratings as well. Sometimes, smaller companies may offer you better value for money than larger companies.
There are many online articles that help you compare insurance providers to find the best one. While we cannot recommend a single provider as the best insurance company for everyone, we do provide independent research and reviews to help you make a decision with more information. In this article, you will learn about it all.
So let's dive in.
The Biggest Life Insurance Companies in Canada
Manulife, Canada Life Assurance Company, Sun Life Financial, IA Financial, and Empire Life are the five biggest life insurance companies in Canada based on total assets. Here is a list of the top 10:
*The ratings for financial strength were obtained from the credit rating agency A.M. Best. Written Premiums and Assets taken from public financial data sources.
What is life insurance?
Life insurance is a legally-binding contract in which the life insurance business promises to pay your beneficiary the benefit upon your death in exchange for regular premium payments. You can name multiple beneficiaries and can select anyone as your beneficiary, for example your spouse, children, or a trust. In most cases, the payout is tax-free.
Life insurance policies are of two types: term and permanent.
Term insurance provides coverage for a fixed period of time, such as 5, 10, 20, or 30 years, and does not build value. Term policies are far more affordable than permanent life plans, with insurance premiums for young, healthy applicants often being as low as the cost of a cup of coffee a day. Insurance companies protect households' and businesses' financial stability by insuring their risks.
Permanent life insurance offers life insurance protection as long you live, provided you pay the insurance premiums. Most of these policies also build value, which grows tax-deferred. Your policy’s cash value is for you to use while you are still alive. Cash-value account grows over time and can be withdrawn as a source of income in retirement. Your beneficiaries generally receive only the benefit when you pass away. Permanent life is the most popular type of permanent insurance.
How does life insurance work?
- First, you select the type of plan — term or permanent, and the amount of coverage you want. Policyholders will also need to choose the number of years of the policy term. There are many ways in which term policies can be beneficial to you and your family.
- Next, you submit the application to the provider. You will likely be asked to answer a series of health-related questions and take a medical examination as part of the application process.
- The insurer will set your premium rate based on your age, gender, health, and medical history, among other things.
- Your plan becomes active the day you sign the policy papers and pay the first premium.
- In the event of your demise, your beneficiaries will receive the death benefit.
Manulife Financial Corporation
With 1.3 million in assets and $40B premiums written, Manulife is one of the largest life insurance providers in Canada. Manulife also offers various other financial products, including banking products, wealth management services, and group benefits.
Manulife is a financial services provider and is best known for its term life insurance plans. Its term insurance products include: CoverMe (10-year term policy, renewable up to age 85), Family Term (A good option for families since it offers a lot of flexibility), Business Term (Designed specifically for business owners, offering up to $20 million in death benefit), Family Term with Vitality (allows you to save money and earn rewards if you demonstrate healthy habits), and Quick Issue Term (No medical reports needed). Besides life insurance, Manulife also offers life and health insurance, dental insurance, critical illness insurance, travel insurance, disability insurance, group insurance, pension products, annuities, mutual funds, etc.
Institutions such as Manulife offer a variety of financial products and services that can help someone save for their future and protect their loved ones. Manulife also provides wealth management services, and group benefits for its clients.
In addition to term life insurance, Manulife also sell permanent life, including a Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance that does not require a medical examination.
- Coverage amount available from $50,000 to $20 million
- Renewable up to age 85
- Many riders available, like the disability premium waiver rider and child’s insurance rider
- Cash advance if diagnosed with a terminal illness
Pros of Manulife
- Financially strong
- A wide range of term life insurance plans
- Early payout options
- No-medical term
Cons of Manulife
- Its term lengths are limited
- Term life insurance rates are not among the cheapest
Canada Life Assurance Company
Established in 1847, Canada Life is one of the most reputable, and biggest insurance companies in Canada. As a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco Inc. and a division of Power Corporation, Canada Life is an insurance and financial services provider. Great-West Lifeco Inc.'s has other subsidiaries as well.
Canada Life Assurance offers a wide range of insurance products, including whole life, universal life, and term life insurance.
Term life coverage is available for 10, 20, and 30 years or up to age 65. You can convert your coverage into a permanent or universal life coverage up to age 70 without having to prove insurability. Term 10 plans (which last for 10 years) can be converted to a 20-year term policy anytime between the second and sixth policy year.
All of its life insurance products give you the option to add various riders and benefits, such as the guaranteed insurability rider, waiver of premium benefit, accidental death benefit, and child’s term life insurance rider.
- Joint first-to-die option available with term insurance products
- Term life plans convertible up to age 70
- Term life policies expire at age 85
Pros of Canada Life Assurance
- Long history and financially robust
- Four different term lengths available
- Competitive premium rates
- Generous term exchange option
Cons of Canada Life Assurance
- Online quotes not available
- You cannot choose your own term
Sun Life Financial
With total assets exceeding $328 billion, Sun Life Financial is among the biggest insurance companies in the world. Apart from the country of Canada, Sun Life operates in several countries, including the US, the UK, and Australia.
Sun Life Financial offers a slew of term life products, including a simplified issue, which allows you to forego the life insurance medical examination. Sun Life's operations are primarily focused on the sale of life and health insurance products. Its term life products are available in different term lengths — 10, 15, 20, or 30 years. All term life plans come with a 30-day free look period, meaning you get a full refund if you cancel the policy within 30 days of its issue. They also offers life and health insurance, critical illness insurance, and mutual funds, etc.
In addition to term life insurance, Sun Life Financial offers various permanent life choices.
- Insurance Coverage amount available from $50,000 to $1 million
- Term lengths available are 10, 15, 20, or 30 years
- Most term life plans allow you to add riders to customize the insurance coverage to meet your unique needs
- Living benefits included
Pros of Sun Life Financial
- Financially strong
- No-medical term life insurance plans
- Term life plans convertible up to age 75
- A wide range of add-ons
Cons of Sun Life Financial
- Term life insurance rates are a little on the higher side
- No digital policy option
IA Financial Group is among Canada’s largest insurance business and wealth management group. The group has over $214 billion in assets and is financially very strong, as reflected by its A+ rating from AM Best.
The subsidiary Industrial Alliance, which is the insurance arm of iA Financial Group, accounts for roughly 10% of the individual insurance market share. Industrial Alliance life insurance goods include term, whole, and universal life insurance.
Industrial Alliance’s Pick A Term is a unique term life insurance policy in the sense that it lets you pick any term from 10 to 40 years. Most other insurers, in contrast, offer a few fixed term options, such 10, 20, or 30 years. The provider also offers a no-medical term life insurance plan, called Access Life, for those with underlying health conditions.
Industrial Alliance also sells multiple permanent life plans, the most notable among them being Life & Serenity 65. The plan offers lifelong coverage with premiums payable till age 100, but in the event of loss of autonomy after age 65, you will be exempted from paying premiums and will receive the insurance amount as a monthly annuity. IA financial group also offers auto insurance, critical illness insurance, health insurance, travel insurance, disability insurance, property insurance, group insurance and mortgage insurance.
- Coverage amount available from $10,000 to $10 million
- Coverage term available from 10 to 40 years
- No-medical term life insurance and whole life insurance
- All term life plans are convertible
Pros of iA Financial Group
- A great selection of life insurance goods
- No-medical term and permanent life insurance
- Pick-A-Term has few industry parallels and gives you the freedom to pick any term from 10 to 40 years
- Financially stable
Cons of iA Financial Group
- No digital policy
- Premium rates might not be the cheapest
Empire Life is another top life insurance company in Canada, with more than $18 billion in assets. The insurer offers a range of investment management products apart from various life insurance plans.
They sell both term permanent life insurance options. You can buy term life insurance for 10, 20, 25, and 30 year terms. All of these term plans promise guaranteed level premium rates and are renewable. In addition to these four term products, the insurance provider sells an annual renewable term life policy, which can be a good option for those in need of temporary coverage.
Empire Life offers both participating and non-participating permanent insurance products. To attain better growth, most insurance companies in Canada provide numerous possibilities for converting your coverage into permanent options, including participating whole life options. It also has a guaranteed issue plan, which does not require a medical examination. Empire Life is a business that also offers investment products like annuities, segregated funds, mutual funds, etc.
- Coverage amount available from $50,000 to $10 million
- Term life insurance available for 10, 20, 25, and 30 years
- All term life plans are renewable
- Several permanent life insurance plans
Pros of Empire Life
- Multiple term life and permanent life insurance plans
- Term coverage lasts up to age 85
- Shorter application processing times
Cons of Empire Life
- Does not offer online quotes to clients
- Does not sell Universal life insurance
Apart from these top five companies, you may also want to include the following names in your search:
Desjardins Financial Security
Trusted by millions of customers, Desjardins ranks sixth in the list of largest providers in Canada based on written premiums.
Desjardins offer four term life insurance plans: Term 10, Term 20, Term 30, and Term-to-age-65. Term 10 and Term 20 plans are renewable up to age 85, while the Term 30 plan can be renewed only once. All the four plans are convertible, which is a useful feature to have if you want to change your life insurance over time.
Desjardins offer four permanent insurance products, including a no-medical life insurance policy and a participating plan. You can customize life insurance to meet your unique needs by adding various riders to the base policy.
Their product selection now includes health, travel, auto, home and group insurance.
- Term life insurance available for 10, 20, or 30 years, or until age 65
- Term life plans are convertible and renewable
- Multiple riders are available
Pros of Desjardins
- Robust suite of life insurance goods
- Covers multiple lives in one policy
- Financially strong
Cons of Desjardins
- Term life insurance premium rates are not the cheapest
- Does not offer online quotes
RBC Life Insurance
RBC Insurance is one of Canada’s most trusted insurance brokers. Banks are one of the most trusted sources for financial advice and products, including life insurance. The RBC insurance company of Canada also offers home, health, car, travel insurance.
RBC life Insurance offers both term and permanent life insurance. YourTerm is RBC’s flagship product, which allows applicants to choose any term from 10 to 40 years. Royal Bank Canada also offers a no-medical term insurance plan, called SimplifiedTerm. Both these plans are convertible. RBC also offers home insurance, health insurance, car insurance, and travel insurance, mutual funds, etc.
RBC Insurance Canada sells four permanent insurance products, including a no-medical permanent life insurance.
Main Features of RBC Life Insurance
- No medical term and permanent life insurance
- 30-day review period
- Pick your own term with term insurance
- Offers both permanent life and universal life insurance
Pros of RBC Life Insurance
- Affordable term insurance rates
- Great selection of life insurance goods
- Strong financially
Cons of RBC Life Insurance
- Term insurance might be expensive for smokers
- No digital policy option
Wawanesa Life Insurance
Wawanesa distributes insurance products throughout Canada. Wawanesa also offers home insurance, auto insurance, farm insurance, and commercial business insurance.
Term insurance is available for 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years, or up to age 85. Wawanesa insurance also offers three permanent life insurance plans: 20 Pay Whole Life, Pay to Age 100, and Instant Issue Life Insurance. The last one is ideal for those who want coverage instantly. It lets you forego medical examination, and the coverage starts as soon as you submit the life insurance application and pay the first premium. The application process is simple and straightforward.
- A wide range of life insurance goods
- Special plans with lower rates for healthy applicants
- Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance
Pros of Wawanesa Life Insurance
- Term insurance available in five different term lengths
- Instant issue permanent life insurance
- Competitive premium rates
- Attractive guaranteed cash values with whole life insurance policies
Cons of Wawanesa Life Insurance
- You cannot apply online
- No universal life insurance policies
TD Insurance provides life insurance all throughout Canada and is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. TD Insurance has many rivals in Canada, and it's difficult to see what sets them apart because their premiums are higher than other insurers'.
Pros of TD Insurance
- TD Insurance offers term and permanent life insurance
- Instant coverage up to $500,000 at higher prices than competition
- Offer No Medical Life Insurance
Cons of TD Insurance
- Less term life options
- TD Insurance's term life policies are more expensive than others'.
- TD Insurance only offers a non-participating whole life insurance.
- Renewal prices are significantly more expensive
Term life insurance from BMO Insurance is a wonderful choice for single people, married people, and business owners. It can be used to safeguard a firm and their important personnel as well as to pay for mortgages and other debts, final expenses, burial costs, and provision for dependents.
Pros of BMO Insurance
- There are numerous term life insurance coverage alternatives available.
- Conversion options into a permanent life insurance policy
- Available multi-policy discount
- Capability to convert a 10-year policy into a longer-term policy (15, 20, 25, and 30 year coverage options)
Cons of BMO Insurance
- There is no digital option; only printed policies are issued.
- Longer-term (Term 25 and Term 30) life insurance policies are not renewable.
- There is no online account.
In 2020, La Capitale Insurance joined with SSQ Insurance to form Beneva. Beneva offers renewable, convertible, and decreasing term life insurance, permanent life insurance, disability insurance, critical illness insurance, and other health insurance products under the Beneva brand.
Pros of La Capitale
- Online assistance
- Built-in protection (up to $1000) for estate legal fees and expenditures (Enhanced products, Quebec only)
- There are other optional coverage available, including riders for children's term and critical illness.
- Combined financial backing from SSQ Insurance merger under Beneva name
Cons of La Capitale
- Up to $25,000 in no-medical coverage was available.
- After the age of 71, simplified coverage is only available up to $50,000.
Factors to consider when picking an insurance provider
With so many companies on the market, how do you pick the right one? We have prepared a list of the most important factors to consider when shopping for life insurance.
Life insurance is a long-term contract, lasting a few decades or even your entire lifetime. The last thing you would want is to pay thousands of dollars in insurance premiums only to find the insurer closing shop several years down the line. Therefore, make sure you choose a provider that is in good financial shape.
Thankfully, ascertaining the financial health of an insurance company does not take more than a couple of minutes. AM Best — the world’s largest credit rating agency specializing in the insurance industry — provides a simple scoring formula ranging from A++ downward. The higher the rating, the more financially sound an insurance company is.
Permanent and term life insurance are the two insurance products an insurance carrier offers. Most providers offer both, but some may specialize in only term insurance. Make sure the companies included in your final list carry the product you need.
Premiums vary wildly among insurers, but keep in mind that no single provider is the cheapest for all applicants. Comparing quotes of different providers is the only way to ensure you are getting the best value for your money.
Guaranteed Renewability, Guaranteed Insurability, and Term Conversion Riders
Most individuals opt for term insurance because it is more affordable and the coverage lasts only for as long as you need it. But life insurance needs can — and often do — change with time.
As your 20-year term policy approaches its expiry date, you may realize your family still needs life insurance protection. Or, your existing coverage is no longer adequate. It may also happen that term life insurance is no longer the best option for you.
It is important to pay attention to the kind of riders the insurer offers. Life insurance riders are add-ons that offer extra coverage or benefits. Some of them are built into your policy by default while others can be purchased by paying extra.
If you are interested in taking out a term life insurance plan, three of the most important riders to consider are:
- Guaranteed Renewability Rider: This rider allows you to renew your term policy without a medical examination. That means if you want to continue coverage beyond the initial term, the insurer can neither turn your request down nor factor your current health into the renewal premium rate. Sure, your renewal premiums will be higher, but the increase will be only due to age.
- Guaranteed Insurability Rider: It allows you to increase your coverage amount up to a preset limit without having to go through underwriting again. Generally, insurers let you purchase additional coverage at specific dates in future, like the fifth policy anniversary, or after a major life event, like the birth of a child.
- Term Conversion Rider: It allows you to convert your term policy to a permanent life insurance plan without proving insurability. Some carriers let you choose between permanent life and universal life insurance, while others may give only one option.
Why should you consider coverage from a large insurance company?
Large insurance providers are generally financially strong and go back many decades, even more than a century. When you buy from a large insurance company, you can rest assured the provider will keep its end of the bargain and pay the policy amount when the time comes. Large insurance carriers usually also offer a wider range of products than small players, which can be advantageous for buyers who need more than one type of life insurance policy.
All the same, the size of your insurance company is not the most important factor or the only one you should consider.
Factors that are more important include:
- Insurer’s financial health rating
- Its premium rates
- Whether it has the right policy for your needs
Why you may want to consider a smaller life insurance company
Just because an insurance company has assets worth billions of dollars or has been around for a long time does not automatically mean it is right for you. Smaller companies tend to specialize in one or two types of life insurance products and as such may offer you a better deal.
Also, some smaller insurance carriers are more willing to write a policy to high-risk applicants. If you have an underlying health condition, do not discount these companies merely because of their size. Smaller insurers may also offer online quotes, digital policies, shorter application processing times, and customer support via a mobile app. If these things are important to you, include these providers in your list.
What if your insurance company goes out of business?
Life insurance helps mitigate the financial impact of your death on your family. But what if your insurance carrier suddenly becomes insolvent and cannot pay the claim? Thankfully, the Canadian insurance industry is strictly regulated, and the chances of an insurer becoming bankrupt are very slim. That said, the possibility cannot be completely ruled out. But you will be glad to learn that if that were to ever happen, you will still not lose all of the promised benefits. If there is a casualty, the benefits will still be given, though they may be lessened.
If your provider goes out of business, Assuris — a not-for-profit and industry-funded compensation body — will protect you. Assuris promises that you will receive at least 85% of your policy’s benefits. The best part is that you get this protection free of cost. If you are a citizen or resident of Canada, you are automatically protected by Assuris if you purchase a product from a Canadian insurance company. The Canadian insurance industry is a highly regulated industry with many rules and regulations that insurance companies must follow in order to operate. Assuris provides solutions for Canadians who are concerned about what would happen to their coverage if their life insurance company goes bankrupt.
Here is how Assuris protects you if your insurer declares bankruptcy:
- Assuris will transfer your policy to a financially stable provider and you will retain at least 85% of the death benefit.
- For coverage amounts of $200,000 or lower, you will retain the full death benefit amount.
- If the cash value of your policy is $60,000 or less, you will retain all of it. If the value is more than $60,000, you will retain 85% of it.
What life insurance company offers the biggest payout option?
Manulife, RBC Life, and Blue Cross Atlantic all offer life insurance term insurance coverage of up to $25,000,000 to younger applicants. However, how much coverage you can buy depends largely on your annual income. Most carriers (if not all) will not approve you for more than 20-30 times your annual salary.
Most popular type of life insurance coverage in Canada
Whole life insurance is the most widely purchased in Canada. It provides lifelong coverage and builds value. However, these perks do not come cheap. On average, permanent life plans are 10 to 15 times more expensive than term insurance.
With permanent life, part of each premium payment is used for covering the cost of administrative fees, insurance and financial services, while part goes into a built-in savings account. This account accumulates wealth — called cash value — at a fixed rate set by the insurer. Your policy’s value grows tax-deferred, meaning you pay tax on it only when you access it.
The “forced savings” aspect of permanent life can be appealing to those who find saving money hard. It is also a useful feature for high-net-worth individuals who have already maxed out traditional investment vehicles and want their life insurance policy to act as a tool for investments, besides providing financial assistance to their loved ones upon death.
Can you buy life insurance from a US provider if you live in Canada?
Theoretically speaking, the answer is yes. But the sale would have to be made in the US. That means you would need to go to the US to sign the application with the company, take the life insurance medical examination, and accept the delivery of the policy. As you may guess, all of this is hardly practical.
Unless you have a specific reason for choosing a US provider, you will likely be better off buying life insurance and financial services from the Canadian insurance industry.
Manulife is the largest life insurance company in Canada, followed by Canada Life and Sun Life. If you are shopping for life insurance and financial services, consider getting a quote from them and other big companies. That said, do not discount smaller companies. The best insurance companies master the art of premium calculations.
It is possible that a smaller insurance company may be more appropriate for you given your personal circumstances. Dundas Life will save you time and money by displaying discounts from some of Canada's major insurance companies, as well as many more, to help you select the right coverage at the best possible price. Send us an email or schedule a call to have our agent guide you through your options and help you pick a product that’s right for you. Our agents are highly qualified and experienced professionals who are here to provide you with the greatest service and assist you with advice to choose the perfect product for you.
What is Business Insurance?
Business insurance protects businesses from losses that may arise during the normal course of business. There are many different types of business insurance, including covering for property damage, legal liability, and employee-related hazards.
What is Property Insurance?
The word "property insurance" refers to a wide range of protection plans that insure both physical assets and legal liabilities. If a property or its contents are damaged, or stolen, the policyholder or renter will receive compensation from the insurer. Also, the property owner or renter will receive compensation from the insurer if a third party is wounded on the property.
What is Reinsurance?
Reinsurance is frequently referred to as insurer insurance or stop-loss insurance. Reinsurance is the process of insurers transferring sections of their risk portfolios to other parties through some type of agreement in order to lessen the possibility of having to pay a big obligation arising from an insurance claim.