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At Manulife, new rules for a new game

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Just a week after being named next CEO of the financial services giant, Donald Guloien had to tear up the old strategy ...Read the full article

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  1. Dave Cajun from bobcaygeon, Canada writes: I used to work as a senior exec at Manulife but fortunately didn't report to Domenic. I had the misfortune once of attending a managmenent meeting with him. Prior to the meeting my boss told me not to say anything but look at my shoes the whole time incase Gog Forbid Domenic would ask me a queston that he wouldn't like the answer to. He was the worst kind od President a tyrant yelling and swearing at his mangement team if if he didn't like their comments. You either did it his way or the highway. I'm glad he's gone hopefully Don Guloin can save this once great company. Domenic clearly you stayed too long. Good riddance
  2. Richard Provencher from Truro, NS, Canada writes: As a small shareholder, I am very disappointed in the performance of Manulife, and hope the new CEO is such a risk-taker, and wish him well.
  3. jimmy juju from Canada writes: you mean there was a plan???

    WOW who da thunk. I thought it was to buy and sell subprime, cds's, and other weird and wonderful financial instruments of wealth destruction.

    Oh well. good luck to ya.
  4. John Cameron from Red Deer, Canada writes: I've often wondered how the "turn retirement planning on its head" thing was going to work out for the customer and the company. I attended a presentation last winter on it and still doubt the worth of the product.
    It appears to me the outcome can vary widely depending on when you buy in. According to the figures and graphs shown to me you would have to have at least three plans sequential to each other to reduce that variability to an acceptable amount.

    This kind of product imho is a great reason to reform Canada's pension system starting by adding a second tier to CPP that is voluntary and funded only by the recipient. Get rid of some of these "helpers" and their exorbitant fees and increase the access to retirement income to a greater proportion of Canadians at the same time.
  5. little bear from Canada writes: John Cameron. I like the idea of a second tier of CPP which is voluntary, however practically I doubt that it would be successful as in order for it to work there would have to be a sizable number of Canadians who would buy into it.
    There would have to be some actuarial credibility and I doubt there is any appetite in Canada for a voluntary CPP level in addition to the tier 1.

    Unlike Americans, Canadians are conditioned to Government having manditory plans which do not require any actual thinking on their part.

    I had another example of that at dinner tonight where my friend who is about to retire grilled me hard on a financial plan that did not require any involvement by him and would produce an annual 10% return. He is not a stupid man but has no concept of how to handle his own financial future and less interest until things go south, which they will.
  6. Kublah Khan from Canada writes: Just maybe Donald could be upfront and honest about income trusts, it appears that Dominic "trashed" income trusts so that Manulife could launch a new product that would appeal to seniors. Great time to clean up the slate!
  7. ex banker from East Coast, Canada writes: Manulife has led the way with manufactured financial products in the last decade. I guess "Manufactures Life" is an appropriate name. They even got an academic on side, Moshe Milevsky from York to shill their products, turning the old asset allocation model into "product allocation" using financial alchemy. Personally I like simpler, cheaper solutions. Wasn't it manufactured financial products that got us in this fiscal mess in the first place?
  8. dominic costanzo from Canada writes: Dominic D'Allessandro testified at the finance comettee that income trusts caused tax leakage so that he could sell his product called "income plus".Many seniors lost their life savings,because of this decision to tax income trusts.I am glad he has retired and wish good luck to the new Ceo.
  9. little bear from Canada writes: Dominic and those fools in Finance played a sweet game with income trusts in order to further their own products and agendas.

    It is with some pleasure that I note that the lustre is fading for Dominic and the question now is can
    Donald turn this ship of fools around and put it on a proper course.

    The problem with a guy like Dominic is that he populates a company with weaklings and yes men (they are the only ones who can survive) then moves on. It then leaves the new guy to disinfect the barn and do a thorough cleaning.

    For the rest of you shareholders, it would be a mistake to think that he can turn this around in short order as it will take some time to clean out the dead wood and bring the company back into balance.

    I am prepared to give him some time as I think it is a good company and hopefully will start on the correct road shortly.

    Only time will tell
  10. Peter Smith from Toronto, Canada writes: I also worked at Manulife as exec. Abuse was common and I was supposed to yell at my employees. I once asked an employee to say he was stupid in front of my boss to show my boss my 'management' quality. Most in management do not do any work, just play politics and abuse their employees. They download all their work to their employees and yell at them for not working 'fast' enough.
  11. John Johnson from Canada writes: Dave Cajun and Peter Smith, you gentlemen are absolutely correct. This is how Bay Street in Toronto works! Scream at your underlings, work them into the ground, promise them everything, tell them they are failures, and then give them nothing! Yes, you are correct. It's ALL about POLITICS, ABUSE, DOWNLOAND THE WORK, AND RIDE THEIR HIDES. At the end of the day, senior management look like golden children, the Board awards them with huge bonuses and options, and everyone thinks that they are Canada's business darlings.
  12. Island Man from Victoria from Canada writes: The Calgary Herald has just run a story indicating the Income Trust tax changes will cost the treasury billions in tax losses.

    All this loss because of stupidity and greed. Manulife could not compete it's new Income Plus product against Income Trusts so Dominic worked Flaherty to kill the Income Trust market off. This will cost Canadian taxpayers billions, it already cost seniors billions from their savings and yet the press (other than the Herald) is giving Harper a pass on his Betrayal and Lies about tax leakage.

    With Dominic gone Manulife could help set the record straight but don't hold your breath. Harper's reach is long and his attacks are brutal.
  13. P A from Whitby, Canada writes: Absolutely John Johnson....Guys like D'Allessandro are a dime a dozen downtown TO. Medium size fish with huge ego's swimming in a very small pond. The really unfortunate thing is the undue influence these titans of business have behind the scenes. And yet, despite all the horror stories of poor behaviour, and crappy management, go to Wikepedia and this is what you will find.

    D'Alessandro was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in August 2003. He was given the title "Canada's Most Respected CEO" in 2004 and "Canada's Outstanding CEO of the Year 2002" by his peers for his contribution to business and the community.

    Just what constitutes a good CEO these days?
  14. Peter Smith from Toronto, Canada writes: I was so sick of myself after a few years. At home, I teach my kids respect, work ethics, honesty, fair play....etc. At work, I do the exact opposite. I abuse, lie, download, yell, humiliate...etc.
    I started to develop personailty problems and was seeing a workplace counsellor. My peers said I need to improve my managemnet is all normal to abuse, lie, download, yell, humiliate...etc.
  15. John Johnson from Canada writes: P A from Whitby, the titles and the rewards for these types are just a huge love-in for a select smaller circle. Look at John Roth, former CEO of Nortel (before its precipitous drop), he too was Canada's Outstanding CEO one year. You know, every year, someone else in that select clique will be picking one of his / her fellow (wo)man. It's all spin buddy by Corporate Canada!
  16. Jack Knight from Canada writes: Domenic was incompetent and grossly over-paid!
  17. John Johnson from Canada writes: I put a challenge out to the new CEO that all employees be treated with dignity and respect and not subject to a reign of terror from their direct (and other senior) management. There, I said it.
  18. michel proulx from Canada writes:
    the more i read, the more i'm being convinced the entire financial system is a giant Ponzi scheme
  19. Surley Burley from Windsor, On, Canada writes: I am unfortunately with Manulife. I was unaware that they were taking over Berkshire Investments. If I had known this, I would have chosen another financial planner such as Edward Jones. I will never put another dime in this investment portfolio.
  20. Canadian First from Hazelton, Canada writes: I also am sure it is a ponzi scheme. When something is based on continious growth it one day has to end.
  21. Venkat Karimanasseri from New York, NY, United States writes: I am not sure if we should be happy that an investment division head has now become the group CEO. Even a layman knows that the actuarial risk reflected in inflows (insurance premium) and asset risk reflected in investment returns are so different in terms of their underlying, what exactly is the new CEO's claim to this exalted switch in roles = from managing the investment risk and returns to also managing the actuarial risk?? Is it that his portfolio managers outperformed arbitly defined benchmarks? Or is it that he has deep reaches within the innermost circles at Ottawa and Washington DC??
  22. John Knox from toronto, Canada writes: Ah well ... many incite-ful and insightful comments here. Manulife is a fine company that has deeply embedded risk issues which will probably come more completely to light within the next 18 months. Many middling yet senior executives will be retiring during the same time so it is probably better today, to be a talented and humane junior or intermediate employee. At a safe" distance and level, learn the business along the lines of a hopefully more enlightened model and unlearn some management styles gleaned from fools who subscribe to the Stalin School of Management. Good luck, I hope the "good folks" there do well. I would miss Manulife's putting green lawn and beautiful trees on Bloor East alhough not the NOISY paper shredders, leaf blowers and high pressure water hoses used to clean the sidewalks.
  23. Cynical Optimist from Canmore, Canada writes: I don't think D'Allessandro was representative of all CEO's on Bay street. The one I worked for was a first class CEO. Respect in the workplace was a key value of the bank I worked for.
  24. S Thompson from Tundraville, Canada writes: That new CEO sure is a looker!
  25. Paul Leunissen from Toronto, Canada writes: Interesting article. Some interesting comments. And I even registered after years of reading inane comments just so I could add my thoughts to the discussion.

    I too worked at Manulife. I spent 2 years there in the late 90s - and I must say that from my perspective - it was the best company I ever worked for. Good salary, great benefits, education opportunities, etc.

    I may have only been an analyst in Waterloo - but I never once saw any of the type of abuse that a few other posters have mentioned. Sure - I saw bad managers...but guess what people. There are bad managers everywhere. I can't speak for anyone else - but I do know I was treated well. I was listened too. I was respected. And I was only 2 years out of it's not like I had 10-15 years experience under my belt. I was treated far better than I thought I would be - and certainly a lot better than some of the places I've been since.

    I've worked at few places since my time there - and to this day I regret my decision to leave the company. It was the best company I ever worked for...and the food in the cafeteria rocked! It's work people - expect to find a few bad apples. Suck it up and deal with it.

    I never had a chance to meet Dom (other than at an AGM) - but I can respect what he transformed Manulife into. A world player, and a leader in the industry. No financial companies have gotten through this mess unscathed, and it's unreasonable to expect Manulife to be any different. Didn't they make good on the Portus mess? They didn't have to you know....
  26. little bear from Canada writes: Canadian First. Pension systems, Insurance systems from WCB to life insurance are predicated on Actuarial Assumptions and Actuarial projections that you will need X dollars to ensure that you can pay your future obligations.

    You may go from fully funded to having an unfunded liability in a matter or a year or so if your assumptions and projections are not realized.

    If you call that a Ponzi scheme then ok but that is the way the world is run regardless of Country, or business.
  27. Cynical Optimist from Canmore, Canada writes: Paul Leunissen-Thanks for the post. Nice to read something positive and intelligent here-for a change.
  28. John Melnick from Canada writes: I left Manulife working as a contractor because of the abuse that I suffered. I was yelled at, my job was threatened on a daily basis.

    My health went downhill.

    I gave 2 weeks notice the day the day after my manager went on a 3 week vacation.

    Working for Manulife was like living in hell.

    I'm glad I'm gone.
  29. little bear from Canada writes: Paul I was never with Manulife but in our company it was very very much where you sat on the pecking order.

    We were unionized and if you were part of the union you were treated quite well and that included the contractors.

    If on the other hand you were a Manager things were entirely different. While yelling was not usual but not unknown either other forms of abuse and intimidation were very normal.

    We were what were called senior managers, which simply meant that we worked 10-14 hours a day and more often than not on weekends as well. We were not in the union so had no recourse.

    Intimidation was quite normal. We were allowed 1 hour for lunch. Twice a year all the managers in the division would have a lunch together and this lunch on several occassions stretched to 90 minutes. The CEO was standing waiting for us and called a meeting and reamed us all out but good.

    If Manulife was like that, Dominic was no loss. I am a shareholder and have income plus.
  30. Peter Smith from Toronto, Canada writes: John Melnick , please give moer details how you were abused.

    How were you yelled at? How were you threatened? How bad was your health while at Manulife?
  31. Loon In Tune from Toronto, Canada writes: Hi Cynical Optimist - thank you for your kinds words.

    John - a friend of mine recently completed a contract at 500 King. He was in IT...he enjoyed it, and had nothing but positive things to say. You know you could have gone to HR and had something done about it I would think. I dealt with HR on one occasion, and I had a great experience. Of course....I wasn't there with a problem like the one you had.

    Everyone has a different take on things it would. To the poster who made the comment about where you are in the pecking order...I was at the very bottom. I had a great boss - I learned a ton from him. I guess that's where the difference lies...

    The reason I left was because my immediate manager also left. His boss was nice and all...just a bit clueless about the work I did. I tried to explain what it was that I did....but it was a losing battle. No hard feelings at all...they gave me nice send off (I still have the nice pen they gave me) - and I still keep in touch with a few people I met there. I guess it really does depend on 'where you sit". I just sat in my cube...did my work and kept my head down. I was swamped with work...but I enjoyed it.

    If nothing least I can read my insurance policy and understand what it all means. Those LOMA courses were very helpful...and bonuses and days off for reaching certain milestones? Win-win all around!

    I left just before the demutualization was completed - should have stayed...would have made a killing on the stock (emp purchase plan)!

    I've been reading these comments for years...and always wanted to add something to what I was reading...but then I'd see the discourse get all nasty and I never did registered for an account.

    Hope this discussion can remain civil. :)
  32. Dave C from Canada writes: Manulife needs a new strategy. They should begin to lend money to those that have no credit or at least bad credit histories. They should lend large sums of money to new home buyers to buy houses and should do this whether or not the home buyer can mange to save any down payment, after all, down payments aren't important. Sure it is a good gauge whether or not the home buyer actually has the discipline to save but by requiring a healthy down payment, you eliminate all of those prospective mortgages that can be sold to more riskier individuals. The type that can't save a penny and who are always one paycheck away from bankruptcy. Those are some of the easiest people to sell to. Also, make sure that the new home buyer is buying much more home than they can afford. Remember, there is no such thing as starter homes anymore. All kids out of college want the exact same size house with all of the toys that their parents have. Don't make them wait and actually earn these items. Make sure you issue multiple credit cards to anyone with a pulse. You have to get your credit cards in their hands before the hundreds of other credit card companies beat you to them. These are all ideas that will guarantee long healthy company growth.

    Oh wait a minute. I think all of the above mentioned ideas have been adopted by North American banks for a few years now. OK, just keep doing what you are doing.
  33. John Melnick from Canada writes: Peter Smith from Toronto, Canada writes: John Melnick , please give moer details how you were abused.

    How were you yelled at? How were you threatened? How bad was your health while at Manulife?

    Well, let's see. One afternoon, my manager spent the entire afternoon planning a new floor for his home, while my 2 coworkers surfed the internet, he came around my cubicle and saw a G&M news story on my desktop, asked me into a conference room and then spent 1/2 hour ragging me out, and threatening my job.

    He was black and he really leaned hard on his white workers. His staff turnaround was 2 years, that is no one worked for him for more than 2 years before moving on or quitting.

    Sometimes a spelling mistake or a punctuational error got past me and I was given another threatening lecture. Things got so bad, I bought a Diasonic microphone hoping for him to say anything that I could use in a lawsuit. unfortunately all I really got after that was him slandering coworkers.

    My Manager often gave me specific directions about how to do my job and then would change his mind and rag me out for not doing things the new way before he revised his direction.

    How was I threatened?

    As a contractor all he needed was to give the word and my contract would have been cancelled (I now work FT permanent in my current company and will never do contract work again if I can help it).

    My health went south, often colds, bronchitis, depression would keep me home 2-6 days a month. Contractors get no sick days, no holidays, no bonuses.
  34. Peter Smith from Toronto, Canada writes: John, you experienced something very common at MLife. Taping started to become very common as people tried to fight back the constant abuse. I learned of a situation where a mainland Chinese manager was taped threatening his employee. The mainland Chinese probably thought he was still in China. The employee sued and won 100K compensation.
  35. Prairie Dog from Vancouver, Canada writes: Boring company. Boring people. How could people actually work for such a place?
  36. Centre Of The Universe from Toronto, Canada writes: Any company which manages assets earns their keep by skimming money off the assets that they are managing. And any asset management company which is worth $ billions... Well, guess what, they skimmed those $ billions from the people who they supposedly "served".

    Just stop and think about that the next time you're trying to decide whether to put your RSP money into mutual fund managed by a company like Manulife or whether you put it into a GIC or a self-directed discount brokerage account.
  37. John Q Public from Oakville,Ont, Canada writes: I have heard Manulife still has much unrealized or unpublished exposure to the credit losses in the US. Major stuff ... anyone heard anything ?
  38. Ron Pacific from Vancouver, Canada writes: Unfortunately, the media these days will heap praise on CEO's like Dominic when the reality is that such "top" CEO's have stripped thousands of Canadians of their wealth. Ask any shareholder of Manulife how their stock has performed - talk about a disaster! Of course, the whole income trust thing with Harper & Co. was partly Dominic's influence. Yes - Dominic lobbied hard to have his buddies Harper and Flathead crush the savings of thousands of innocent investors in order to get them in the low return "packaged" products offered by Manulife. Of course, we will hear about how income trusts are not secure etc. etc. but the packaged funds have performed even worse and with high fees and low income. You just couldn't allow "vulnerable seniors" who "know nothing" to invest in such volatile products such as energy trust units. Instead, you had to get them into "safe", "secure" mutual funds so the "elite experts" could earn their hefty fees by putting hard earned money into safe, secure investments such as Citigroup, Lehman Brothers and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
  39. Dorah Gorley from Canada writes: A few years back I was offered a position with Manulife which I didn't take as something better-paying came along. I can only say that the interview process was rather pleasant and respectful. As for those ex Manulife managers who claim to suffer moral damage because they downloaded their work to their subordinates it's just too funny. Are we supposed to feel sorry for you, guys? 8))

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