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Manulife promotes head of Asian unit to president; succession back in focus

One of the Manulife offices in Toronto is seen in this file photo.

Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

Manulife Financial Corp. has promoted the head of its Asian division to a new leadership position, bringing a renewed focus on succession planning to the country's largest insurer.

Australian-born Roy Gori is set to take over as Manulife's president as of June 5. He will oversee investments and the company's global operations in Canada and the United States, in addition to Asia.

The move comes after months of speculation about the succession plan for the chief executive role at Canada's largest insurer – a chair that has been filled by Donald Guloien since May, 2009. While the insurer has not formally announced a specific succession plan or timeline for future leadership of the company, Mr. Guloien, who is 59 years old, has said in the past that he doesn't plan to work until typical retirement age and that succession planning should be a key area of focus for management teams and boards of directors.

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At an industry conference in Montreal on Wednesday, Steve Roder, Manulife's chief financial officer, said Mr. Gori's new role isn't a statement on the company's succession plans.

"Donald has not indicated that there's any change in his arrangement," Mr. Roder said. "We'll see how we go."

But Mr. Gori's promotion to a leadership position right under the CEO – and his new responsibility for developing and executing Manulife's business strategy – does suggest that some of the company's other key executives are further from the top job. That includes U.S. division leader Craig Bromley and Canadian division head Marianne Harrison. Linda Mantia, Manulife's chief operating officer who recently joined the insurer from a prominent role with Royal Bank of Canada, will report to Mr. Gori on corporate strategy, but she will report to Mr. Guloien on other responsibilities.

"Roy's leadership and energy have had a lasting and highly positive effect on Manulife's business in Asia," Richard DeWolfe, chairman of the board, said in a statement. "With this appointment, the board is confident that he will make numerous contributions across all of Manulife's operations, play a critical role in driving and executing on our strategic plan and create substantial value for our stakeholders."

Mr. Gori joined Manulife in 2015 from Citigroup Inc., where he last led consumer banking in North Asia and Australia, as well as being regional head of Asia-Pacific retail banking at Citigroup.

He intends to move to Toronto from his current base in Hong Kong to take on the role, pending immigration approvals. Over his career, he has also lived and worked in Sydney, Singapore and Thailand.

Mr. Roder said on Wednesday Mr. Gori is relocating to Toronto to learn more about the North American market, even though he could probably do his new job from anywhere.

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"I'm excited to take on this opportunity, and to play a role in shaping Manulife's businesses around the world at a time of rapid and significant change," Mr. Gori said in a statement. "We are confident that by going above and beyond for our customers, we will be able to deliver strong results and significant shareholder value."

With a file from Christina Pellegrini

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About the Author
Financial Services Reporter

Jacqueline Nelson is a financial services reporter at the Report on Business. Prior to that she was a staff writer at Canadian Business magazine, covering news and writing features on a wide variety of subjects. More

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