A Canadian flag flies in front of its office building in the Seaport district and a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan sits in the executive suite, but John Hancock Financial Services still hangs on to its Boston roots. John Hancock has been owned by Canadian firm Manulife Financial Corp. for nearly a decade, but the insurance company continues to be the primary sponsor of the city’s seminal event, the annual Boston Marathon.
John Hancock’s president, Craig Bromley, recently spoke with reporter Deirdre Fernandes about his first year leading the 152-year-old company. Here’s what she found out:
1 Bromley’s first job after college was as an executive recruiter — he doesn’t like the term “head hunter” — interviewing and fielding candidates for top-level jobs. The experience gave him an insight into what skills good leaders need: decision-making, the ability to look ahead without being overwhelmed by the crisis of the moment, and integrity.
“You can’t get away without integrity for very long.”
2Before taking charge of John Hancock and settling his family on the South Shore, Bromley worked in Japan overseeing Manulife’s business in the world’s second largest insurance market. Japan was supposed to be a temporary stint, but he ended up staying nearly seven years, growing that business despite a shrinking population and low interest rates. Bromley still says goodbye to guests with a traditional Japanese bow.
“The lesson I got from Japan is that no matter how mature the market, there’s always room for growth.”
3Bromley played a key role in John Hancock’s merger with Manulife in 2004 as the Canadian company’s head of business development. Manulife wanted to gain a foothold in the United States, but was an unknown company south of the Canadian border. It needed a household name.
“We knew how strong this brand [is]. The intention was to make sure that brand thrived. It’s really worked out how we hoped.”
4Technology has transformed the automobile and home insurance industry, with consumers able to buy policies online and use information from devices attached to their cars that monitor driving habits to determine premiums. Bromley says life insurance could be open for more disruption too.
“Wellness is a big issue for the life insurance business. If you look at [some car insurers], they have those monitors in the car. That kind of thing may come to [life] insurance. So if you’re a very healthy individual and you can demonstrate that you work out and do all these things, that could be very much a parallel.’’
5John Hancock and other companies that sell long-term care insurance have raised rates and reduced benefits in recent years, angering consumers faced with rising costs as they get older and become more likely to need nursing care. Bromley said long-term care insurance is still a relatively new product and the industry is trying to figure out how to price it properly. Some companies have stopped selling policies, but John Hancock is staying in the business.
“We think this is a huge market, people are concerned about their long term care needs . . . we also have new products that are generally cheaper.”
6With less than a month before the Boston Marathon, John Hancock is deep in the final stages of planning. Many of the company’s employees volunteer at the Marathon, passing out water or helping runners find families at the finish line. After last year’s bombing, John Hancock was one of the first businesses to donate to the One Fund to help victims and their families, giving $1 million. Bromley was at the finish line last year and will take his family to the event this year.
“It changed the complexion of the whole event. [But] I have no qualms about going back. There’ll be more support and enthusiasm than ever. Boston Strong will be out in full force.”
7Bromley is hoping to get his family to participate in the 5K run held two days before the Boston Marathon.
“I’ve got to do a little training.”Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.