Manulife: How Dominic D'Alessandro Built a Global Giant and Fought to Save It
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In this engaging book, award-winning business writer Rod McQueen examines how the pugnacious personality and hard-driving leadership style of Dominic D'Alessandro led Manulife Financial to its position as one of the largest and most profitable life insurance companies in North America, and the fourth largest in the world. From D'Alessandro's role in the successful demutualization and conversion of the company to public company status in 1999, which set the stage for Manulife to become a world leader, to D'Alessandro's successful completion of Canada's largest cross-border merger, Manulife captures the story of 15 years of outstanding business leadership.
insurance companies had a systemic problem: Compared with other sectors, the industry was functioning in the paleolithic era. The cover illustration on a story about D’Alessandro in ROB Magazine featured a cartoon rendering of him riding a dinosaur. Declared the headline: Life in the Slow Lane: Can Manulife’s Dominic D’Alessandro lead Canada’s insurers out of the prehistoric age? “I was mortified that it would offend, but it didn’t,” said D’Alessandro. “The story wasn’t unsympathetic, but it
issues such as executive development, hiring and retaining talent, and compensation. “We were no longer dismissed. We were part of the team,” she said. “Before there were all kinds of ideas, but they would languish because they could never get up to being heard. We don’t over-ask, but we don’t get turned down as often.” IN ADDITION TO SELLING assets and hiring new people, D’Alessandro tackled lesser issues like the decor of the executive offices. “He told me it didn’t look enough like a bank,”
regards to how we’re going to merge things and who’s better at what and which system is going to prevail,” he said in his opening comments. “Are we going to do it the Hancock way or the Manulife way? I would encourage everybody to work together to try and find the best answer to those questions. Let me be absolutely clear to the Hancock people. If in doubt, if we’re at loggerheads here about what to do, Manulife wins. Manulife bought John Hancock. They paid a premium. Full stop.” Taking such a
the filet mignon looked too rich for his taste. Using his knife, he scraped the offending delicacy to the side of his plate. Everyone was aghast. His uncouth behaviour continued. “I had just read that California wines on a blind taste were found to be just as good as French wines, so I brought up that subject. This scandalized them. On another occasion, someone in the group was going on about X [pronounced ‘eeks’]. I said, ‘Excusez-moi, qu’est-ce que X?’ It was like the air went out of a
Renaissance Toronto Airport Hotel in October 2008 was one of D’Alessandro’s several swan songs given to Manulife employees in Toronto and Boston during his final months, detailing his triumphs and tragedies. He began in an ironic mood, recalling how he’d joined Manulife on his birthday, January 18, 1994, only to have one of the ratings agencies downgrade the company that very day. “I’m proud that Manulife is third largest in the world. But I’m more proud that we did it the right way. We did it