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Corporate Case Study: Sun Life Financial

The focus on developing internal talent, supported by Squared Online, has helped contribute towards the ongoing culture shift within Sun Life

Sun Life and Digital Innovation

Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing insurance, wealth and asset management solutions to individual and corporate clients. The company manages CA$984 billion in total assets globally.

With its headquarters in Canada, Sun Life has operations in a number of markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bermuda.

The company prides itself in continuing its success through ongoing innovation. This means staying at the forefront of product development, embracing digital technology,  investing in ground-breaking digital tools and responding to new Client realities.

Sun Life Asia and Squared Online

Sun Life invests in its people. In a short span of 2 years, the company has nominated internal talent from a diverse range of roles and functions for the Squared Online digital marketing leadership program:

• Digital Marketing
• Traditional Marketing
• Distribution and Product Marketing
• Brand and Communications
• Digital Initiatives and Transformation
• Agency Transformation
• Digital Strategy
• Business Development

Investing in Internal Talent

Sun Life Asia places considerable focus on its talent, investing in their professional development to further reinforce a customer-centric mindset and build digital capabilities so as to meet, and exceed, the expectations of Clients in the digital age.

Through the Squared Online program, Sun Life provides top talent with the opportunity to undertake digital training. Over the past 2 years, the company has enrolled close to 30 colleagues on this award-winning digital marketing leadership program, where they learn not only the tools and techniques to drive customer engagement, but also leadership qualities to be Sun Life’s digital champions and change agents

Participant feedback

 

Squared Online is the global award-winning digital marketing leadership course developed with Google and powered by AVADO. Taught online over 5 months by industry experts, it develops the digital skills and leadership qualities that make industry game-changers who break down silos, work brilliantly in teams and take their organisations forward.


Spearheading change in Asia

Gavin Gollogley
Head of Digital, Asia
Sun Life Financial Asia

The regional digital team, in collaboration with our business unit counterparts, are responsible for setting a clear vision for our digital ambitions at Sun Life. We provide the strategic direction, governance for initiatives, and act as a key enabler in support of the digital ambitions of our 5 markets.

There are 4 key streams that I oversee: Digital Marketing, Digital Experience, Digital Distribution and our Data & Analytics center of excellence.

Our objectives are focused primarily on optimizing the Client, advisor, partner and employee experience, by focusing on convenience and engagement, supported through technology, analytics and insights, through a change lens.

What are the key digital initiatives at Sun Life in Asia?

Sun Life’s transformation journey collectively started about 3 years ago. It has been a consolidated effort on building the foundations, developing a common core across the region, yet appreciating the differences amongst local markets.

The road map has focused on 5 key digital initiatives in the region: SunSMART, our digital POS (point-of-sale) tool for advisors and partners; integrated digital platforms for both our Clients and prospects, and our distribution partners; our Center of Excellence (COE) for Data & Analytics; and last but certainly not least, Digital Marketing excellence.

Our digital roadmap places a large emphasis on applying user-centric thinking, and fostering a digital mindset within the organization by encouraging digital leadership, change and transformation.

Why did Sun Life choose Squared Online?

I feel that, while technology, analytics, and experience are core elements to the broader business transformation agenda, success all boils down to people, changing their mindset in supporting the evolving culture of the organization.

People drive the desire for change, the key enabling force for organizational transformation. Education and training was one way that could equip our key strategic talent with the skills, capabilities and confidence they needed to take us forward.

I was looking for an education partner to support our training and education efforts – growing that extra limb so to speak, to address the capability and training need we had.

With Google a trusted brand, Squared Online seemed to be the right program for us as it covered both digital marketing and some of the digital leadership elements.

The training curriculum placed much emphasis on customer-centricity, value propositions, user experience, iterative testing, data-backed decision-making etc. – the messaging was ideal to reinforce the digital mindset and culture change we at Sun Life have been building.

Using Marketing as an example, in a few years’ time, I personally believe there will no longer be a delineation between digital and traditional marketing. Digital will intrinsically be embedded and deployed across all facets of marketing, brand and communications.

The same goes with any role outside of marketing – digital will have a place in every function, and everyone should be accountable for digital KPIs they will be owning and delivering to.

How has Squared Online helped accelerate Sun Life’s digital transformation journey?

We have been nominating strategic talent for Squared Online, including CMOs and Distribution and Operations teams across Asia. The experience has certainly been beneficial, particularly in broadening the mindset, deepening the understanding of concepts and terminology.

For those in senior roles, they have the chance to roll up their sleeves and collaborate with others on group projects. These are rare and valuable opportunities – as once you are removed from execution-level work, you may lose some core competencies – especially in a fast-evolving broad areas of digital.

What advantages do you think the course gives your talent?

We started building our digital team two and half years ago. We have excellent capability regionally and across the business units, but the teams are small considering the large ambitions we have set our sights on and the range of transformation efforts we are enabling.

We can’t do it alone – this is why it is all the more important that others, regionally and across our business units, can equip themselves with correct digital knowledge and capability, so that collectively we can build the right culture, and align mindset and approach, truly understanding the opportunities available.

We value our partnership with Squared Online, Google and Avado. This is our third year investing in this digital marketing leadership program – I’m still excited to be nominating additional Sun Life candidates as well as congratulating graduate colleagues from the region.

 


Mylene (Maria Lourdes) Lopa
Chief Marketing Officer
Sun Life Philippines

“The course opened my mind and helped me to fully appreciate the opportunities that digital marketing and digital channels bring. I learned that there was much that we could tap into to connect with Clients, beyond what we were working on at the time.”

Why did you take part in Squared Online?

As CMO of Sun Life Philippines, I head up the Marketing function, which includes PR, Corporate Communications, Brand, Research, Digital Marketing, Media Relations and Client Marketing.

The Regional Head of Digital for Asia, Gavin, convinced me that as the CMO I would benefit from deepening my digital knowledge through the Squared Online.

I come from a traditional marketing background, so when I learned about the course, I felt it presented a good opportunity for me to broaden my knowledge of digital.

I already had a capable digital marketing team under me that was delivering great work, but I felt it would be beneficial if I had a better grasp of digital myself to help lead the team.

How has the course changed your thinking when applying it to your role?

The course opened my mind and helped me to fully appreciate the opportunities that digital marketing and digital channels bring. I learned that there was much that we could tap into to connect with Clients, beyond what we were working on at the time.

It also helped to reinforce the fact that we, collectively, must embrace digital and digital transformation. The impact and effects of digital are growing and far-reaching and the course really brought this to life for me.

The course was also a good reminder that digital is a powerful force – if we are able to leverage it and maximise the opportunities it brings, and much can be achieved.

What have you learned that you will take back into your role to help Sun Life on its digital transformation journey?

I focused very much on the strategic part of the programme, from Modules 1, 2 and 3. The tools and frameworks were interesting to me.

An example would the ‘Hero Hub and Hygiene’ framework from the Content Marketing section. It was helpful to learn how to use and apply content marketing strategies and approaches more effectively.

The Digital Marketing Measurement Model (DMMM was also something that was practical and useful. It offered a structured approach for us to be more conscious of setting and measuring performance metrics, to determine if a campaign or plan was working or not.

Which module/ course did you like the most and why?

I enjoyed the strategic part of the course and focused a bit less on the tactical due to the nature of my role as CMO. The group projects gave us opportunities to work with marketing professionals in other countries. It was good for us to learn from each other. I enjoyed the M2 project the most. For our Digital Business idea, we came up with a digital pocket travel guide.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of embarking on the course?

My advice would be to set aside time for the live classes. It is only once a week, for an hour. Try not to miss too many classes, as it is a bit tough when you try to catch up and have to watch all the class recordings in one go.
Also, keep an open mind – only then can you absorb and embrace.

Would you recommend the course?

I would recommend the course to those whose job or role has a digital piece to it. As this is a digital marketing program, the people who would get the most value out of it would be marketing, brand, PR, corporate communications etc.

Teams whose functions are closely related to digital, such as Sales and Digital Transformation teams, would also benefit.


Shierly Ge
Chief Marketing Officer
Sun Life Indonesia

“I found the content strategy learnings to be particularly useful and practical – I now apply the simple and methodical approaches of Content Marketing Matrix and Hero Help Hub model across our social media assets.”

Why did you take part in Squared Online?

I felt it was important to improve my knowledge and skills in digital marketing, considering that digital marketing has become a significant driving force in marketing, brand, and communication.

The opportunity arose when the Sun Life’s Regional Office nominated me for the course. I agreed Squared Online was the right program for my learning objectives.

How has the course changed your thinking when applying it to your role?

My role covers various pillars, from brand & communication, product marketing, to Client marketing. The course provided me with valuable insights to help broaden the way I think about marketing as a whole ecosystem, not only digital per se. It’s connecting the dots between the brand, market, consumer behavior, existing Clients, and others.

I found the content strategy learnings to be particularly useful and practical – I now apply the simple and methodical approaches of Content Marketing Matrix and Hero Help Hub model across our social media assets.

When considering the full spectrum of topics covered in the course curriculum, I was not familiar with most of the topics, such as programmatic, data analytics, content strategy. And now, after having gone through the Squared Online, I have a better understanding and these hands-on learnings really help me in applying to my overall strategy.

What have you learned that you will take back into your role to help Sun Life on its digital transformation journey?

Digital transformation is a journey that involves external and internal parties, paving the new path of what the company’s future will be. It takes in-depth, thorough, and continuous planning, strategy, implementation, and monitoring – which I learned from Squared Online – to make this a successful journey.

The course places much emphasis on customer-centricity and customer obsession. An example of a tool or a framework that would help reinforce the messaging amongst Sun Life colleagues is the ‘Customer Proposition Canvas’. This practical tool uses a logical way to guide us in putting the customer at the heart of any product or service offering.

Which module/ course did you like the most and why?

I actually liked the early modules that talked about disruption, the “Why, How, What” of the brand. It brought me back to the root and essence of what marketing is about, before moving on to the tactical side of digital marketing.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of embarking on the course?

Do not hesitate to enroll in Squared Online. It will be a lesson that shapes your thinking and takes it to the next level.

 


Larry Tin
Director, Agency Digital Transformation
Sun Life Hong Kong

“The learnings from Squared Online have now broadened my thinking and tactical approaches, such as how we can best attract, engage, acquire and convert. These are useful skills that help me with the design and development of the digital tools I manage.”

Why did you take part in Squared Online?

I was nominated by Sun Life to join the program. As the Director of Agency Digital Transformation, I help to digitalize the front end of our business at Sun Life.

I am responsible for the design, development and backend operations of digital sales tools and digital service tools, for both customers and agents. My team, together with our IT colleagues, collaborate closely with the marketing and sales functions to make available tools that offer a great, seamless experience.

When I heard about the course, I felt it was interesting and appropriate for me and it would help me to deepen my knowledge in marketing. Since a big part of my job is to support marketing and sales activities, I felt it was highly relevant.

How has the course changed your thinking when applying it to your role?

The course strengthened my understanding of the end-to-end customer journey. I apply the learnings and customer-centric lens in all that I do. I consider the steps, engagement approaches and user experience when I develop and enhance the backend operations of digital tools. These could range from web interfaces, customer portals, mobile apps to product platforms.

I had a fair degree of understanding in marketing prior to joining Squared Online, but my hands-on marketing experience was limited.

The learnings from Squared Online have now broadened my thinking and tactical approaches, such as how we can best attract, engage, acquire and convert. These are useful skills that help me with the design and development of the digital tools I manage.

What have you learned that you will take back into your role to help Sun Life on its digital transformation journey?

As I look after a range of digital platforms for both external customers (potential and existing customers and internal customers (sales agents and advisors, adopting a customer-centric mindset is crucial.

For our digital transformation journey at Sun Life, we strive to optimise experience, immediacy, efficiency each time our customers engage with us, regardless of device or touchpoint.

Which module/ course did you like the most and why?

I really enjoyed Modules 1, 2 and 3. It was interesting for me to dive deeper into customer journeys, examine different approaches and mix of touchpoints to attract new customers.

How has Squared Online helped accelerate Sun Life’s digital transformation journey?

This course is suitable for everyone. If we all embrace and understand the fast-changing needs of our customers, we can apply the learnings to deliver to these expectations.

My advice is to plan your time well. We are all busy, with a full-time job and family. You need to commit personal time to the course, setting aside weeknights, and / or weekends for the coursework and group activities. But it’s worth the time investment – the learnings stay with you and are valuable.

What advantages do you think the course gives your talent?

I honestly think everyone should go through the program. Regardless of the role or function you are in, digital is likely to be impacting your job scope already. Don’t get left behind.

 


Trang Thi Xuan Hoang
Head of Digital Initiatives
Sun Life Vietnam

“Now, having gone through the course, I’m thinking of bigger, bolder and more innovative and disruptive ideas. I am learning to look for new solutions, not just limit ourselves to what we have done in the past.”

Why did you take part in Squared Online?

I head up Digital Initiatives at Sun Life Vietnam and oversee end-to-end digitalization of processes for both Client services and distribution support. I oversee all the stages of digitalization, from strategy development, planning, stakeholder buy-in, implementation, to performance tracking and optimisation.

I collaborate closely with IT, Operations and Sales functions on our digital initiatives, which include Apps, portals, websites etc. We focus on platforms and tools that cater to the needs of both our external Clients (customers) and internal clients (sales force).

Before I transitioned to this role, I was Head of Client Marketing and did have some experience working with IT and Project Managers on application development projects.

I was nominated to join the Squared Online program as my boss, the Regional Head of Digital, felt that it was a suitable course for me, and that I could deepen my knowledge of digital transformation, digital tools etc – all of which can help me in my role and the overall digital transformation of our Life business in Vietnam.

How has the course changed your thinking when applying it to your role?

The course has definitely broadened my thinking. In terms of knowledge, not only do I now have a deeper understanding of digital transformation and organisational change, but I’ve also picked up practical learnings in deploying digital applications back in the business, building a digital culture, etc.

I particularly appreciated knowing about the digital tools that are available that can help not just the digital initiatives I’m running, but also the teams that I work with and their considerations.

Areas such as tracking of initiatives, analytics, programmatic marketing, etc are all practical and important to know if we are looking to continuously optimise our digital services.

Now that I understand the basic principles, how the tools work and how they can be applied, I can weave them into our strategy and adoption going forward.

What have you learned that you will take back into your role to help Sun Life on its digital transformation journey?

In a number of ways, actually.

Before, we would often look back on implemented projects in the other business units to see what had worked and how we could further enhance and customise for the Vietnam market.

Now, having gone through the course, I’m thinking of bigger, bolder and more innovative and disruptive ideas.

I am learning to look for new solutions, not just limit ourselves to what we have done in the past.

The course has contributed to more innovative strategies for us, as we continue to build on our digital roadmap.

It has helped us consider the vast array of tools and technology available in the market.

What modules did you like the most and why?

I enjoyed Modules 2, 3, 4 and 5! I felt these were all relevant, helpful and practical – from Search, Programmatic, Analytics, Emerging Tech. All elements on strategy, digital transformation, digital culture, etc were also highly important for me and my role.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of embarking on the course?

I would be keen to recommend the course to my colleagues in Vietnam.

I would highly recommend that our Management Team, including our Head of Strategic Development, go through Squared Online training as well. The course will certainly help in shifting mindset and overall thinking of how our Vietnam business can be shaped.

When it comes to customer service and sales support, it is impossible to not think digital. Our peers in the Life market are all actively engaged in digital initiatives, so it is critical that we equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge and not fall behind.

 


Victor Cheong
Head of Business Excellence & Digital Office
Sun Life Malaysia

“I recommend leaders from Distribution, Operations, IT and Digital to participate in Squared Online. It will enable them to assess how they can evolve their respective areas collaboratively to support business transformation and growth.”

Why did you take part in Squared Online?

The Business Excellence and Digital Office at Sun Life Malaysia helps drive business outcomes focused on three areas: Building organizational capability for continuous improvement via our Brighter Way platform; Driving Digital Change to accelerate transformation and amplifying service and sales capabilities; and last but not least, managing our Business Continuity Practices to ensure adherence to Local Regulations and Sun Life standards.

We collaborate closely with IT, Operations, Client, Distribution and Business Partners to deliver impactful solutions and capabilities for the organization.

The key reason for participating in Squared Online was to deepen my understanding of Digital Marketing.

The business objective was to assimilate best practices from Google and industry peers to our existing Digital Strategy to elevate the outcomes and improve our effectiveness.

How has the course changed your thinking when applying it to your role?

The course has broadened my view of digital transformation and its role within Sun Life. It highlighted that we need to further embed our client centric and business focussed view when we develop our digital initiatives so that we can deliver capabilities of value to potential and existing clients.

Ongoing discoveries of client insight are equally important for us to improve and identify new opportunities for the business as we acquire new clients or increase our market share in each country.

Digital transformation is not segregated by platform or channel – it is an important reminder that the new generation of customers use multiple channels in their daily lives.

What have you learned that you will take back into your role to help Sun Life on its digital transformation journey?

Digital transformation is a journey not a destination. Organizations and individuals need to constantly grow, evolve, learn and obtain new skills to thrive in this digital era.

Developing digital talent is increasingly critical to enable organizational resilience and flexibility to navigate the disruptive market.

Digital Marketing is becoming a necessary skillset for all business areas as more low value added processes are digitized and ownership of digital adoption and business outcomes will be embedded across business lines.

Which module/ course did you like the most and why?

The Digital Trends Module was the most insightful for me. It provided understanding, wisdom and stimulus into how we can develop unique value propositions that can truly realize a business strategy.

How has Squared Online helped accelerate Sun Life’s digital transformation journey?

Squared Online has provided me with better insights into how to realize improved outcomes from Strategic Initiatives through Digital Marketing.

Learnings on Digital Leadership help to broaden and evolve our digital strategy to better navigate our transformation journey, accelerate business outcomes and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

What advantages do you think the course gives your talent?

I recommend leaders from Distribution, Operations, IT and Digital to participate in Squared Online Program. It will inspire and enable leaders to assess how they can evolve their respective areas to support business transformation and growth.

Victor graduated from Squared Online and was awarded “Inspirational Square”. This special recognition is given to students who have excelled throughout their time on the course, and inspired and actively empowered others along the way.

 


Gina Chen
Senior Manager
Strategic Finance Sun Life Financial Asia

“One major benefit I’m getting from this course is that it gives a comprehensive overview of the different elements of digital marketing, in enough depth that it enables me to speak the same language and get on the same page as our own digital marketing folks.”

Why did you take part in Squared Online?

I’m taking this course because I’ve developed a keen interest in Digital and its many applications (marketing, product, operations, etc). I recognize that these are skills I’ll need in the future for the type of roles and career that I want.

How has the course changed your thinking when applying it to your role?

I am in a half financial reporting half strategic communications role and there are always common elements in both internal and external communications: what we are doing to be more client-centric, and what progress we’re making in our digital transformation.

One major benefit I’m getting from this course is that it gives a comprehensive overview of the different elements of digital marketing, in enough depth that it enables me to speak the same language and get on the same page as our own digital marketing folks. It gives me a better sense of how they organize their initiatives and priorities, and helps me understand why they do what they do.

A lot of my role involves talking to different departments to understand their achievements and plans, and synthetizing that into Corporate or Board documents. This in-depth overview will definitely make it easier for me to digest materials from Digital and translate that for the broader audience.

What have you learned that you will take back into your role to help Sun Life on its digital transformation journey?

Get everyone on the same page, speaking the same language. Through the group work, I learned that everyone has different levels of familiarity with Digital and what it means, and different people have different ideas of what it can do for the company. If there are vast differences in a group of 8 people who signed up for this course, there will be even bigger differences in a large multinational.

Our digital teams have expert knowledge but make up only a minority of our staff, and they alone cannot transform the company.

When working with the rest of the organization – from call centre reps to Board members, it is important to get everyone on the same page, speaking the same language, using the same terms.

What modules did you like the most and why?

Module 3 – because everything I have learned so far has been completely new to me. I had no idea how SEO or SEM worked (or that they were 2 different things), I didn’t know how ads were placed and I didn’t even know the definition of programmatic before this module.

A practical tool I found particularly interesting is the See-Think-Do-Care framework.

It succinctly captures the different stages of the customer journey and can easily be applied to the range of marketing, brand and channel strategies we deploy.

The framework brings to life the importance of being customer-centric, in all that we do, and making sure we are present, helpful and relevant at any given stage of their journey with us.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of embarking on the course?

To get the most out of it, you have to be willing to put in the time. The first 2 modules are more qualitative but module 3 starts to get really technical, especially if you don’t know anything about digital marketing. For me, I read almost all of the further readings, and even do more googling on the side (especially for module 3.

You must have a good attitude, an open mind to new ideas and new ways of working. Most importantly, you have to have a genuine interest in the topic, because anything you’re genuinely interested in won’t feel like work, and will prompt you to dig deeper, do more research, and truly understand the concepts. Imagine actually looking forward to doing your homework!

If you are new to Digital and you’re doing this course because you feel like you have to, ask yourself if you’re prepared to be flexible and pushed out of your comfort zone. Your attitude towards learning and working with others (who will have different opinions is critical because the real work in this course is in the group projects.

Would you recommend the course?

Absolutely.

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Radzif Nasri

Posted April 26, 2021