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Letter to shareholders from John Cassaday 
Chairman of the Board

John M. Cassaday
Chairman of the Board

Read more about John

Fellow shareholders,

Your Board is committed to providing guidance and oversight to management in order to position Manulife for future success. We endeavour to ensure the company’s strategic plans and priorities create value and align with our risk appetite. Always doing the right thing for our customers, shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders is job one.

Looking back on 2019, we are proud of the progress made by Roy Gori, President and CEO, and Manulife’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT), who led the company through another year of successful transformation guided by our six core values. Indeed, their success was driven by the team’s ability to consistently execute with excellence, delivering steady and significant progress against its strategy. This helped us deliver a three-year total shareholder return of 27.6%. We did what we said we would do.

Importantly, Manulife is keenly focused not just on what it achieves, but also on how it achieves success. Collectively, we are stressing a culture of acting with integrity and following words with actions. We are confident that this tone from the top is cascading through the organization.

Case in point of this leadership by example is how the company manages expenses, travel policies, and office plans. Roy and the team have made it clear that everyone plays a role in driving our efficiency initiatives and ensured that new policies put in place to manage expenses apply to employees at all levels; travel policies are common across the board; and Roy and the ELT were the first cohort to move to open-plan seating in our headquarters early last year when the company transitioned its real estate plans to foster collaboration and make even better use of space. That is leadership.

True and lasting progress is often made in small ways, and these examples give your Board the utmost confidence that Manulife is fostering the right culture and values as it navigates its business transformation—and importantly has the right people in place to succeed.

Your Board's activities throughout 2019

Your Board spent much of the year focused on examining the company’s strategy, goals, and progress towards its bold ambition of becoming the most digital, customer-centric global company in our industry. This included frequent conversations with our Executive Leadership Team members to ensure we understood and could oversee all areas of the business effectively.

During our meetings with the team throughout the year, in addition to our regular business progress discussions, we increased time spent on environmental, social, and governance factors that impact the business. These factors continue to grow in prominence as more companies grapple with the impact their operations have on the world. As a responsible corporate citizen, Manulife is keenly aware of the need to deliver value to all stakeholders, including our communities, and to reduce our impact on the environment. To that end, Manulife Investment Management has signed its name to the UN-sponsored Principles for Responsible Investment. We are also a founding member of Climate Action 100+, a five-year initiative that includes more than 370 investors from around the world responsible for more than US$35 trillion in investor capital, making it the largest investor-led collaborative initiative of its kind.

As noted earlier, an open, diverse, and inclusive culture, anchored around values that employees live and breathe every day, is a key driver of success. Your Board also dedicated significant time in 2019 to understanding how management is strengthening and nurturing that culture at Manulife. Along with ensuring that leadership is accountably signalling and modelling the right behaviour every day, we learned about the investments the company is making to ensure its employees have the right skills training and development opportunities available.

We onboarded two new directors in 2019 to ensure the Board continues to enhance and diversify its skillset and broaden its scope of experience. Julie Dickson, a former Superintendent of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), Canada’s main financial services regulator, brings a depth of industry and risk management experience to your Board. Guy Bainbridge, a former partner with global professional services firm KPMG, has a wealth of audit expertise, having served as a key audit leader for several of the U.K.’s and Asia’s largest financial institutions. We’re honoured they’ve agreed to join our Board and look forward to their many contributions in service of our company and its shareholders.

We were pleased once again to receive top recognition in The Globe and Mail’s board governance rankings this year, scoring 100 points on their 100-point scale. While we see our governance duties as simply doing the job we’ve been appointed to do, awards like this one serve as a great reminder we must stay focused on doing the right thing. We are extremely proud of our track record and remain fully committed to living by the values that underpin our governance work.

Thank you

In closing, we would like to thank directors Tom Jenkins and Lesley Webster who will be retiring from our Board as of the end of this year’s annual meeting. We appreciate the many contributions they both made during their terms.

We would also like to convey our deep appreciation to Roy and his leadership team on the numerous achievements outlined in this annual report. Their commitment to achieving success with accountability and integrity is critical in delivering on Manulife’s mission of making decisions easier and lives better for the customers, communities, employees, and shareholders we serve.

And, we would like to thank every Manulife employee around the world for the passion they’ve shown in rallying around our mission, strategy, and values, and for their daily contributions to our customers and our business.

As a new decade dawns, your Board would like to thank you, our fellow shareholders, for your trust, support, and open and candid dialogue. Within the organization, there is a palpable sense of energy, excitement, and optimism about the future. We look forward to serving you in 2020 and beyond.

Sincerely,

John M. Cassaday
Chairman of the Board

Read more about John

John Cassaday
Chairman of the Board

Download Manulife Financial Corporation’s 2019 Annual Report  

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