David Varley joins Sun Life HK from AXA, as company reported in Asia expansion

David Varley, a well-known, Asia-based insurance industry executive who has headed up AXA’s HNW operation out of Hong Kong for the last 30-plus months, has been named to a similar role at Sun Life Hong Kong, effective immediately, the company has confirmed.

Varley’s title will be chief of High Net Worth & Wealth Structuring (Asia), according to a statement issued out of the Hong Kong offices of Canada-based, Toronto- and New York-Stock-Exchange-listed Sun Life Financial. It said the role was a “newly-created” one.

As a member of the Sun Life Hong Kong executive team, Varley, pictured, “will be responsible for building the industry’s leading service and holistic solutions platform for the HNW client segment for Sun Life Asia,” the statement added.

“This includes developing the regional strategy, building a best-in-class and integrated solutions offering, directly managing key partner relationships across the region, eg, private banks, family offices, HNW brokers, managing related operations and marketing, and delivering on a superior ‘Client for Life’ service.”

Varley reports to Jason Dehni, chief executive officer of Sun Life Hong Kong.

Originally from Australia but resident in Hong Kong, Varley has more than a decade of experience in the Asian financial services sector, having first joined AXA in 2009. He was named to head its HNW operation in Hong Kong, where he was also regional head of Protection & Health development of AXA Asia, in 2014, and previously head of International Business at AXA Hong Kong.

‘Singapore, Thailand’ expansion

Separately, Sun Life Financial was today reported by the Reuters news service to be planning to “expand into Singapore and Thailand, as it looks to boost its presence in Asia where demand for insurance products is growing fast”.

Reuters attributed its story to remarks made to it by Kevin Strain, president of Sun Life Financial Asia.

Press spokespeople didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

Strain also was reported to have also told Reuters that Sun Life, which has undertaken “a flurry of takeovers in Asia in the past three years”, would “consider acquisitions as well as building its own presence in [Singapore and Thailand]”, as it looked to “benefit from Asia’s burgeoning middle class, in markets such as China and India, as they look to save and invest”.

Strain didn’t reveal any timeline for this strategy, Reuters said.

Varley’s appointment is understood not to be directly related to Sun Life’s expansion plans, but he would be driving the HNW strategy and distribution in Hong Kong and across the region.

According to its website, Sun Life currently operates in a number of Asian markets including China, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines and Malaysia. At the end of June the Sun Life group had assets under management of around C$865bn (US$657bn).

In August, Sun Life Financial announced that it was to acquire the pension business of FWD Life Insurance Co (Bermuda), in stages over the next two years. At the same time it said Sun Life HK and FWD would “enter into an exclusive 15-year distribution agreement that will allow Sun Life HK to distribute its pension products through FWD’s agency force in Hong Kong”.

At the time, market observers said the third-largest Canadian insurer was fast becoming one of Hong Kong’s largest managers of Mandatory Provident Funds (MPFs), the territory’s compulsory savings schemes.

Earlier this year, it also agreed a strategic deal with Schroders Investment Management (Hong Kong) to help look after clients of the Schroder MPF Master Trust scheme.

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