Sun Life Financial plans to breathe new life into it Boston-based subsidiary, MFS,focusing on expanding the company’s institutional and international reach, according to executives. The plans, outlined during a conference call reporting the Toronto-based parent company’s third quarter earnings, came days after Sun Life announced MFS is no longer for sale. “We will focus on improving fund performance and profit,” said Don Stewart, chief executive at Sun Life. “MFS is a premium brand. We are confidant that the course we are pursuing is the right one.” Stewart added that the immediate future is not especially rosy, given damage done by media speculation about the MFS sale, but he is confidant the company will recover. “We remain committed to the asset management business in the U.S.,” he said. Despite the commitment stateside, much of the division’s expected growth will come from overseas, said MFS Chief Executive Officer Robert Manning. “We have the categories, products and streams that the global market wants,” he said. Furthermore, MFS has established offices and clients overseas. Already, MFS manages $35.5 billion for clients outside of the United States, but the firm believes that share can and will grow. “Our global platform has been a key competitive advantage that will allow us to have sustainability,” Manning said. The MFS offices in Japan began turning profits this year for the first time, after years of bleeding profits. Likewise, the company opened an office with three employees in Australia, and expects continued growth in India, China and Indonesia. MFS is also focused on deepening its institutional business. “We’ve been able to shift the business to a better balance,” Manning said. Five years ago MFS was mainly a retail shop, he noted. Today, most of the company’s assets are in institutional accounts, such as variable annuities. Manning noted that institutional money, while less profitable per transaction, and is advantageous because it is “stickier.” The division’s profits rose 37% in the third quarter, testifying to the success of the newly directed focus, he said. “We are trying to be more provocative in how we approach the market,” Manning added. For the first time, the company will begin distributing other companies’ products through its channels, and rebranding those that fit niche needs that MFS presently lacks funds to fill. The company said it plans to reduce costs by 200 basis points in 2007, compared to 300 basis points per share in the third quarter.
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