James Guest

Role: Account Executive Development Program (AEDP)

Department: Group Underwriting

Location: Toronto

University of Guelph - Commerce

Graduation year: 2014

What is your current role at Sun Life?

I am quickly approaching the end of my first year as an AEDP participant. The program is based in group underwriting where I learn about our group benefit products and how to price it. While the majority of my time is spent in underwriting I also have the opportunity to partake in activities that are typically reserved for those on the business development side.

Getting started

I knew I wanted to work in group benefits and I knew I wanted to start my career at a large company. Sun Life is one of the top insurance providers and I knew they had a particularly strong group benefits department. I think starting a career at such a reputable company offers the strongest possible base to build from.
Knowing what I wanted helped me stand out, the fact that I knew this was where I wanted to work showed that this wasn’t just another interview for me. Anyone can (and should) google Sun Life before an interview to learn a little more about the company, but showing a genuine interest in Sun Life and explaining how my skill set fit the needs of the job helped showed the interviewers that I was a good fit for the position.

Your role

I get into the office in the morning and begin going through my emails and responding to advisors requests. I spend most of the day ‘doing quotes’ which essentially means assessing the risk of a particular group and pricing it appropriately. Every two weeks or so I will have a business development activity added to my calendar, this could be anything from a session to develop sales skills to a meeting with a Regional Vice President (RVP) to shadowing an Account Executive (AE) for an afternoon. I really look forward to the business development activities as they provide insight into my future at Sun Life.

The role I am in now isn’t inherently social, while I genuinely like the people I work with the work itself isn’t conducive to socializing. I am a very social person and find it difficult to sit at my desk for extended periods of time. The business development activities I am included in give me a chance to be more social and get away from my desk; they give me something to look forward to when I am craving socialization.
The most satisfying part of my job is the actual learning that I am doing. It is crazy to think of the group benefit knowledge I have gained after working here for only 10 months. I know how applicable this knowledge will be in my future role and I am grateful that I was given the time to develop it.

Working at Sun Life

Sun Life really is a nice place to work, everyone here is friendly and very approachable. My colleagues are wonderful and I look forward to seeing them every day. I find the culture to be progressive and I like that Sun Life does its best to always be moving forward and isn’t afraid to change.
  1. It is amazing the resources that are available to you working for a large company. If I am ever having a problem there is a department that is able to fix it. Anything from forgetting a password (happens more often than it should) to taking a course to further my learning Sun Life is able to support me.
  2. I like working downtown Toronto, there is always something happening here. Often I will step outside the office and there is a farmers market or a live band.  I really like being in the heart of the city.
  3. The people. I really like the people I work with. I laugh every day.
My 5 year plan was always to end up in an Account Executive type role. This program is allowing me to accelerate the process and see further down the horizon. Further down the road I see myself owning my own business. I genuinely feel this is the best way to start my career. Underwriting provides a wealth of knowledge on product, risk, pricing, and customer service. The Account Executive role will teach me more about sales, organization, time management and product expertise. These are learnings I can take anywhere.

Advice and insights

It really is a good company. You are going to feel supported and welcomed. It is an easy transition from school as it doesn’t have a large company bureaucratic feel but still offers the perks of a large company.

  1. Be yourself. As much as it sounds like a generic piece of advice your grandmother would offer I believe it to be imperative to the interviewing process. Ultimately Sun Life is looking for the right fit, you want to show them who you are and what they are going to receive if they hire you.
  2. Know your strengths. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, do your best to learn what yours are and leverage them.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail. It is better to put yourself out there and fail and learn from the experience then to wonder what if I had done more. Interviewing is nerve racking but with each successive interview it become easier.

Next steps:

Find out how to apply online