One of Canada’s biggest financial services firms, Manulife, has opened up a new space called RED Lab at Waterloo’s Communitech Hub, a tech-focused innovation centre that is home to the country’s most cutting-edge technology entrepreneurs.
RED stands for “research, exploration and development”. Sitting on the opposite end of the colour wheel from the company’s traditional green logo, the RED Lab is meant to characterize an entirely different way of thinking and doing things than usual for Manulife.
“Manulife recognizes the need for innovation within the financial services sector” said Marianne Harrison, Senior Executive Vice President and General Manager, Canadian Division, Manulife. “So we have created the RED Lab to operate as a lean, innovation-focused startup. The goal of the Lab is to develop and prototype new solutions and to help drive a more innovative culture within Manulife.”
If you’ve ever sat in an office with a financial adviser in one of Canada’s large banks, you can’t help but notice that they’re not the most nimble organizations. Inevitably, they’ll call up your file on a computer obviously made in the 20th century using an obsolete operating system, before printing off your forms on a wheezing, noisy dot-matrix printer. Banks are Canada’s wealthiest companies, and are pretty obviously ripe candidates for a dose of the kind of agile business practice currently being touted by Canada’s new wave of tech entrepreneurs.
Manulife’s new lab space adds to the footprint of “legacy” companies taking up residence at the Communitech Hub, which is typically focused on young and new projects. Last year, Canadian Tire, probably one of Canada’s least sexy retailers, established a presence at Communitech.
“By embedding the RED Lab within the Communitech Hub, Manulife will benefit from our unique model of innovation and collaboration” said Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech. “This exposes Manulife to new concepts and technology, but also benefits our startup companies who will gain exposure to a world-class financial services company on a day-to-day basis.”
Manulife manages $637 billion worth of funds in Canada and Asia, and also in the United States where the company operates primarily as John Hancock.