Sun Life has the funds for a payout. But not the staff or the systems and its customer service is appalling: TONY HETHERINGTON investigates
Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s investigator, battling readers’ corners, exposing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left behind. Find out how to contact him below.
Ms PC writes: My parents had a policy with Sun Life Financial Canada, which became payable after their death. The second death was that of my mother, at the beginning of February this year.
The company was notified within days, but we are still awaiting payment. He doesn’t answer emails or pick up the phone after 4 p.m., and despite promising to call back, he never does.
Their customer service is appalling. We were told the payment was approved in May, but since then there has been no progress. We are now wondering if he has the funds.
Skyrocketing delay: Sun Life had yet to pay six months after policyholder died
Tony Hetherington responds: The easy part of this was to say yes the company (which is not the same as the UK company called SunLife Ltd) has the funds to pay the £126,427 owed to you and your sister on upon the death of both your parents.
It is the internal administration of Sun Life Financial Canada that has caused problem after problem.
You notified the company and filed a claim with the police in February. In April, you called and were told there was a backlog of applications.
You called twice in May and got no answer. At the end of May, the phone was answered and you were told that you would be called back within five days, but no call came. In June, you were told your claim was in a queue and would be paid “overnight”. But in August, you were told your application was still waiting to be approved.
Later in August, you were told the claim would be “escalated”. Yet, at the end of August, you were told that your claim was referred to the “reference team” due to its value and should be dealt with within days, which of course , was not.
I took all of this to Sun Life Financial and asked what had caused such a backlog of claims. I asked the company to explain why you were told in August that your application was pending approval, when you had already been told in June that it was in the queue to be paid.
The answers are a mixture of technical failure and human error. The company told me, “In November 2021, we completed the migration of our customer and policy administration services to a new system.”
This involved transferring over 470,000 records, and it was not completely successful, meaning some policy values had to be calculated manually, which required finding and recruiting skilled staff. This led to a backlog. But why was your request delayed so long?
I was told: “Ms. C’s example is exceptional and particularly regrettable because we should have settled this bereavement allowance in June.”
Given its high value, your request had to be authorized by a senior official. Records showed that this permission was requested, but in fact your complaint was never forwarded to the correct person. The company told me, “This is the result of human error. We will learn from it.
After contacting her, Sun Life Financial contacted you to apologize. He has now paid £127,015 to include interest and separately sent you a check for £500 to apologize for the distress and inconvenience.
If you believe you have been the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at the Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email email@example.com. Due to the high volume of inquiries, no personal response can be given. Please only send copies of original documents, which we regret cannot return.