Since 2010, Sun Life Global Investments has delivered diverse solutions to Canadian investors. One of its key sub-advisors is MFS Investment Management, who has been enhancing their investment process for 100 years.

Sun Life Global Investments is the retail mutual fund arm of Sun Life, an insurer that’s as old as Canada itself. Formed in the 1860s, Sun Life has navigated wars, depressions, and increasingly rapid social and technological change to emerge as a global powerhouse with total assets under management of $1.4 trillion.1

In 1982, Sun Life Financial purchased MFS Investment Management (MFS), a Boston-based investment management company. Both companies share a deep history in managing risk and money for clients around the world. Fast forward to 2010, Sun Life Global Investments hired MFS to sub-advise its Sun Life MFS funds line-up including fixed income, Canadian, U.S., international and global equities.

The inventor of the first open-end mutual fund in the U.S.

The history of MFS Investment Management is as impressive as Sun Life’s. A company of firsts, MFS created the first U.S. open-end mutual fund in 1924: the Massachusetts Investors Trust or MIT, which still exists today. The making of the first mutual fund gave everyday people the opportunity to invest their savings using a professionally managed and cost-effective investment solution.

Almost a century after its inception, MFS continues to be recognized for its in-depth fundamental research capabilities, active management, and long-term discipline to generate value for investors.

“It’s a pretty exciting history,” says Carol Geremia, President of MFS Investment Management and head of global distribution. “MFS was founded on the idea that small investors could pool their assets to get better access to the markets. In many ways, it democratized investing.”

Collective expertise: a key asset since the Great Depression

At the heart of the success of MFS is its long and rich history of money management. Over the years, MFS Investment Management has continued to leverage what they consider their greatest strength and the most important contributors to long-term returns: in-depth research and security selection.

Coming out of the 1929 stock market crash, MFS wanted to better understand the companies it owned to ensure it was the best possible steward of clients’ capital in any environment. With this in mind, MFS was one of the first in the investment industry to conduct its own research. MFS continued to evolve its research platform, so it was better positioned for all market conditions, from World War II and the emergence of the computer, electronics and the world wide web, up to the Dot-Com bubble burst and 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis, to name a few pivotal events.

“We started one of the world’s first in-house research departments in 1932,” Geremia explains. “And this use of proprietary research to create controlled, responsible growth is probably the most important part of a history that brings us to US$615.1 billion2 of assets under management today." MFS is also trusted by thousands of institutional investors around the world, including many Fortune 500 companies and sovereign countries.

Active management: how MFS offered the first active fixed income solution

By 1959, MIT was the largest mutual fund in the U.S., with some 203,000 shareholders and US$1.5 billion in AUM,3 which rose to US$3.5 billion by 1969.4 In 1969, MFS’ trustees decided to form a new company, Massachusetts Financial Services. This company offered a broader array of products to meet the needs of average Americans and moved to a portfolio manager structure rather than continue the trustee structure.

That led in 1970 to the launch of their first active fixed income solution, which was also the first balanced fund in the United States. Then in 1981, MFS launched the first U.S. based global fixed income mutual fund. Now, MFS capabilities on the fixed income side include Canadian bonds, global bonds, emerging market debt and many more.

Long-term discipline: a key feature for the future

What’s next for MFS? “Our vision will remain the same,” says Geremia: to create value responsibly so clients can achieve their long-term investment goals.

“We avoid the short-term noise because it gets in the way of our long-term convictions. Although we study the impact on businesses over the next 12 or 18 months, we’re really concerned about the next three, five, and 10 years. We also love complexity because that brings arbitrage,” she adds. “That gives us opportunities to see what others can’t.”

“Nobody pays us to be late, but nobody pays us to take undue risks either,” she says. “So we’ll do what we need to figure it out, and you won’t see us following the herd into anything that is irresponsible.”

The Sun Life MFS Funds will also continue to benefit from this approach, says Oricia Smith, President, SLGI Asset Management Inc., and Senior Vice-President, Investment Solutions, Sun Life Canada. “When thinking “long term” and “a history of innovation,” it’s hard not to think of MFS. They continue to offer time-tested strategies to help grow assets for investors across the world. Sun Life Global Investments will continue to bring innovative solutions to Canadian investors and we look forward to continuing to build on our strong relationship with MFS.”

1 AUM as of December 31, 2023.

2 AUM as of February 29, 2024, MFS Corporate Fact Sheet
3 MFS Corporate Fact Sheet
4 MFS Corporate Fact Sheet

MFS Investment Management Canada Limited is the sub-advisor to the Sun Life MFS Funds; SLGI Asset Management Inc. is the registered portfolio manager. MFS Investment Management Canada Limited has appointed MFS Institutional Advisors, Inc. to provide additional sub-advisory services.