Toronto-based insurance company Manulife says it will make the purchase through its U.S. division, John Hancock Financial.
"We are definitely targeting the retirement space as a place we would like to grow," John Hancock president Craig Bromley said in an interview Tuesday.
"It's a space that's grown tremendously in the last 20 years. We expect it to grow, albeit at a slower rate, into the future."
Meanwhile, New York Life will assume 60 per cent of certain John Hancock life insurance policies, by way of reinsurance.
The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2015, subject to regulatory approvals.
Manulife says the deal will increase John Hancock's RPS assets under administration by about 60 per cent.
The combined RPS businesses will have around US$135 billion in assets under administration, 2.5 million retirement plan members and 55,000 retirement plans.
John Hancock's retirement business has a strong presence in the small employer market in the U.S., Bromley said, but the company has been making strides lately to snag a greater share of the mid-sized employer market.
"This accelerates us dramatically in that space," Bromley said. "What would take 10 years to build we'll get in one fell swoop."
In September, Manulife announced plans to acquire the Canadian operations of Britain's Standard Life PLC for $4 billion. The move is expected to help Manulife build out its wealth management business, including in the retirement plans space.
"Manulife is a major player in the pensions business in Canada, the United States, Hong Kong and Indonesia," Manulife president and CEO Donald Guloien said in a statement Tuesday.
"This transaction, similar to our recently announced acquisition of Standard Life's Canadian operations, will significantly increase our retirement plans business overall. When completed, these transactions will each accelerate our strategy to grow our wealth and asset management businesses around the world."
Looking ahead to the new year, Bromley said he is hopeful that economic conditions will be favourable for the insurance industry.
"We are certainly hoping that the equity markets continue to perform well, as they have been, that interest rates go up as quantitative easing comes away and the economy improves," Bromley said.
"Both of those things are great for our business — great for the business that we just acquired and great for all of our core businesses here in the U.S."