(Bloomberg) -- Prudential Financial Inc. said it would sell its full-service retirement business to a unit of Canada’s Great-West Lifeco Inc. for $3.55 billion as the life insurer continues implementing Chief Executive Officer Charles Lowrey’s three-year transformation plan.

The business will be purchased by Great-West’s Greenwood Village, Colorado-based Empower Retirement division. Prudential expects total proceeds of about $2.8 billion from the sale, which is expected to close in the first quarter of next year, the companies said in a statement. It will boost Empower’s customer base by about 4 million people to 16.6 million participants.

Lowrey is working to transform Prudential’s business through deals, cost savings and share buybacks, including selling off interest-rate sensitive businesses and making acquisitions in growth markets. Prudential will continue participating in the retirement market, serving retirees, employers and those collecting on annuities, through businesses including its individual-annuities unit and PGIM, Prudential’s asset manager.

“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in Prudential’s transformation and the execution of our strategy to become a higher growth, less market sensitive, more nimble business,” Lowrey said in the statement.

Prudential, based in Newark, New Jersey, said it will use proceeds from the transaction for general corporate purposes. It now plans to increase capital returned to shareholders by 2023 to $11 billion from the $10.5 billion announced in May, and will reduce financial leverage.

Bloomberg News reported earlier this year that Prudential was exploring a sale of its retirement business. The deal comes as insurers part with retirement-related assets to focus on core operations. Great-West agreed last year to buy Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s retirement-services arm for $3.4 billion.

“Empower’s acquisition of Prudential’s full-service retirement business will add significant scale and capabilities, further solidifying its leadership position in the world’s largest retirement market,” Great-West CEO Paul Mahon said in a separate statement.

(Updates with details on Prudential’s transformation strategy starting in the first paragraph.)

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