Isabelle Durand – Simplicity First

Vice-President and Chief Legal Officer
In legal matters as elsewhere, Isabelle Durand constantly seeks to closely analyze complex notions and from them distill simplicity. With her natural intellectual curiosity, Isabelle immerses herself in concepts and reformulates them in a clear and accessible way.

Simplicity above all else

Isabelle joined iA Financial Group in 2022 as Vice-President and Chief Legal Officer. She quickly got to know her large team, which works in different cities across Canada and the United States, privileging person-to-person contact when doing so.

“I really like speaking with people directly,
getting to know them more intimately, more naturally.”

“At iA, we hold an annual meeting where all the lawyers and paralegals get together in Quebec City. Since ours is a large team with a range of specializations—each just as important as the next—these meetings help create strong bonds. Though, of course, as time goes on, our routine meetings are also a key part of staying in each other’s orbit and keeping an eye on how our files are evolving.” Isabelle mentions having greatly appreciated the advantages offered by the Work From Anywhere (WFA) program when she arrived at iA. This policy extends her reach when it comes to recruiting new talent, allowing her to go beyond the cities where the company has an office.

Expanding her horizons

During her career, spanning just over 20 years, Isabelle has also honed her skills abroad. After studying law in her native Quebec City, followed by six years of private practice in real estate law, Isabelle went on to hold various senior positions with Ivanhoé Cambridge, a real estate subsidiary of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. There, she worked on transactions within their European portfolio and in growing markets, which led her to discover the real estate markets of many cities around the world.

When it comes to community involvement, Isabelle puts her knowledge in real estate and governance to good use as an Administrator with Giant Steps, a foundation with which she has volunteered for years and which in 2023 opened a new centre dedicated to the education and inclusion of autistic children and adults. Through this organization, which is a model for autism education and research in Canada, Isabelle can help build a bright future for her eldest son, who is autistic. She also sits as an external member on the Governance, Human resources and Communications committee and the Investment Management committee of the Société d'habitation et de développement de Montréal (SHDM), using her expertise to support the cause of affordable housing in Montreal.

Connecting with people

For Isabelle, past experiences resonate in the present, pregnant with meaning and utility. There’s thus a certain consistency between her personal and professional activities—as she believes everything to be connected and in the constant process of shaping us as people and leaders.

A keen swimmer, Isabelle finds calm in the water. But she’s no stranger to the joys of the land and often recharges her batteries in the mountains, just a stone’s throw away from her home. As the eldest of her nine siblings, Isabelle loves getting together with and being there for her loved ones:: “I grew up steeped in social connection, which is a value I hold close.”

Her interest in human relationships is obvious when Isabelle speaks—with high esteem—of her team: “We have a wealth of expertise and are finely attuned to our market niches. Each of us has solid skills and knows how to share them, and any new addition to the team has to mell with the chemistry we’ve created. We’re competitive, but never with each other; teamwork is a core value.”

“Of course we want to protect the company,
but we also aim to make a meaningful contribution
to its growth and vision.”

As a deep believer in simplicity, when Isabelle took the reins of Legal Services, she implemented two important axes: Number one, become more closely attuned to all business units by naming a lawyer in charge of each unit; and number two, tend to the company’s overall legal cohesion such that the decisions made within one business unit are consistent with those of iA Financial Group as a whole.

An inspiring vision of the future

As a leader, Isabelle sees the members of senior management, with whom she works closely, as highly motivating individuals. In her eyes, the best cultural litmus test for a company is being able to find inspiring models within its ranks who naturally prompt their leaders to reach for ever greater heights, becoming in turn an example for others.

She enthusiastically supports senior management’s vision. For Legal Services, the increased use of artificial intelligence, for example, has the potential to improve the team’s overall efficiency; automating some of the more clerical tasks would increase each employee’s added value. Technology may also help her team more thoroughly monitor the market; in a world where legislation is changing faster and faster in the many areas affecting iA Financial Group, it’s an excellent way of staying up to date.

Although many aspects of the legal world seem vast and complex, Isabelle always finds a way to open the door for us and introduce us to Lady Justice such that she becomes accessible and familiar. With Isabelle, even in the courthouse we feel right at home.