What prompted you to join the French election campaign?
It was a combination of three things: first, I felt like it was time to start asking questions. Second, I didn’t like where the political situation was going, having been traumatised by the Brexit vote and the US election. It wasn’t just the results themselves but the fact that a lot of people weren’t voting, leading to those results. And the way the French elections were going showed similarities. Finally, I found a candidate [Macron] with a platform and new politics that appealed to me. The only way to participate was to quit my position at La Caisse, as it is an apolitical institution. I wanted to go full in and not pursue it halfway.
What was the reaction from your colleagues, peers and friends to your decision?
I was pleasantly surprised. I received tons of messages on LinkedIn and probably 95 percent of them were positive. They approved the gesture that I was jumping into the movement, trying to promote a more open and progressive society. I also think they appreciated the fact that I was leaving my job without having any back-up, so hopefully something will come out of that. A lot of people in the world wish they could do more. It’s not a given for everyone; people have lives, constraints. I was lucky enough to have a very supportive family, to be able to make the move.
You’ve remained in Montreal. How are you involved day-to-day with the French campaign?
There are 1.3 million French people abroad who can vote. In North America, there are 260,000, and the biggest contribution to that number comes from Montreal, with 58,000 voters. It’s very important to convince people here to vote, because people abroad generally tend to vote less than those in France.
I distribute leaflets and organise public meetings. Recently I presented the political platform of La République en marche! to 300 people. This local committee started with about 15 of us, and today we have 300 people actively helping the movement.
Are there any similarities between what you’re doing now and your career as an investment professional?
First, they’re both a people business. As CIO, you are managing people and money. You’re the conductor of an orchestra, not playing the violin or the piano. It comes down to the way you engage with people and listen to them, in a world where people have their own personalities. I like listening to people.
The second similarity is the impact you have on the world. When you invest at La Caisse, you’re managing $250 billion of investments across four or five continents, so you have to try to understand what’s going on in the world. Today, you can’t do politics without being aware of the global environment. That’s what I like about the candidate I support.
Do you miss working as an investment professional?
I have to admit, it’s been so busy and exciting that I haven’t had time to miss it, yet! I’ve had a great 20 years in investments and enjoyed that profession a lot. I think La Caisse is a fantastic institution.
So what does a typical day look like for you now?
It’s a total mess. I get calls, meet people on the ground, organise events here with members of La République en marche! I go to events, give interviews – in English and French – and it’s very unpredictable. I have meetings with people around my dining table, or meet in a café with five to 20 people at a time.