Canadian Lawyer

August 2023

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 39 of 51

38 FEATURE DEPARTMENT PROFILE FOUNDED IN 1892, Industrial Alliance and Financial Service is one of Canada's largest insurance and wealth management groups. The organization's lines of business include individual insurance and wealth management, group insurance and savings and retirement plans, auto and home insur- ance, automotive guarantee products for US dealers, and investment management. No surprise, then, that the organization's legal services team is sizeable, comprised of 84 employees, including 61 lawyers, forming an integrated multinational team across North America with members in Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Waco, and Dallas. "It's a diverse team that speaks more than 15 languages and has work experience in the Philippines, England, Israel, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Seattle," says Isabelle Durand, the company's vice president and chief legal officer. The team has expertise in many areas, including corporate governance and secretariat, mergers and acquisitions, securities, litigation, distribution, financing, real estate, employment, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing, intellectual property, legislative tracking and licensing, as well as a dedicated government- relations function. When iA offered Durand her current position in 2021, the opportunity could have intimidated someone less inured to challenges and change, including private practice and 14 years in various in-house and management roles. "I had many reflexes from my previous positions that served me well and made me realize that I knew more than I thought I did," Durand says. "Still, I had a lot to learn about the company, the business structures, and the underlying businesses, all of which translated to a huge legal spectrum." She would also be moving from an unregulated to a regulated industry. Undaunted, she jumped at the opportunity. "All the changes I made throughout my career required me to step out of my comfort zone," Durand recalls. When Durand joined iA in January 2022, Collective input from a diverse team helped bring the in-house corporate function closer to the business units at iA Stepping outside your comfort zone Isabelle Durand, iA's CLO since 2022, has always been comfortable with change. Called in 2002, she joined Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP's Montreal office to practise transactional commercial real estate. Five years into her career, she went in-house, accumulating 14 years of experience as the senior legal affairs advisor to a $17.8 billion international real estate portfolio; serving as the president's chief of staff at a major real estate entity where she was exposed to governance, ethics, and compliance issues; and boots-on-the-ground involvement, including crisis control, managing a large commercial real estate portfolio. CHIEF LEGAL OFFICER, ISABELLE DURAND the head of finance tasked her with bringing the in-house corporate functions closer to the business units. Durand untangled the existing legal teams that serviced everyone but gave none of the business people clear points of contact and accountability. Instead, she provided each business line with an individual lawyer as their go-to person. Durand then resourced that lawyer with a team that focused on the legal aspects of the business line for which they were responsible. "This created not only a structure but a mindset because it gave the lawyers a … strategy that incorporated what mattered to the particular business team," Durand says. "It also allowed us to train younger lawyers more easily and move capacity around within

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