Inspiring innovation from the C-suite

According to Stéphane Lefebvre, vice-president of finance and CFO of CAE, a company’s leadership is integral to inspiring innovation and problem solving among its employees.

Q: How has your career at CAE enhanced your vision of leadership?

A: I’ve had the opportunity to work in various functions and business units, and I’ve been involved in many civil aviation projects in places like England and Australia. The fact that leadership can exist at different levels fascinates me. For example, I have a hierarchical relationship with the finance team, but I’ve also worked with a lot of people who didn’t report to me.

How does this leadership translate in practice?

Technology plays a vital role at CAE, since it’s at the core of the products we sell. We therefore strive to foster innovation in our teams. For the past two or three years, we’ve been encouraging members of our engineering department to find technical solutions to problems we submit to them. This has resulted in a new generation of solutions.

How do you and your team manage to oversee the financial activities of 100 sites and training locations around the world?

I work with a very tight-knit finance team. Every member of the team is committed to identifying problems and solving them. Also, achieving results is of the utmost importance to CAE, especially when it comes to our deliverables.

What is the main challenge of working for a multinational?

We have a strong presence in the following key sectors: civil aviation, defence, healthcare and mining. To compete with CAE, US companies have bought smaller players in Europe and Canada. We still have the same number of competitors, but their shareholders have changed. Our goal is to remain a leader — in other words, to be our customers’ preferred supplier.

Stéphane Lefebvre has more than 20 years of accounting and finance experience. He previously worked in PwC’s financial and audit advisory services. He rose through the ranks at CAE (a leader in modelling, simulation and training for civil aviation and defence) before being appointed to his current position in 2011. Lefebvre holds a bachelor of business administration from HEC Montréal and received his diploma in accounting in 1992.