Establishing values

Maarika Paul, executive vice-president and CFO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, says that leadership is based on establishing a widely supported pyramid of principles.

Q: What have your experiences in past and current positions taught you about leadership?

To me, a competent leader has to be passionate. When I started at the Caisse, I was told that members of the finance team worked in a vacuum. So I adopted a vision and put my own stamp on the department. People need to feel that they’re working toward a common goal. A leader must be able to analyze, make decisions and, of course, communicate — which is all-important. Real leaders know how to listen and read between the lines to convey their message.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I’m a fairly calm person, but I have a bold management style. We developed a pyramid of values in the finance department. At the base are rigour, efficiency and competency; cooperation and proactivity are in the middle; and simplicity is at the apex.

How did your accounting training prepare you for the challenges you’ve faced throughout your career?

It has played a major role. I went into accounting because I wanted to work in business. The practical experience you gain from working in accounting firms early in your career provides an opportunity to develop a sense of responsibility and ethics, as well as thoroughness, critical thinking and the ability to adapt.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as executive vice-president and CFO of the Caisse?

My main challenge is maintaining cooperation between the various departments while helping the team grow so that members can hone their skills and step outside their comfort zones to excel. This year, the Caisse will be implementing its globalization strategy. We plan to open offices in emerging countries such as Singapore and Mexico, and India in 2016. My mandate is to ensure that the Caisse’s corporate culture is preserved overseas. We’ll have to seek out new talent, deal with different structures, roles, responsibilities, time zones and so on.

Maarika Paul has held her position at the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec since 2011. In her 25 years in financial management, she has also worked in KPMG’s audit and taxation department and at BCE in corporate services and communications.