Asking the right questions with Louis Marcotte, FCPA, FCA

Learn about the career path of CPA Canada member Louis Marcotte, senior vice-president and chief financial officer at Intact Financial Corporation.

Louis Marcotte, senior vice-president and chief financial officer at Intact Financial Corporation, has spent 24 years in industry. Read about his experiences and insights into factors impacting business.

How did you get into the profession?

I was planning a career in law and thought an accounting course would be a good complement to my degree. I was given a big envelope with a multi-column ledger, and with these mock invoices and bills and so on, and I spent the semester learning how to put these entries in. I loved it. Everything had to balance. I enjoyed it tremendously and kept going. I started understanding the natural path for me would be to obtain my accounting designation.

In brief, describe your company/organization.

Intact is Canada’s largest property and casualty insurance company. It was floated by ING Group at the height of the financial crisis in 2009 to become a fully Canadian-owned public company. I came in with no experience in the industry, so I was asking questions that most people don’t dare to ask. I still use that privilege today. I am still — after 10 years — almost new here compared to my peers.

What are the challenges you face in your industry?

Declining interest rates represent a challenge as we need to generate additional earnings from the underwriting business. Fortunately, our company has always striven to earn underwriting profits, regardless of investment yields and this prepared us well to offset the impact of declining yields.

Technology is impacting our business: the sharing economy and driverless cars are good examples. There is a lot of talk about the impact it may have on insurance but we are trying to take advantage of all this technological change that’s happening. We actually insure Uber and Turo in Canada. These are products that didn’t exist before. We worked with Uber to make sure drivers and passengers were fully covered when they rode together.

What is the best part of your job?

I meet investors on a regular basis and it’s a privilege to represent your company to investors who are interested in investing in it. And to be accountable for that — because the next time they meet you, they follow up.

I also enjoy working on potential transactions or projects. The work required to rationalize our investments is quite interesting.

What piece of advice would you give someone moving into industry?

I would tell them to try to make sure they’re gaining a breadth of experience early in their career. There’s M&A, investor relations, financing, strategic planning, even just being at the board every quarter defending your activities.

Favourite hobby or past-time and why you would recommend it?

I do renovation work. I enjoy doing handy work and small projects. I actually lose track of whatever else is going on in the world. Once you’re in there, you’re so focused on not making mistakes, and making sure it looks good, you forget about everything else.

Stress management strategies?

Turn off when you leave for home on Friday, make sure you’re not thinking about work on the weekends, and come back fresh on Monday. The problems you couldn’t solve on Friday suddenly solve themselves on Monday

How has being a member of both CPA Canada and FEI Canada benefitted you, either personally or professionally?

On the CPA Canada side, it’s brand recognition. It’s very strong. At the beginning of my career I was on campus recruiting (for the accounting profession). I used to teach for the order (Ordre des CPA du Québec), and so I got a lot out of that and being able to offer accounting expertise. FEI Canada offers me more targeted networking. I get a lot out of the networking and being able to influence what we try to do for CFOs. FEI Canada is one way for me to get out of the office and do something different.