Few finance leaders have the chance to have such a rich, diverse and stimulating career as Ghislain Parent, an alum of our Montreal office. Now head of finance at National Bank of Canada, Parent has stood out thanks to his particular way of addressing challenges and opportunities: an integrated approach that has been dubbed “Vision 360.” He applies the concept not only in his day-to-day work, but also throughout the longer view of his career.
A 360-degree journey to the top of the finance function
External and internal auditor, chief accountant, regulatory inspector, advisor at an international financial institution and now chief financial officer — you could say Parent has seen the finance function in all its glory!
Parent started his career 25 years ago as an external auditor. He remembers it was Sylvain Vincent, currently managing partner of our Montreal office, who convinced him to join EY. A first job, a second family — one that’s still there for him and ready to help him take on challenges.
His first responsibilities allowed him to explore the world of finance. He already loved the complexity of the issues and the intellectual stimulation of the business, and he knew that he’d devote himself to a finance career.
After his time with EY, he held several different roles that helped him shape his personal profile and allowed him to observe situations from different angles, to better address financial management.
Parent worked at the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the main Canadian regulator of financial institutions, insurance companies and private pension plans. He then jumped into internal audit as vice president of Laurentian Bank, motivated by his desire to improve processes, politics and operations in a bank. Later, he was named first vice president of finance and operations at Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, one of the most important institutional fund managers in the country.
Today, as CFO at National Bank of Canada, Parent has the biggest responsibilities of his career. Joined by a passionate and skilled team, he plays an active role in achieving the bank’s financial objectives and adapting them to new regulatory challenges, notably Basel III. Relentlessly improving efficiency across the organization, continuing to invest for the future and maintaining financial integrity are at the top of Parent’s list of priorities.
A 360-degree perspective on business: discovering emerging markets
When Parent began his career, the effects of globalization on the financial services sector were minimal. However, he always held a particular interest in the global financial environment, and several experiences abroad proved rewarding, both personally and professionally.
On two occasions, Parent used his experience and specialized financial knowledge to set up a monitoring service for a foreign bank. First, in Haiti in the mid-’90s, then several years later in Rwanda, where the economy is now one of the most stable in East Africa.
In the context of these two rewarding missions, Parent discovered and put to use the hidden talents of the professionals in these countries that had been so afflicted by adversity. He enthusiastically led these projects to completion and was proud to find that his achievements were recognized back home in Quebec.
Globalization and the growth of emerging markets have since reshaped the financial services sector and forced it to rethink its organizational strategies. Thanks to his experiences abroad, Parent has seized new business opportunities in emerging markets during his time at Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. In addition to organizing several visits to Brazil, Russia, India and China for investment teams, he led concrete initiatives that had a significant impact, including obtaining “investor status abroad” to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, and the opening of a Caisse office in Beijing.
A 360-degree social view: business giving back to the community
Throughout his travels, Parent had the chance to lead the life and career of his choice. And even though he was passionate about his work abroad, his heart remained in Quebec, and over the last 25 years he’s demonstrated time and again how deeply rooted he is at home, which he’s shown by his service on various boards in the province.
He’s especially proud of his participation as chairman of the Quartier international de Montréal, a project to improve Montreal’s McGill Street, located west of the Old City, at the centre of the historic city walls. The infrastructure and redevelopment projects have not only rehabilitated the appearance of the historic district, but also revitalized the area with new business, which visitors today truly appreciate.
Most recently, Parent has prompted the business community to support a cause that’s very dear to him — the reintegration into society of the homeless and disadvantaged.
In fact, he’s accepted the presidency of the ninth annual Lobster and White Wine dinner, a fundraiser in support of Accueil Bonneau, a not-for-profit organization and home for men that provides Montreal’s homeless with food, shelter, clothing and other comforts. He’s also organized, for the first time in the organization’s history, a campaign to raise funds from companies, which has enabled Accueil Bonneau to collect thousands of additional dollars.