Stepping out of her comfort zone is the key to success for Isabelle Durand, CLO at iA Financial

Isabelle Durand had much to learn when she moved to the highly regulated financial services sector

By Julius Melnitzer | June 16, 2023

When Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc. asked Isabelle Durand to step out of her comfort zone and become the company’s vice president and chief legal officer, she jumped at the opportunity: After all, getting comfortable with discomfort was nothing new to her.

“I came from the investment world to a regulated industry, so I had many things to learn, but all the changes I made throughout my career required me to step out of my comfort zone,” she says.

Called in 2002, after graduating from Laval University’s Faculty of Law in Quebec City, Durand joined Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP’s Montreal office, where her practice focused on transactional commercial real estate.

In 2007, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec offered Durand a position as senior advisor, legal affairs with its SITQ affiliate, then a $17.8 billion real estate investment, management and development firm specializing in office properties, hotels, apartments, retirement housing and real estate investment funds.

“SITQ was an international company that allowed me to cover growth markets such as India as well as the European market,” Durand says.

When Caisse subsumed its three real estate affiliates under the Ivanhoé Cambridge umbrella in 2009, Durand became the merged entities’ director, legal affairs, a post she held until 2014, when she took on a role as the president’s chief of staff. Following a year in that position, Durand spent about two years focusing on compliance and corporate ethics as VP, legal affairs, compliance, and corporate secretary.

In late 2016, Durand became VP, legal affairs, operations, where her responsibilities included managing Ivanhoé’s commercial real estate portfolio, which included 26 shopping centres.

“At the beginning of my career, my roles as a lawyer had a transactional core that only gave me a piece of the picture, but the 18 months I spent as chief of staff exposed me to governance, compliance and ethics issues, and managing the commercial real estate portfolio gave me boots-on-the-ground experience that included crisis management.”

In 2021, Ivanhoé outsourced the management of its shopping centres, abolishing Durand’s position in the process.

“I thought of relocating within the Caisse, but then – through an ex-Ivanhoé contact – I got an offer from iA,” Durand says. MORE . . .

Julius Melnitzer is a Toronto-based legal affairs writer, ghostwriter, writing coach and media trainer. Readers can reach him at [email protected] or


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