Le Groupe Maurice welcomes Hugues Jacquin as its new Chief Financial Officer
After 18 years at Bombardier and stints with other international companies in Germany, China and the UK, Hugues Jacquin is embarking on the latest chapter in his exciting professional career, this time at Le Groupe Maurice. This financial expert says he is very pleased to be joining such a kind-hearted team—a feeling that is very much shared by the company’s management!
Mr. Jacquin, after having worked in various places around the world, what convinced you to return to Quebec?
The main thing that prompted us to return to Canada three years ago was my wife’s company, which imports and distributes fair trade organic bananas. She’d been doing a lot of travel between the UK and Quebec, and since we have three children, it had been weighing on the family.
When I took up my position at Polycor, a successful mining company, we moved to Montreal, even though its head office was in Quebec City. That meant I was away from my family Monday to Thursday. It was getting harder and harder for my wife to manage her growing company while looking after our three children four days a week. I was very happy at Polycor, so we’d decided to move to Quebec City unless a good opportunity came up in Montreal, professionally speaking. So when Le Groupe Maurice approached me and I met Luc Maurice, my decision was clear.
Really? Why was that?
Because I found Luc completely different from other CEOs I’ve met. He’s the only one who, even before getting down to business, talked about how passionately he felt about what he was doing, about the seniors residence industry and his personal mission. My wife tells me the same sort of things when discussing her own company. You have to be inspired and motivated by the deeper cause underlying whatever you’re doing. So that’s what really grabbed me.
Is working for a cause important to you?
Absolutely. I find the older you get, the more important it becomes. We all want to make the world a better place. In the beginning, when people mentioned Le Groupe Maurice, I had no idea what they were talking about. The sector was unknown to me, mostly because I was accustomed to working in the manufacturing sector, where you could basically touch the things that were being made, e.g. stone or aircraft or boats or trains. It was all tangible. But as I talked things over with my wife, we realized that at Le Groupe Maurice, I’d be working for an even more meaningful cause: for our seniors. One of our two daughters is disabled. So for me, the concept of taking care of people and treating them with dignity really moved me.
Aside from your meeting with Luc, what convinced you to come and work for Le Groupe Maurice?
My meeting with the whole management team. That was the cherry on the sundae! It was clear to me that I wanted to work with people like that. Like when I met Luc, I felt that they were more interested in getting to know me personally, as opposed to just talking business. Plus they kept saying “us” rather than “me me me” all the time. I could tell that no one was taking credit for the company’s success, not even Luc! The fact that all members of the management team take that same approach speaks volumes. Now that I’m on the team, it’s even more gratifying to know that I was chosen for who I am, first and foremost. That ties in with my core values: if we’re all on the same page and it’s a good fit, we’re bound to go far together.
Secondly, there’s the industry itself. The deeper motivation, like I mentioned. For some people, working in the seniors residence sector is a calling, especially nowadays with all the pandemic-related issues. It’s a worthy cause, similar to the industry my wife is operating in.
Last but not least, the presence of so many women in the management team convinced me that Le Groupe Maurice is in keeping with the spirit of our times. Embracing diversity, in terms of gender as well as nationality, indicates open-mindedness. The company has a cutting-edge culture, and that really won me over!
What types of experiences have you had with seniors?
My family history is quite unique: there was a 23-year age gap between my father and my mother. My father was born in 1912, so that should give you some idea—he was 59 when I was born! He died in 2007. Overall, his health was excellent. So I knew my father for many years when he was already “old”! And when he was truly elderly, I spent most of those years alongside him.
It’s a pity that there is a certain perception of the elderly in Quebec. Some cultures have a different appreciation of age. Here, there’s lots of emphasis on the young and the thinking goes that they need to be enriched and valued and protected. But in Africa, for example, it’s the opposite: the elderly are seen as having a story to tell, as being a storehouse of extremely important information that young people don’t have. So the elderly deserve as much protection as anyone else, if not more so!
When I was talking with Luc about the industry’s needs, he told me: “Seniors are not a cost—they’re a benefit!”
I completely agree with him! The elderly are essential to our society. It’s important to raise people’s awareness of that. While I was working in China, I witnessed that same phenomenon: the elderly lived with their children. They helped in various ways with family life, including looking after their grand-children. Those bonds were almost stronger than the relationships between the children and their parents, who were always away working.
Over the next 10 years, I think perceptions of the elderly are going to change, and I think Le Groupe Maurice will have a key role to play in that regard.
Even in terms of the “product” we’re dealing with, Le Groupe Maurice’s perception of seniors is totally different: we see them as active, autonomous, vibrant, interesting, humorous, in shape, etc. That’s a long way from the idea of elderly people being vulnerable and in poor health, which seems to be a cliché in the West’s collective imagination.
What do you hope to bring to Le Groupe Maurice?
First of all, my technical expertise in the areas of fundraising and financing. But I think I’ll be most useful in terms of supporting the management team.
I’ve never regarded the finance department as simply being a place where reports are drawn up and cheques are signed. I really want each member of the team to play an advisory role with the other departments, especially in the current context. Growth will definitely mean that the company will have to change its approach in certain ways.
Do you think that your international experience will be an asset?
I think it will. I still don’t know the seniors residence sector very well, but while I was working in various different countries, I was constantly in “sponge mode”, i.e. absorbing information, absorbing the culture and then adapting my approach while staying true to myself. That’s the organizational challenge we face, I think: preserving our culture. That’s because developing and getting bigger automatically changes things, like adding a new colour to your palette. We just have to ensure that our new colour adds something positive in terms of value added.
In your opinion, what will be Le Groupe Maurice’s biggest challenge in the years ahead?
The nicest thing about Le Groupe Maurice is its duality: the company’s structure is getting more complex, the level of professionalism is growing yet it has retained its agility thanks to its entrepreneurial profile. You don’t find that kind of duality very often. Usually, you get one of those aspects, but not both.
I think our challenge will be how to keep our agility and our company’s culture in a growth context. We’ll have to draw on our strengths as much as we can, meaning that yes, we’ll be able to get rapid access to funding to support our growth, but we’ll still have to convince the investors. Our business plan will have to be rock-solid. That’s how it was at Bombardier: you had to deal with decision-making at different levels. The approval process took a while but, in the end, you had access to a vast range of possibilities.
I feel really confident. Le Groupe Maurice has a magic formula, developed by Luc and his whole team, that has positioned it advantageously in relation to the rest of the industry. And I think we’re going to need to rely on that formula if we want others to profit as well. There’s a certain pride in working for one of Quebec’s leading companies. I’m really looking forward to contributing where I can!
We’re looking forward to that as well! Best of luck in your new role and see you soon!