Canadian National Alumni Association:Exemplifying INSEAD’s values

Canada 3INSEAD, the ‘Business school for the World’ is also in many ways the perfect ‘business school for Canada’. Like INSEAD, Canada is a highly diverse country. It is a bilingual country with two major historic founding cultures. Just this year the BBC called Toronto, Canada’s largest city, the most diverse city in the world, thanks to its over 230 nationalities and the fact that 51% of the population is born outside Canada. Lastly, like INSEAD, a major piece of Canada’s identity is ‘not being American’ (in the US sense).

The INSEAD Alumni Association in Canada is also very diverse. There are 740 alumni in Canada – who reflect the country’s diverse ethnicities and openness to immigration – spread across over 5,000 km. These alumni also reflect Canada’s economic geography by mostly being concentrated in or near the major economic hubs of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.

Historically, the IAA in Canada had a single committee, who were responsible for managing and organising all events nationally. The result was that the association had a strong presence in Toronto and Montreal and typically most active in the city where the current president sat – with reduced presence elsewhere.

In the past year, the IAA Canada went through a re-organisation, under the leadership of president Kamal Hassan MBA’93D, setting up a chapter in each of Canada’s four main cities. As a result Canada effectively shifted to a decentralised structure supported by a central committee improving representation across the country.

In Toronto and Montreal, where there are 200-400 alumni, events can be run monthly and gather upwards of 50 attendees. In Vancouver and Calgary, where there are 40-90 alumni, a successful event may have six alumni meeting up at a bar or restaurant. One strategy that Canada employs to great effect, especially in smaller cities like Vancouver, led by Kash Awan EMBA’09D, is partnering with other top business schools to run joint events. By joining with LSE, IMD, Harvard, Wharton or Stanford we create a critical mass of attendees that attracts and rewards great speakers.

As in everything, Canada works closely with our neighbour (note the Canadian spelling with the ‘-our’ ending) to the south. The INSEAD Americas Forum, which is an annual tradition started almost a decade ago in the US, has also been hosted in Toronto, where speakers included a former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney.

In 2017 the Americas Forum will return to Canada again, this time hosted in Montreal, thanks to the strong support of the Montreal chapter, led by Magali Depras IDP-C’14Sep. The timing is fortuitous, since 2017 marks the 375th anniversary of the city of Montreal, and Canada’s 150th anniversary. There will be festivities throughout the year, with the INSEAD Forum being one of many celebrations.

Another major change in the past year has taken place on the governance front. Canada now has a formal board, led by chair John Hall MBA’77. The board’s job is as it would be in any corporate structure: to check in with the president several times a year to ensure the association is progressing, and to manage and ensure a smooth leadership transition every three years. As part of this governance reboot Canada has just completed their second annual AGM open to all alumni.

Any discussion of INSEAD in Canada would not be complete without discussing the achievements of some of our illustrious alumni. Perhaps the most noticeable in the past year has been the selection of Bill Morneau MBA’90J, as Canada’s new Finance Minister. Bill, a rookie MP, has already managed to do what nobody felt was possible: he has managed to get the support of Canada’s fractious provinces to pass major pension reforms that will eventually more than double Canada’s public pension payouts, ensuring that today’s young workers actually receive a pension, rather than unfunded promises.

Bill is a past president of Canada’s alumni association, showing that if you volunteer to help your local association, you never know where it can lead!

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