For decades, if not centuries, every successful business has understood that its most valuable asset is its employees. Because of the seismic …
CEO, Promutuel Insurance
For Geneviève Fortier, providing a distinctive experience to insured members is priority number one. She believes that delivering on this critical mission requires a daily commitment from the entire team and network of mutual associations. Listening to clients’ voices and taking action to make it easier for them to purchase insurance or navigate the claims adjudication process is key to fulfilling the Promutuel promise: to be there when members need us the most.
Geneviève is convinced that providing clear direction is one of the most critical tasks for a CEO. Clear direction isn’t just a matter of setting performance targets for the organization. It’s also a matter of getting team members to buy into the vision—and it takes both to be successful.
In the spring of 2020, shortly after her arrival, Geneviève and her leadership team recommended a new strategic plan to deliver an ambitious and profitable growth strategy across the country. Since then, Geneviève has worked tirelessly to rally employees behind the plan and support them in their daily mission of providing a top-notch experience to members. She relies on the close ties she has forged with staff and managers to create that stickiness and on frank and transparent discussions to foster buy-in.
She works hard to translate the priorities she and her management team have set into concrete objectives that everyone can understand and contribute to. In the constantly changing insurance industry environment, a decentralized organization like Promutuel Insurance has to find ways to unite people behind common goals that balance the objectives of the 16 member mutual insurance associations with those of the larger Group. A balance is not always easy to achieve! Keeping employees engaged is crucial and will make a massive difference for our members going forward.
Breaking the Barrier
Having spent a good part of her career in HR leadership roles, Geneviève has had bosses who were too focused on her educational background and previous experience to consider her full potential. “Even though I earned their trust and was able to spread my wings and take on new responsibilities, they were hesitant to provide me with the opportunity to run a business, which delayed my ascension to the role of CEO,” she says. “When I realized that the only way to make this happen would be to leave the organization I’d been part of for 10+ years, I didn’t hesitate. In a matter of months, I was running a business with $2.5 billion in sales, and 20 months later I became CEO of Promutuel Insurance, a $1 billion organization.”
The gender-related roadblocks Geneviève faced came mainly from decision-makers who were stuck in their own beliefs about gender, age, and so on. They probably weren’t ready to contemplate different leadership profiles—profiles that likely represented a threat to what they knew and how they had worked their way up. As the first female CEO in Promutuel’s 170-year history and a leader with extensive experience managing human capital, Geneviève is a fervent advocate for diversity within the organization she leads. She is convinced that diversity in all forms (ideas, skills, beliefs, gender, etc.) is key to developing better solutions for Promutuel’s insured members and its employees.
She believes that from diversity comes creativity, and from ideation, the most impressive innovations! She continually seeks to build balanced teams that strengthen diversity in the workplace. She is firmly committed to promoting gender parity and equal opportunity. And she encourages women to aim high, notably through her leadership role with Effet A, a broad-based movement dedicated to fostering ambition among women.
At Promutuel, she has taken concrete steps by appointing six women to vice president positions on the leadership team. It’s also worth noting that women hold nearly 40% of general management positions within the mutual associations that make up the Group.
Geneviève has always been inspired by leaders who combine an appetite for exceptional performance with a strong focus on the people responsible for delivering it. She refuses to focus solely on one of these dimensions at the expense of the other. In her eyes, a clear vision and a people-centered approach are vital ingredients that drive more robust performance. Not surprisingly, Barack Obama has been a role model for Geneviève. His ever-present desire to build a strong nation, his focus on doing things differently and assembling a diverse team—a testament to his willingness to listen to different points of view that challenged his own beliefs—and his relentless efforts to explain his vision in simple terms to everyone from ordinary citizens to the most accomplished leaders worldwide continue to resonate with Geneviève today, five years after he left office.
Focus & Discipline
Geneviève and her husband François are the proud parents of three young adults aged 19, 25, and 27. Through focus, discipline, and difficult choices, she had typically found ways to be there for her children when they needed her while at the same time fulfilling her professional duties! One of her biggest challenges has always been to balance the time and effort required by her growing leadership duties with her desire to spend quality time with her children.
One of the early decisions made by Geneviève and her husband was to organize the family household to provide a nurturing environment for their children. When their daughter arrived in 2002, François decided to take parental leave and become a full-time stay-at-home dad, a commitment he maintained until recently!
While she knows that it takes a special kind of man to make such a choice, Geneviève also acknowledges that a mother will always remain a mother, even when the traditional roles are reversed. As part of her journey, she accepted that being perfect was not the goal. Instead, she decided that giving her best every day at work and home would become the target! Armed with this ideology, she has been taking the company to new heights.
Building A Company
Promutuel Insurance was founded in 1852 by farmers who wanted to protect themselves from the vagaries of Mother Nature. It is deeply rooted in the values of mutual aid and collaboration.
These original core values helped establish Promutuel as a player with close ties to its insured members and the communities it served across Quebec. This is still the case today.
The entrepreneurial spirit shown by the founders continues to guide the organization and gives it an extraordinary ability to mobilize its teams’ strengths in the face of any challenge.
Since taking office, Geneviève has emphasized the need for profitable growth to enhance the organization’s competitiveness. After a concerted effort on the part of her teams to ensure a well-balanced and good risk portfolio, one thing has become apparent: Promutuel Insurance is very well positioned to consolidate growth in its current markets and eager to explore new markets and partnership opportunities that will allow the Group to grow profitably moving forward.
2022 will mark the 170th anniversary of Promutuel Insurance. But it will also likely see the organization reach another historic milestone—the $1 billion sales mark. A significant symbolic achievement for any company, this milestone represents a turning point on the organization’s journey toward its ambition of doubling in size in the years ahead—a goal it aims to achieve through a combination of organic growth by member mutual associations and strategic development by the group that supports them.
As Québec’s fourth-largest insurer, Promutuel Insurance occupies an enviable spot in the industry. This underdog position serves the organization well. Its disciplined approach to customer intimacy has been a differentiator and will remain so in the years to come. In a competitive sector like insurance, choosing how you differentiate is a critical success factor.
Promutuel’s approach is built around several core ingredients:
A network of mutual associations with deep roots in their community
A focus on impeccable service
A solid decentralized management structure
In-depth knowledge of local markets
Close ties with insured members
Promutuel Insurance has been and will continue to be an industry challenger—an organization to watch and take inspiration from when it comes to customer intimacy. So much so that this unique model could be exported to new geographies!
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