New IFIC boss won’t take sides

By Kate McCaffery | December 6, 2005 | Last updated on December 6, 2005
3 min read

Industry trade associations of all stripes have similar needs at their core — strong, organized management with lobbying and relationship building skills, an awareness of legal and regulatory issues, as well as the diplomacy to find common interests and issues among members.

In a changing of the guard at IFIC next month, incoming president and CEO Joanne De Laurentiis takes over for retiring president, Tom Hockin, and brings with her over 25 years of experience.

She’ll likely need to draw on every bit of earned experience to manage the association, keep abreast of issues presented by the country’s 13 regulators and balance the wide range of common and competing interests from IFIC’s membership.

Since announcing her appointment, already there is speculation in the industry suggesting her banking background is a sign that a bank-oriented agenda will dominate at the trade association. Prior to her credit union experience, De Laurentiis led the debit card network Interac and served as vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Bankers Associaiton.

The questions are remarkably similar to those raised when De Laurentiis first came to work at Credit Union Central of Canada. “There were some questions about whether or not a person who’s been representing or working for banking interests could actually appreciate or understand the interests of smaller financial institutions like credit unions,” she says. “I proved them wrong here. The role of a trade association is to represent to common interests of everyone and to lift the whole industry up, not to pick sides.”

In her most recent role at the credit union association, De Laurentiis worked to make people view credit unions as a viable alternative to banks, particularly in the debate over bank mergers. At Interac, she took over as CEO in 1994 and completed the rollout of debit services in Eastern Canada and the Maritime provinces when the group of owners managing the service decided the initiative was successful enough to require professional management.

She also managed the challenges Interac faced when the competition bureau forced it to allow non-financial firms to become members of the network.

Although it’s tempting to imagine that the mutual fund industry is set for a sea change on par with the implementation and widespread acceptance of electronic payment options, De Laurentiis points out that the industry already has its own list of dramatic changes and accomplishments to boast about.

In the early 1980s she worked for the minister of consumer and commercial relations, responsible at the time for the Ontario Securities Commission and the Toronto Stock Exchange. In a briefing, Pierce Bunting, then the chair of the TSE, told the minister in charge that Canada needed to increase investor participation in capital markets.

“I don’t remember the number he gave us, but it was in the single digits, the number of Canadians who actually participated in buying stocks. It was considered a business that only people with lots of money and sophistication could participate in,” she says. “Mutual funds have really brought participation in the capital market to the individual. The size of the mutual fund industry speaks to that.”

De Laurentiis takes over for from Hockin on January 16, 2006.

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Kate McCaffery