Eric Lapointe: champion of Canadian football and financial services

By Alain Thériault | January 24 2012 07:43PM

Armed with two championship victories, the former Montreal Alouettes linebacker is still charging forward. But instead of outplaying his opponents to score a touchdown, he now advises clients and earns points for his winning team: the South Shore Montreal branch of Assante Wealth Management.Recently inducted into the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame, Eric Lapointe has been a force to be reckoned with in the football and financial services sector for many years.

President of the Alouettes Alumni Association since 2007, Mr. Lapointe is now focusing on his second career. His new team is experienced in all sectors of the investment and insurance industry. Specializing in integrated wealth management and estate and multigenerational planning, he is also a member of the Assante Chairman’s Council.

He takes on these roles passionately, a passion he eagerly shared with the hundreds of conference goers at the 2011 Insurance and Investments Convention, held in Montreal in November.

Eric Lapointe realized early on that he had the competitive spirit. After earning two trophies for best university football player, he went on to win the Grey Cup with the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 1999, after the Edmonton Eskimos ejected him from their training camp at the start of the season. He won another Grey Cup with the Alouettes in 2002.

Bumpy ride

It may sound like a smooth ride, but the star linebacker’s path was actually long and tortuous.

Mr. Lapointe learned what financial security meant firsthand at a tender age. He witnessed the financial woes of his father, who left a good job at Alcan when Eric was 12-years-old. The patriarch sold the family home to bring his clan to Montreal, where he became a stock speculator.

“I still see them, he and his buddies, nervously smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes in the basement as they frantically reeled off their financial hits and misses. My father claimed to be having fun, but my little boy eyes saw a different story. At that age I promised myself I would never do the same thing,” he told the audience.

Mr. Lapointe’s stock market adventure finished badly. He lost everything he had, from his financial assets to his family. Eric Lapointe’s mother couldn't stand the insecurity and he felt the same way yet he does share his father’s relentless drive. The combination of the desire for security and adrenaline have shaped his career.

When asked how to succeed as an advisor when the economy is flagging and financial scandals abound, Mr. Lapointe replies “Today we are living in a world with the greatest challenges. Without these challenges our job would be boring. We have a chance to help our clients make their dreams come true. We take their pressure and put it on our shoulders. A huge responsibility, but an exciting challenge!”

He explains his passion by saying “my university coach told me there are three types of people: those who don't have dreams, those who have dreams but don't know how to realize them, and those who will use any means to achieve them. I fall into the third category.”

For Mr. Lapointe, there are no dreams without vision and no success without failure. “Each of my worst failures was followed by my best success.” After being named best university player twice, he expected the pros to snap him up in the first round. But linebackers were a dime a dozen. In 1999, the Edmonton Eskimos selected him in the third round. So far, so good.

What followed were the worst three weeks of his life. “I never made it onto the field. No one talked to me. I didn't exist. Each day, there was a knock on the door and a head rolled. Finally it was my turn to go,” he says.

Plagued by injuries, the Hamilton Tiger Cats called Éric Lapointe a few days later. His dream was reviving. Even so, he hesitated, disillusioned after the Edmonton fiasco. He then recalled his father’s advice: “If you never try, you'll never know...” Two weeks later, he became Ti-Cats player of the week, after rushing 195 yards and scoring two touchdowns in his first match in the Canadian Football League.

His second hard knock came with the Montreal Alouettes in 2005. An injury hobbled him for the season. At a player meeting, he sustained a different kind of injury. He heard his offensive coordinator tell the team quarterbacks who gathered in another room that he was the only weak link in the Alouettes’ offensive line.

“I thought my career was over. Then a friend advised me to end it with class. I trained all year, took on many challenges, got involved with special units.” His tenacity paid off. In the Eastern finals, he rushed a total of 115 yards and scored three touchdowns, leading the Alouettes to their fourth Grey Cup final since they rejoined the league in 1996.

Memorable game

“When I left the field after that memorable game, I caught the eye of the offensive coordinator, who looked down, avoiding my gaze. But what I found most gratifying was that this success was earned by determination and motivated by advice from a good friend and associate. Surround yourself with very intelligent people. They will force you to surpass yourself,” he recommends.

Mr. Lapointe also thinks that sharing knowledge is key to success. We are all stronger when we help each other. “Our coach always talked about the wolf pack: the strength of the wolf lies in its pack, and the strength of the pack lies in the wolf. When we work together, we can accomplish extraordinary things,” he says.

He ended his presentation on a humble note to hearty applause. “I am no Warren Buffet of finance, nor did I think I would be a sales champion. I'm just a 37-year-old kid who’s passionate about his work.”