iA Financial Group: Denis Ricard continues Yvon Charest’s work

By Justine Montminy | September 20 2018 01:30PM

Denis Ricard | Photo: Cercle canadien de Montréal

Denis Ricard, the new president and CEO of iA Financial Group, said at a recent conference held at the Canadian Club of Montreal, that he wants to continue the work to expand the company that was pursued by Yvon Charest during his presidency.

In office since Sept. 1, Ricard wants to align his presidency with business growth, which he calls "the basis of everything".

Net earnings growth of 10 per cent

To do this, Ricard said he is targeting annual net earnings growth of 10 per cent. Since 2000, this growth has averaged 11 per cent per year, he said at the conference.

"To achieve this goal, we are counting on organic growth, but also on acquisitions," Ricard said in an interview with The Insurance and Investment Journal. The US market will be given priority, since the company aims to double its size in the United States in the coming years, he added. The US market currently accounts for 5 per cent of the company's profits.

Acquisitions will continue to be at the heart of iA's strategy in the coming years. The company acquired HollisWealth in 2017 and PPI in February 2018. "Distribution is a strength at Industrial Alliance. We bought companies on the distribution side, which now account for more than 10 per cent of the company's profits," adds Ricard.

The importance of financial advisors

Among the other areas of development planned for iA, Denis Ricard expressed his desire not only to improve the customer experience, but also the experience of advisors in the digital age. "Without financial advisors, there is no business," he says.

At the conference, Ricard affirmed that technology should also serve advisors. For example, earlier this year, he told The Insurance and Investment Journal that the sale of individual life insurance via the Internet without a representative was not an option.

Banning embedded commissions

In an interview with the daily newspaper Le Devoir, Denis Ricard expressed his concern over the debate surrounding the banning of embedded commissions, brought forward by the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA). He did not exclude a possible decline in the number of financial advisors if such measures are adopted.

Ricard told The Insurance and Investment Journal that any regulatory change can have unintended consequences. "I'm not adamant that there would be a decline in advisors, but it's a risk. We lack financial advisors in Canada and I think we should not ignore the possibility of (a decline) happening. The Ontario government has indicated that this is a possibility."

Last week, the Ontario government disagreed with the CSA's proposed amendments to ban the deferred sales charge (DSC) option.

Major changes coming soon

Ricard said that his first weeks as President of iA were largely in line with what had been done before Yvon Charest left. "There are major changes that are coming, and I have given myself until Christmas to establish them," Ricard told The Insurance and Investment Journal. However, he said it is too early to provide more details on this subject.