Empty head offices: bosses shun Quebec

If the number of head offices in Quebec has remained stable in recent years, it is clear that many have emptied their leaders, according to a compilation made by The newspaper.

Within the 30 large companies that are part of the Québec index (IQ 30), 139 executives out of a total of 354, or nearly 40%, now work outside Québec; often in Ontario or the United States.

In some cases, such as the Bank of Montreal (BMO) or Molson Coors, there has been no leader in the metropolis for several years and the head office looks more like a facade.

Brothers Andrew and Geoffrey Molson who sit on the company's board.

Photo taken from Twitter @molsoncoors

Brothers Andrew and Geoffrey Molson who sit on the company’s board.

Same observation for Bell when the big boss Mirko Bibic, a Montrealer of origin, decided to settle in Toronto. Only one officer out of 14 (first vice-president Karine Moses) works in Quebec, a situation that has hardly changed in recent years.

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But other jewels are now seeing their decision-making center slip outside of Quebec, even if their head office remains in theory here.

This is the case of the Laurentian Bank, which is now run by Rania Llewellyn, a unilingual English-speaking boss, who nevertheless wants to learn French, but who lives in Toronto.

According to the 2015 annual information form of the Quebec banking institution, four out of six executives remained in Montreal, or 66%.

But this figure has been reduced to a trickle and there are currently three members of senior management who are in the Quebec metropolis out of a total of nine, a rate of 33%.

It is the same situation for the engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, whose big boss, Ian Edwards (who lives in Quebec), had decided to postpone a public speech because of his ignorance of French.

In 2018, 10 out of 13 executives were in Montreal (77%) while now 6 out of 14 (43%) come from the metropolis. For several years now, the supervision of large contracts has been done from London, far from the head office, on René-Lévesque Boulevard.

According to Yan Cimon, it is normal to see companies with an international reach hire leaders from all over the world. But the red lights should activate when the vast majority of senior management goes elsewhere.

“When it’s emptied of all substance, then we have to worry,” notes the tenured professor in the management department of Laval University, in an interview with The newspaper.

“When the head office becomes a mailbox, that is worrying, because there is an ecosystem that we are losing, professional services, quality jobs, a qualified workforce,” he believes. .

Another example is the giant CGI. In 2018, almost half of the leaders worked in Montreal, but they are now 39% (7 out of 18) here. Boss Georges Schindler also lives in Virginia.

Alimentation Couche-Tard, which is now run from Indiana by American Brian Hannasch, has two leaders who are in Quebec (20%) including the company’s founder, Alain Bouchard, who acts as executive chairman. from the administration board.

In other cases, such as Air Canada or Canadian National, the majority of senior management lives in Quebec, but as we saw in the Rousseau affair, the main manager does not speak French and the meetings take place often in English.

“We have to ensure that Francophones have as many chances in these management positions as Anglophones. The leader who does not have access to the culture in which his company is immersed is a leader who has significant blind spots,” notes Professor Cimon.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of head offices in Quebec has remained relatively stable in recent years. There were 562 in 2015 and 565 in 2019. Moreover, there is no shortage of candidates for management and administration positions in Quebec. Thus, at HEC Montréal, to name just one establishment, in 2020-2021, no less than 5,450 students received a diploma.

Some examples

Only 20% of Couche-Tard's senior executives work in Quebec.

Photo archives, Chantal Poirier

Only 20% of Couche-Tard’s senior executives work in Quebec.

Companies with the fewest senior executives in Quebec


0/11 in Quebec: 0%

Royal Bank of Canada

0/10 in Quebec: 0%

Molson Coors

0/10 in Quebec: 0%

ECB (Bell)

1/14 in Quebec: 7%

Food Couche-Tard

2/10 in Quebec: 20%

Laurentian Bank

3/9 in Quebec: 33%

Companies with the most senior executives in Quebec

National Bank

11/11 in Quebec (100%)


7/7 in Quebec (100%)


11/12 in Quebec (92%)


8/9 in Quebec (89%)


15/17 in Quebec (88%)

Source: Annual information forms of companies that are part of the Québec 30 Index


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