Let’s do lunch

Looking forward to a dog’s life

In a busy downtown Moncton eatery, the soon-to-be retired CEO of Medavie Inc. contemplates the orderly sun-setting of his 20-year career at the helm of one of Canada’s pre-eminent health care providers and where he goes from here. Hint: It has to do with a dog.

Over shrimp salad, fish soup and a bun or two, Pierre-Yves Julien explains with exquisite simplicity why he has decided to hang up his demonstrably successful career, at the relatively young age of 60, as the head of Moncton-based Medavie (Blue Cross) Inc. “I’m a granddad, and my wife has been retired for a long time,” he says. “Now, it’s my turn.”

“For a year or two, I won’t be looking for anything.”

In fact, that’s not entirely accurate. Julien is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren. He wants to read more, travel more, exercise more, and go for long, enforced walks in whichever parks are most congruent with his front door. “I’ve put my name on a list to get a dog,” he says.

That’s not to say he underestimates the impact he has had on an organization that has become, under his leadership, one of the nation’s most successful commercial institutions and employers. According to a company news release late last year, “Medavie Blue Cross is thrilled to be one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers selected by Mediacorp Canada Inc. for 2016. This national competition determines the best employers who lead their industries in offering exceptional workplaces for their employees.”

Says Julien: “We are now operating in many provinces and in the United States. We’re doing all of this from a base in the Atlantic provinces. We have been able to export our expertise. When I came here, we had underutilized, qualified people. We looked at the challenge and we took on the challenge.”

As for the secret of the company’s long-term, durable success, he says, “We are not for sale. One of the challenges you see in Atlantic Canada is that good companies are being taken over by companies from outside the region. Either that or they are downsized into a division of whatever. We are not for sale and that makes a big difference.”

Certainly, Medavie’s successor CEO will have large shoes to fill (the company’s board of directors is earnestly combing the corporate landscape to fill Julien’s brogues). The organization employs more than 2,000 qualified professionals, manages the health profiles of one million Canadians, and administers $3.5 billion in annual claims. Its Emergency Medical Services operation employs 4,000 people through 13 subsidiaries in six provinces and the State of Massachusetts.

For his eventual successor, Julien has sage advice bought and paid for through long experience. “We used to be all in one building, we could all get together in a room, whereas now we have leaders, people who have to manage people at a distance. And that’s been difficult. But the most challenging thing for me had to do with spending $150 million on technology and making it work. We are an organization that has had to move forward and remove all the legacy costs we have had and at the same time come up with a digital strategy. We have done that over the last seven years.”

As for leadership, for Julien it’s never static. It might even be fluid — sort of like walking a dog in the sunset of a great career, on the cusp of another opportunity. As he says with perfect concision: “I have no plans.”

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