Smashing through the glass ceiling of Canada’s investment industry

Smashing through the glass ceiling of Canada’s investment industry

Smashing through the glass ceiling of Canada’s investment industry For Françoise Lyon, entering the investment industry was something of an accident. After completing a business undergraduate degree in the early 90s, Lyon was unsure of her next move. Although the perceived ‘big job’ at the time was with Mackenzie or Bain and Company, Lyon accepted a role at a boutique firm in Montreal. After playing a key role in implementing the automated payment system for the airport of Montreal, Lyon accepted a role at Midland Walwyn, the biggest independent brokerage in Canada at the time.

“I entered the industry through the communication and marketing door but realized very quickly that I had landed in a cost centre, and that’s not the right side to be on in a financial services firm!” says Lyon, who’s now the Senior Vice President of Pembroke Private Wealth Management. “I quickly moved to the sell side, so that I could generate profit.”

Lyon was hooked on financial services and a flourishing career was underway. Prior to joining Pembroke Private, she was Vice-President and Head of Private Client Structures-Eastern Canada for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She has also held several other senior positions including Chief Marketing Officer for the Wealth Management division of National Bank Financial Group, and Director and founding member of the Structured Products Solutions Group at National Bank Financial. “It’s been an incredible, rollercoaster ride,” says Lyon. “The moves I’ve made in my career have served me incredibly well, they’ve given me a well-rounded view of every aspect of financial services.”

Fast forward to 2016 and it’s been something of a rocky year for Pembroke Private Wealth Management, which focuses solely on managing small Cap U.S. and Canadian stocks. “However, over the last few months we’ve recouped everything; the only fund still lagging is our small cap U.S.,” Lyon says.

In addition to her role at Pembroke, Lyon is also President of the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Leadership Foundation Board. “I was asked to join 12 years ago, and saying yes was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” she says. “The organization was started over 40 years ago to help women break the glass ceiling in politics and business. Canada was one of the first international chapters to open up, in 1995, but there are now over 6,000 members in more than 40 countries.”

For long periods of her career, being the only woman in mid or senior level management positions was a lonely place to be. During those times, the IWF network was crucial to Lyon. It gave her a safe space to discuss her challenges away from the male dominated industry.

As Lyon made connections with IWF members across the globe, she became aware of a fellowship program for female leaders in their mid-30s to 40s. The program offers women who have hit a plateau in their career the chance to attend leadership training sessions at Harvard business school and INSEAD. “I was not aware of the program when I first became a member so I decided to correct that and make this program known to women who are eligible,” Lyon says.  

Lyon is the first Canadian to hold the presidency of the IWF Leadership Foundation Board. Along with a board of 27 women from 15 different countries, she helps select suitable candidates for each year's program. “We’re responsible for choosing 35 women from around the world to put through the fellowship programs, which I think is absolutely fabulous,” she says.