Guy Cormier, President and CEO of Desjardins Group and Chairman of the Board of Directors since 2016, was born at Fleury Hospital in Montreal and lived in the Ahuntsic neighborhood until the age of 5. Then the family moved to the house that his parents built in Varennes.
In his youth, he was intrigued by the business world. He had enrolled in law, as a second option at the University of Montreal, to finally go to HEC Montreal where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration (BAA) as well as a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). After completing his MBA, he taught finance for almost eight years at HEC Montréal.
Your parents have influenced your life.
Absolutely. My father, André, and my mother, Yolande, come from modest families who grew up on a farm in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu. Dad was an electrician who spent time in Baie-James while Mom was a housewife and seamstress.
Your parents gave you your autonomy.
They have always supported my sister, Isabelle, who teaches at CEGEP, and me in our decisions. They gave me my autonomy. It was important to them that I make my own decisions to improve my life.
Your first job?
I was a hawker and then worked for a few years as a packer at the Provigo in Varennes.
You have practiced several sports.
At the age of 10, I would cycle with my golf bag on my shoulders to Golf de Verchères or other golf courses in the area and play golf with my friends. I also played baseball, tennis and my favorite sport, hockey.
Individual or team sport is a life lesson for you.
Golf has forced me to improve my individual game and master my moments of frustration. While hockey taught me to work as a team alongside the different personalities with which I had to deal. Golf and hockey have made me a better person.
You worked at your parents’ sugar bush.
My dad only had his two weeks vacation from construction. So during this period, I was doing work with my father at the family sugar bush.
You were a wood and sports enthusiast.
Even today, I like to cut wood without forgetting my good years in the hockey garage leagues.
How was your behavior at school?
I was never at the top of my class, but I wanted to make sure my parents were proud of my results, because they made so many sacrifices to allow me to finish my studies. I’ve always liked school, but not necessarily all subjects. I loved working in a team with my colleagues.
Your first car.
A used blue Chevrolet sprint car, which allowed me to travel from Varennes to HEC. To show you how generous my father was, when I was 16, he gave me his Pontiac V-8 for my trips. As for him, he bought a small car to meet his needs. More than I think about it…my parents were so generous to ensure the well-being of their children.
You would have liked to spend an hour with Nelson Mandela.
Sit in front of him and listen to this South African anti-apartheid activist who was his country’s first black head of state, elected president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Despite the fact that he served unjustly 27 years in prison, he put his anger aside to help his people.
Tell us about your family.
I am the father of two children from my first marriage, and Julie Forgues, who became my wife, is a mother of two children. I consider myself fortunate to be able to count on Julie in certain difficult times.
You will never forget your first meeting with your idol, Guy Lafleur.
I was barely 6 years old when my father took me to the Forum to see a Canadian game. In front of me at the entrance behind the players’ bench, there is Guy Lafleur, because he is not playing in this game. I’m talking about it right now and I get chills.
Did you approach him?
My body kept shaking I was so nervous and excited to see him so close to me. As I walked over to him to sign his autograph, he gave me a huge smile that I’ve never forgotten.
You spent an unforgettable evening with Guy Lafleur.
Guy Lafleur and Geoff Molson came to greet my underprivileged young guests in the Desjardins box at the Bell Centre. Geoff had to leave, but Guy Lafleur decided to stay. We sat for over an hour sharing our ideas. A memorable evening.
The death of Guy Lafleur saddened you.
Guy Lafleur was the idol of my youth, the voice of the Quebec people who were not afraid to express what the fans felt. He is the first of the greats of my young generation to leave us. I am still saddened today. I miss his presence very much.