Miguel Simard supports Canada’s trade strategy as CLO at Export Development Canada

ESG policies and people development are among priorities

Miguel Simard supports Canada’s trade strategy as CLO at Export Development Canada
Miguel Simard, chief legal counsel at Export Development Canada

As a financial Crown corporation, wholly owned by the Government of Canada, Export Development Canada’s mandate is to support and develop trade between Canada and other countries. Miguel Simard plays a key role in supporting the business from his vantage point as senior vice president, chief legal officer.

“EDC has a very focused long-term strategy. We want to make Canada better through trade, and we measure our impact on the success of Canada in terms of trade,” says Simard. “One of our priorities is the mid-market segment because we think that mid-market companies will be more successful internationally if they scale up, and there’s a role for EDC to pay as it relates to that.”

The legal team currently has a dedicated team which has been preparing for the last two years to focus on helping mid-market companies make acquisitions. They are leveraging technology so that transactions can be delivered more efficiently for the customer.

Simard and his team also developed a risk appetite statement which defines risk appetite as it relates to various legal matters including compliance, regulatory and contractual procurement. They work closely with external counsel partners that understand the business model and the risk appetite of the enterprise.

After joining EDC in 1998 as legal counsel handling financial transactions, Simard gradually climbed the ranks, taking on the general counsel role in 2017 and earning his current title in 2019.

Simard now leads the 35-person legal team, together with VP and general counsel Owen Bourns who handles the day-to-day operations of the team. In addition to legal, Simard also leads the special risks and special programs teams, and he is a member of the company’s executive team and sits on various executive committees including the risk management committee.  He also participates in board of directors meetings and advises the board on important matters such as key litigation and investigations.

 EDC has a long history of focusing on environmental, social and governance matters, which includes being one of the first institutions to issue a green bond, and developing a program to support clean tech exporters in 2012. The company has five policies specific to ESG which include such issues as climate change and human rights.

“We think that developing good ESG policies is good for the business and good for Canadian exporters,” says Simard. He adds that lawyers at EDC work closely with the ESG team because the company has a legal requirement to do environmental due diligence in its enabling statute.

People development is a major focus for Simard, so he helped to launch a mentorship program that provides new hires in the legal team with a mentor who is not their direct leader, which serves to give them a broader perspective of the department and the business.

“I’m really proud of what the team was able to do in developing that mentorship program,” says Simard. “EDC is a pretty complex organization in the sense that we’re a financial institution with shareholders and we’re active internationally, and legal is advising all the teams at EDC, so the transfer of knowledge is really important.” The legal team is also working hard to improve diversity, equity and inclusion within the legal department.

While EDC still has a traditional work-request system for colleagues looking to engage legal, Simard favours the approach of integrating legal into all areas of the business at the outset of a  new product launch, to ensure that any legal pitfalls are explored early on. Lawyers are  assigned to the various product development teams so business partners don’t have to go through the official work request system.

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