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The Connector


Elyse Allan is a leader outside the mould. Her consensus-building and communication skills have been effective in moving GE Canada into new ventures and into the future


by Susan Smith photo by Paul Orenstein T


HE MASSIVE TRANSFORMATION UNDERWAY at General Electric is apparent as soon as one walks into its offices at Front Street and University Avenue in down- town Toronto. A lone receptionist is the only visible human and it’s obvious that the employees who once


worked for the commercial real estate arm of GE Capital have cleared out, leaving behind a vast area of empty offices. A visitor has her choice of seats in the spacious boardroom. At first this seems like an odd venue to discuss the future


of GE Canada. But as soon as CEO Elyse Allan hurries in and takes a seat, the place feels full of possibility. “You don’t have to worry about that,” she says, waving away


a list of prepared questions. “Just ask me about what you want to talk about.” Yes, the parent company is in the process of selling off the assets of GE Capital, which means fewer jobs in Canada. But as


the company restructures to focus more on its industrial prod- ucts, it will add jobs here through the acquisition of the power and grid assets of the French company Alstom Holdings SA. GE will also be moving some engine production from the US to a new facility in Canada, adding jobs. So, overall, GE Canada will employ about 8,000 people, almost 1,500 more than before the restructuring began. The company will also continue to provide financing linked to some of its product lines. “It’s a loss to the company,” Allan says of the capital opera-


tions, which had been good moneymakers in Canada. And she doesn’t gloss over the unfortunate fact that some “really good people” have lost their jobs. But she’s eager to talk about what’s coming next. And there’s


no surprise there. After all, GE did not become one of the world’s largest conglomerates by living in the past. Started in 1892 in Schenectady, NY, it is a textbook case of corporate


28 | CPA MAGAZINE | DECEMBER 2015


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