In The Spotlight: Canada
BGRS has its roots in Canada. Home to our parent company, Brookfield Asset Management, Canada is also home to many of BGRS’s key accounts. Canada is often the first location for international expansion among U.S. based corporations and as such our teams in Canada are well prepared to handle not only domestic Canada relocations, but also cross-border and Canada inbound/outbound international relocations as well. BGRS’s legacy company has been present in Canada since 1964 and was one of the first to introduce the concept of employee relocation services in the Canadian market. In our over 50 year history, we have grown to become a leading global service provider and the exclusive relocation service provider to the Government of Canada. We’re proud of our Canadian roots and our team of experienced talent mobility professionals.
We recently sat down with two of BGRS’s Canadian Client Services leaders to gain their perspectives about trends in mobility into and within Canada.
BGRS has been operating across Canada since 1964. What do you think attributes to our enduring success?
Charlotte Christophersen, Director, Client Services Canada, Calgary: As one of the market pioneers we have extensive expertise in delivering relocation services. Our teams consist of some of the most experienced and tenured relocation professionals in the industry, boasting expert knowledge of not only Canada domestic relocation but also U.S. domestic and international relocation services delivery. That team is supported by BGRS’s global network of nearly 2,000 associates, our global relocation supply chain management and consulting services functions that provide leading edge expertise, thinking and benchmarking to ensure our clients’ programs remain competitive. We have grown to become a large global full service relocation provider, but we remain very proudly Canadian with over 20% of BGRS’ employees based in Canada.
Michel Bonin, Senior Vice President, Canadian Government, Ottawa: We have been fortunate to serve the Government of Canada and their mobile workforce since 1994. There’s a specialized expertise and appreciation required when working with government clients and their employees. Over the 16 years as an exclusive relocation services provider, we have built an understanding of the unique requirements, cultural nuance and expectations of government transferees. In many ways, our success has come through that longstanding relationship as we worked closely with the client to develop and customize services and solutions to ensure their objectives were realized.
What are some of the key considerations for companies moving talent into or across Canada?
Charlotte: While Canada receives expatriates from many countries and cultures, the highest proportion of employees relocating into Canada are from the U.S. Sharing the world’s largest undefended border, Canada and U.S. have always had strong economic ties so not surprisingly many U.S. based corporations expand into Canada as part of their international growth strategy. With similar language, food, hobbies and such, Canada is often viewed as being the same as the U.S. We are U.S.’s friendly neighbor to the north, but we are a separate country, with different economic, political and cultural differences between the two nations. There are tremendous differences throughout Canada and moving to one province is completely different than another. Our team is equipped to support moves within Canada and across the border to ensure a smooth transition – from setting expectations, speaking the right language (specifically, consulting in French or English) to providing intercultural training so the employee and family assimilate successfully.
Michel: Charlotte is right – each province is so separate and distinct from the others. We work closely with our clients and their transferees to guide them through the process, support them with their decision making including the best places to live based on their unique needs, and to help them start their new assignment confidently.
What’s different in talent mobility in Canada compared to five years ago?
Michel: There is so much innovation in mobility and among our clients. We constantly look at new and more efficient ways to deliver our services and a quality experience for the transferee. We are actively working with our clients to develop innovative service delivery solutions and use technology to bring efficiencies and empower our clients to deliver on their goals.
Charlotte: Innovation and efficiency are paramount with the increased focus on managing mobility program costs. The 2008 financial crisis was the real watershed moment where clients began to view their programs through a different lens – looking for ways to manage costs and mitigate risk while maintaining a positive experience for the employee. For my experience, our clients are now increasingly looking for a strategic partner who will help them structure their mobility program in an efficient and cost effective way, provide scalable relocation management solutions and actively take part in the conversations with their internal stakeholders, such as procurement leads who we notice are increasingly involved in the decision making process. At BGRS we pride ourselves on our ability to listen to our clients and develop customized solutions to meet their specific needs.
Given your deep knowledge of Canada, you must be overflowing with recommended “must see” spots. What are your top three places to visit in Canada – whether as a relocating employee or longtime resident?
Michel: Canada is a vast and diverse country. There are so many wonderful places to see, it’s very difficult to narrow it down to just three choices! But if I must, my top three recommendations would be:
Victoria, British Columbia, located on Canada’s west coast, boasts a beautiful, lush landscape, rugged beaches, mild climate, delicious food, friendly people, and lots of wildlife.
Montreal, Quebec, is a busy, bilingual city with unique character in Canada’s French-speaking province. World-class restaurants, busy nightlife, unique shopping experiences, and a constant stream of festivals, there’s always something fun to do in Montreal.
Finally, Toronto, Ontario is a wonderful cosmopolitan urban jungle and one of North America’s largest cities. It offers exciting cuisine, thriving entertainment and fashion industries, a bustling business district and top educational and research facilities – this is a city that is always evolving.
Charlotte: Having lived in Calgary since my early childhood, I have always been captivated by the mountain scene and the extremes in the landscape between the prairies and the rolling hills. I have always loved the outdoors, especially hiking and snowboarding. If you also enjoy outdoor activities and have the opportunity to spend time in Calgary, I recommend a trip to Banff National Park so you can create your own outdoor adventures.
Vancouver is another great city and must see. There is always something going on – food, arts and entertainment, finance, education – the list is very long. Whether you are travelling alone or with other people, Vancouver will make a great destination because there is truly something for everyone to experience in this city.
It’s tough to only pick three … my third recommendation would be the Maritimes. Canada’s east coast provinces, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland boasts (and rightly so) some of the most gorgeous coastal views anywhere in the world. I completed my law degree in Halifax and during my time there, I have never seen so many different beautiful coastal views with different shades of color … more colors than in any picture taken anywhere in our Maritime Provinces.