She manages a $77 billion real estate portfolio in 19 countries, more than anyone else in Canada. She therefore knows a bit about telecommuting, real estate and the future place of women in this very masculine world.

I meet Nathalie Palladitcheff at her office in the Édifice Jacques-Parizeau, in Old Montreal. The magnificent glass building houses the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and its satellites, in particular the subsidiary Ivanhoé Cambridge, chaired by Ms. Palladitcheff.

The original Frenchwoman is little known to the general public, but highly appreciated in her industry. Voluble, lively, generous of herself, Nathalie Palladitcheff frequently uses the terms “humility” and “teamwork” to describe her success.

And this success is not ordinary: under his leadership since 2019, Ivanhoé Cambridge has literally deflated its presence in shopping centers, in decline with e-commerce, and gone through a painful pandemic for real estate. Ivanhoé has thus carried out 250 transactions worth 27 billion in three years, selling shopping centers and buying industrial and logistics buildings.

And for the past two years, returns have been there: at 12.4% per year, on average, the Caisse de dépôt has outperformed its benchmark indices in real estate (around 7.7%), which was not not the case for several years.

The manager has also just been rewarded by the main managers and real estate investors of the planet with the prestigious career prize of the specialized publication PERE (for Private Equity Real Estate).

Thanks to a woman, this success? After all, she is the first appointed head of this real estate giant and one of the very few to lead such a company in the world. She herself never had a woman as a boss.

“I don’t know if there is female leadership or female style and skills. What I do know is that diversity brings another perspective. However, in my job, the most dangerous thing is the blind spot, what you miss. The main threat is if you don’t have the team that guarantees you 360 degree vision. Hence the importance of having women, young people, old people, people with different experiences, who give the best chance of avoiding the blind spot,” says the 55-year-old manager.

Why so few women?

Nathalie Palladitcheff is an agent of change in this respect. His 10-person management committee at Ivanhoé Cambridge includes as many women as men.

The manager arrived in Montreal in 2015, after accepting an offer from Daniel Fournier – former CEO of Ivanhoé Cambridge – to become the company’s chief financial officer. Ms. Palladitcheff was then responsible for the finances of the company Icade, affiliated with the French Caisse des dépôts et consignations, the equivalent of the Caisse de depot du Québec.

Crossing the Atlantic required careful consideration. Her three boys were then 10, 12 and 17 years old and her husband had to quit his job. Today, no one in the family regrets the decision.

A few months later, her youngest son, then 12, told her, “Here, it’s like anything is possible. “And he’ll tell you the same thing today, at 18.” He finds that here, it is as if the sky were higher. And I felt that too,” says Ms. Palladitcheff, who became CEO of Ivanhoé Cambridge in 2019 and a Canadian citizen 18 months ago.

Despite the importance of her professional responsibilities, she says she does not sacrifice her family. “My children and my husband are my top priority. I am a mother wolf, very close to the three. And they are very complicit in what I do. I explain to them what I am going through, tell them that there are more difficult times, when I am more stressed. I told them several times: there, don’t ask me anything this week, it’s going to be no,” she explains to me, provoking a burst of laughter.

What does she think of the possible permanence of hybrid working now and its effects on non-residential real estate?

First, the situation differs quite a bit from one region to another. Since the deconfinement, she explains, Canada is the country where white collar workers have returned to the office the least. Thus, while in Montreal, the presence in the office is one day out of four, on average (double at Place Ville Marie), it climbs to 70% in Europe and Asia and 50% in the United States.

Above all, she believes that with the recession in sight, bosses could become more controlling, especially in the United States, demanding more time in the office. “They’ll want to have a closer eye on the work of the troops,” she said.

Either way, while she believes in the positive effects of hybrid working, she cites an MIT study that concludes that “long ties”, as opposed to “short ties” and direct to bosses, are those that create the surplus of productivity and performance. However, these “long links” are not possible on Teams.

“These are the connections with your colleagues on the side, or with those who are not in your department, or even that you meet at the coffee machine or at the end of a meeting. “Hey, you said that during the meeting, what did you mean?” she explains, also referring to the importance of non-verbal language in face-to-face meetings.

In any case, this three-dimensional interview certainly allowed me to get to know Nathalie Palladitcheff and her work environment better. It remains to be seen whether the “long ties” of which she speaks will allow her to avoid real estate blind spots in the turbulent period of the next few months. Let’s hope so, because our fund returns depend on it…

Coffee and me: I never drink coffee, rather tea or herbal tea.

People I would like to bring to the table, dead or alive: Samuel de Champlain, LeBron James, Christine Lagarde and Celine Dion

The ideal morning: A hearty (my favorite meal) and gluten-free (I’m celiac) breakfast with my husband.

The last book I read: The novel Four hours, twenty-two minutes and eighteen seconds, by Lionel Shriver

My most recent Quebec favorite: The series The night where Laurier Gaudreault woke up, directed by Xavier Dolan

My favorite place in the world: Anywhere with my family