It took Roland Lescure only three clicks of his mouse to join Emmanuel Macron’s political party “La Republique en Marche” through the internet. “In April 2016 it was easy to join,” he told Global Atlanta, “and it was free.”
It took many more years, however, for him to climb through France’s educational system, the London School of Economics and then the financial world in Paris to become the chief investment officer and vice president of the Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, Canada’s second-largest pension fund manager, a position which he assumed in his early 40s.
The son of leftist activists — his father was a journalist for the communist newspaper l’Humanite, and his mother, a union leader for the Parisian transit system, he credits France’s schooling system for his professional rise.
Having reached 50 years old, however, he said that it was time for him “to give back,” meaning that he decided to leave his annual salary of almost $2 million and co-founded with Christopher Weissberg “En Marche Montreal,” the Canadian-based section of the movement.
His boss at the Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec had nothing but compliments for his decision to join an upstart party and its upstart leader.
“From the moment Roland joined la Caisse in 2009, he has worked tirelessly to build what la La Caisse is today. While building highly talented investment team Roland’s intellect and creativity have helped shape so many of the strategies we have pursued at la Caisse. And he has excelled at rallying his team to deliver these strategies,” said Michel Sabia, president and CEO of la Caisse, in announcing Mr. Lescure’s departure.
For his part Mr. Lescure called la Caisse, which he joined during the global recession, “one of the best institutions in Canada” in the announcement of his resignation.
As with many other members of En Marche, who now hold seats in France’s parliament, he had no prior political experience whatsoever.
Following Mr. Macron’s victory in the 2017 French presidential elections, he was selected to run on the En March ticket to represent French citizens living in North America.
After campaigning for only one month from Miami to Vancouver, Canada, he rode the Macron wave to victory on June 17th with more than 79 percent of the votes. En Marche quickly realized that they had a financial expert on their hands and he was elected soon after as chairman of the prestigious Economic Affairs Committee of the French Parliament.
Mr. Lescure traced his initial tie to Mr. Macron to an investment meeting at the French presidential palace when Mr. Macron was economics minister in the administration of French President Francois Hollande.
It was a brief meeting, but Mr. Lescure sized up Mr. Macron quickly. “I thought he was a pretty bright guy and started following him (from Montreal) through the internet.”
Today he is totally supportive, confident that he made the right choice. “He’s turned my life upside down,” Mr. Lescure added, saying that Mr. Macron has created “a Copernican revolution” at a time when France needs “hope.”
“He’s a man, a message and a platform to which I really adhere,” he said. “I’ll never regret the decision I made a year ago. Yes, I was worried about the extremes. This is not about left or right. It’s about building bridges, not building walls. It’s a big moment, a global phenomenon.”
When France undergoes revolutionary changes, the results can be bloody, he noted. But for “this big moment, it’s not bloody. France was ripe for change and for the right guy at the right time at the right place.”
Instead of financial ledgers, Mr. Lescure is now in the midst of a multitude of political local and global issues swirling around him because of his post as a representative in North America and his post in France. Although he is in Paris a lot, his wife and two children remain in Montreal.
In North America, French citizens living abroad are concerned about the obstacles to voting with paper ballots instead of electronic voting procedures. They also are concerned about the cost of providing their children educations in which they can learn to speak French and study in French. And he is concerned about the taxes that they have to pay if they continue to own property in France.
His advice for these constituents is that they need to vote in greater numbers during elections to make their concerns felt back home.
As for the more general economic problems, he points to a myriad issues that the Macron government is trying to address including income inequality, providing affordable housing, encouraging entrepreneurship, assisting the plight of farmers, dealing with immigration, female equality and reforming the educational system, among others.
Of the strikes still taking place, Mr. Lescure shrugs them off. “France is France,” he said almost as a caricature of what it is to be French. But with a difference, he added. “We are determined. We are doing all this to have results. We’re not thinking about getting re-elected. We are thinking about what we can do to give France a place in today’s day and age. How can we think long-term.”
“I am confident this is going to work,” he said, pointing to the renewed interest in France as a recipient of foreign direct investment and the attitude he has found among his North American constituents, who are happy, he said, “that France is on the go.”
Much like a practiced politician, Mr. Lescure took the Macron agenda during his two day visit in Atlanta to CNN, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Atlanta International School and the Little Da Vinci School.
He also met with city and state officials, the staff of the French Consulate General, and members of the French American Chamber of Commerce Southeast.
His southern tour began in Washington where he accompanied Mr. Macron and briefly shook President Donald Trump’s hand in a receiving line, who said, he recalled, “You really don’t like tariffs, do you?”
“I’m not a fan of trade wars,” Mr. Lescure told Global Atlanta, while considering the numbers of people globalization has pulled out of poverty as well as those who have suffered. “It’s going to take training and education,” he added, “to get the people who have suffered from globalization and get them back on the train so they can enjoy some of the benefits.”
The World Affairs Council of Atlanta will be celebrating “Europe Day” Wednesday, May 9, with an in-depth look at France. A panel featuring Louis de Corail, consul general, Consulate General of France in Atlanta, Francois Asselin, president, French Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (CPME), Helene Toure, director of the French Desk at YER and former Executive Director of the Alliance Francaise d’Atlanta. The event is to be moderated by Cyril Vanier, Anchor, CNN International.
To register for the luncheon, click here.