Eric Filteau is currently the vice rector of finance and infrastructure at the University of Montréal, the country’s second-largest university, with 55,000 enrolled students. His position has him involved in just about every aspect of the university, including handling the school’s pension fund. The $3.6 billion fund is the largest in Québec among universities. Below, Filteau expands on the statistical story behind the budgets, financial planning, and projects that he oversees at the institution.
If you wanted to list the number of positions Eric Filteau has held at the University of Montréal, you might want to consider listing the ones he hasn’t held. Chances are it would be shorter. “At the University of Montréal, we have all sorts of specialties: IT, building management and construction, security, budget, parking, cafeterias, and student residence—it’s like running a midsize city,” Filteau says.
Filteau received his bachelor’s degree in actuarial sciences and an MBA before he began his almost-two-decade-long career with the school. From 1985 until he came to the university in 1996, he worked in insurance consultation and in the pension-plan field. So the university brought him on to handle its funds, beginning with the pension plan.
Eric Filteau has called the University of Montréal home for almost 20 years. Since he started at the university as a pension- plan consultant in 1996, he’s taken on a number of roles.
Two years after serving as a pension-plan consultant, Filteau became a full-time employee, working with the pension plan that has grown to $3.6 billion, with 4,000 retirees and 6,500 active employees taking part. He worked with the pension division for about five years before he moved on to work with the executive vice rector as an assistant, then as an associate vice rector, before finally settling into his current role.
“My functions have changed a lot in those years, and for me, it’s been a real evolution in roles,” he says. “There’s a big emphasis on budget and sustaining the growth of the university. We did a lot of big projects in the past, and now we’re planning a really big one. In 2016, we should be beginning the construction on the new campus for the university.”
There is no shortage of educational personnel at the University of Montréal. The public research institution has 13 faculties, 60 departments, and a pair of affiliated schools—management and engineering—that are independent of the university’s administration. The large faculty is necessary, as there are more than 55,000 students enrolled in the undergraduate and graduate programs, making it the second-largest university in Canada based on student enrollment.
“We offer more than 660 different programs,” Filteau says. “We are active in all the medical-related fields and also in veterinary medicine, which in Canada there are just five universities that have that. We have a really comprehensive offer for academic purposes.”
Top 1 percent of universities
The rich list of academic offerings is perhaps why the Times Higher Education World University Rankings listed the University of Montréal 84th overall. A lot goes into this type of ranking; for Filteau and his university, they achieved this mark because of the large number of quality professors and researchers and the fact that around 40 percent of faculty and students come from outside of Canada. Another big factor is how much a University of Montréal diploma can help graduates find jobs in their fields of study.
“To be ranked better than that is a matter of always pushing the limit at being better in some administrative parts for sure, but it’s mostly on the academic side,” Filteau says. “So for the University of Montréal, number 84 in the world is like in the top 1 percent of universities. We’re in a good position.”
3 major budgets
Perhaps the biggest numbers that Filteau comes across are the university’s operation budget of $760 million, the $375 million research budget ($524.1 million when the affiliated schools are included), and the $40 million annual capital budget. The research budget is the third largest of its kind in the country and goes towards more than 150 research centres. The university also holds a fiduciary of funds that are awarded to a professor or researcher by way of winning a contest or being awarded through a private or public organization.
Filteau and his team work to make sure funds are allocated towards activities in line with the object of the grant. They also provide the professors and researchers with all necessary financial information so they can better understand fund allocation.
“It’s more than just managing the money because it’s the money for the researcher, but we have to be sure the motivation is as it should be and all of the rules are followed,” Filteau says.
Filteau wears many hats in his current role as vice rector, but he manages it all by surrounding himself with good people. The other key is to adapt to difficulties when they come along, such as major budget reductions that are happening in Québec.
“I think the secret is to have a very good team,” he says. “I have general directors in charge of each unit. You have to bring good people on board, and then you can be sure that your unit works as a group and that your strategy is in line with the university’s strategy—because my role is to support the teaching and research mission. At my level, it’s really about giving a direction and coordinating the efforts.”