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The forward-thinking finance expert

Maria-José Perea, BEng 02
November 6, 2023
By Richard Burnett, BA 88

Portrait of a smiling woman with long, straight black hair. She is wearing a business suit and a pendant necklace.

With more than 20 years of experience in the technology and financial services industries, Maria-José Perea has helped countless Canadians prepare for their futures.

As vice-president of Product Innovation in Group Insurance and Retirement Savings at Desjardins Insurance, Perea led a skilled team of 60 specialists to cater to the distinct financial and retirement needs and expectations of different generations, with a strong focus on forward-thinking millennials.

Says Perea: “Millennials are much more educated financially than previous generations and much more connected. So you have to leverage technology to help them understand their retirement needs.”

Proudest moment

“Completing my executive MBA in 2022 while I was in my role as a vice-president at Desjardins. It was a lot to undertake. I had put it off for many years, given that I have two kids — they are now 10- and 14-years-old — and family priorities as well as work.”

The Concordia factor

“I was in Concordia’s first Software Engineering cohort. I picked the program because technology was a big trend and I was well-versed in mathematics. I had never felt so challenged, and I’m very proud of having finished the program.”

Career advice

“Learn to open up and be curious. Really listen to other perspectives. Keeping that mindset in a constantly changing environment is important to the continuous development of your career.”

Industry trends

“In the financial sector it’s about finding the right balance between how much you can automate or build in terms of intelligence through technology, while keeping the human factor.”

Favourite pastime

“Dance is my biggest passion. When I want to relax and get rid of stress, I like to dance at home, and will set up fun dance competitions with my children. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a ballerina and I studied classical dance until university. I love attending classical ballet shows and hope that later on in my career I’ll be able to give back to the dance industry somehow.”

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