Jason’s career at RBC dates back to 1998 when he joined RBC Dominion Securities on the retail fixed income sales and trading desk. In 2003 he was elevated to Vice President and assumed leadership of both the fixed income portfolio advisory group and the retail bond desk. In 2006 Jason was appointed as the head of RBC Asset Management’s institutional investment management business and Director of Global Equity Research, and in 2009 assumed the role of President & CEO of RBC Direct Investing (RBC’s online investing business). In 2013, Jason became Vice President, Operations for RBC’s Personal & Commercial Banking division where he was responsible for Strategic Planning, Performance Management, Role Design and Change anagement.
Jason is a CFA charter holder and holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of The Scott Mission where he chairs the Investment Committee.
Jason lives in Oakville with his wife and two sons
As Head of Small Business, what are some trends you’re seeing in the small business and entrepreneurship space in Canada?
We’re definitely seeing a strong entrepreneurship trend in Canada. Surveys found that 54% of people we surveyed in Canada are thinking of starting or buying a business. We did some sector deep dives and millennials, in particular, have that desire to be self-made – 63% of them are thinking of starting/owning a business.
People often think that getting a small business loan from a bank is challenging because banks tend to be more conservative in their approval process. Why do you believe that is?
Being prepared always improves your chances of success. Have a strong business plan that outlines your business goals and cash flow situation. You need to have a plan of how you will manage your cash flow and finances.
It’s also very important for lenders to see what kind of equity you are bringing to the table and what kind of skin do you have in the game. The lender wants to see that you are fully committed to the success of the business and having substantial skin in the game is certainly very important.
What are the top motivations and challenges for those who are seeking entrepreneurship?
This comes up in our survey repeatedly and the reasons for going into entrepreneurship are as follows: Being your own boss, having control of your career and making more money. These are the top 3 reasons for starting a business.
For entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own “side hustle” or full-time business, what advice do you have for them to start them on the right path? Does that advice differ for established business owners?
I think that for aspiring entrepreneurs, starting with a strong business plan – clarifying motivations and objectives. And then sound boarding that with people you trust: your friends, family, colleagues, mentors.
Also, it’s important to have a conversation with a banking advisor and decide on some tailored solutions for your business. Seek advice from other professionals and advisors at your local financial institutions – lawyers, bankers and others who are there to help.
When it comes to established owners – plan early and plan often. You will want to talk with your financial institutions on how they can help you. RBC has a program called “Promote” to help attract more clients. We’ve got free accounting and software through “Wave”. We’ve got opportunities with ADP for Payroll. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for business owners to be successful. These are important conversations to have with your financial advisor at your financial institution.
As the head of Small Business Banking at RBC, what financing tips can you give to small business owners when it comes to managing their finances?
People often land into the same pitfall: Separate your business and personal finances right from the start. There’s nothing more confusing than going through your credit card statements and trying to decipher what’s personal and what’s business. Treat your business as its own entity.
Doing research around digital tools that can help you automate the process is also very important. For example, RBC offers free accounting through Wave that will streamline the process. Quickbooks has some great templates to streamline the process. There are so many digital tools available out there to help the business owner and makes their lives easier.
A lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners often try and finance their business with their own savings rather than getting a business loan. Do you believe that’s a wise decision and why?
It’s rare to find a business owner that hasn’t invested their own capital. It always depends on the situation and the degree of the development of the business plan and objectives. Certainly, you should expect to have some skin in the game and invest your own capital.
At what stage of business ownership should entrepreneurs consider creating a formal business plan and planning their financial options?
Planning early and often! It’s never too early to have a business plan and soundboard that plan with others in your network. For the folks that have done this, they always have more control. Control is always key! Their conversations with bankers and vendors are always sharper and it instills more confidence.
There’s obviously a lot of competition between banks when it comes to providing financial support to business owners. What should entrepreneurs look for when searching for a lender?
The business owner should look at someone who is going to take time to understand their plan and objectives. You want a partner in starting, managing and growing your business. The traditional role of financial institutions has evolved. The financial institution must be more than just a lender. The lender should save them time on payroll, administrative work, accounting, etc. Really see them as a partner towards the success of your business.
A lot of entrepreneurs often hesitate before going into business because of the economy and not having enough resources or capital to launch. In your opinion, is there a “good” time or a “bad” time for business owners to embark on their journey of becoming entrepreneurs?
That’s a great question. Certainly, the economy does play into that. But the biggest factor is when the individual is ready to make that step to starting their business: How much time are they willing to put in and what level of thoughtfulness of planning are they willing to commit.
I spoke about the millennials earlier- one of the things that hold them back is that they don’t feel they have a good enough understanding of business fundamentals. It goes against the stereotypes of that generation of “leaning in” – they are actually cautious to take that step forward and often lack the confidence to get started.
How do you believe your past experience has prepared you for your current role as Head of Small Business Banking with RBC?
I have always had a growth mindset – Always growing and always learning! I’ve been at RBC for 21 years – started out in bond trading, then asset management. I was then President and CEO of RBC Direct Investing, where individuals manage their investment portfolios online. I was also an entrepreneur before joining RBC. I’ve learned a great amount from all of my previous work experiences and I apply that knowledge to my role today.
All these assets to help your business certainly didn’t exist 21 years ago at RBC. It didn’t even exist 5 years ago. There are always things that we’re learning to help individuals take their business to the next level. We also learn from the communication with our clients, which helps us improve our products which ultimately assists them in their journey towards success.
What is some advice that you would give to entrepreneurs and small business owners starting off 2019?
I would say for those that have had a business plan that is older than a year old, it’s time to refresh it. Look at how your objectives may have changed and how you plan on addressing your clients’ new demands. Think differently about clients and how expectations are evolving in our new world, where there’s the need for instant information.
Do you have a website? Do you have e-commerce set up? If you’re not doing that now, how are you getting into that digital space? If you are, how can you take that to the next level and improve your current platform?