Exclusive Interview with Jason Charlebois on the future of Small Business Banking
Jason started his career in branch banking in Ottawa and his last branch assignment was at Scotia Plaza branch in Toronto as a member of the management team. Since then Jason has held roles across Wealth Management, Marketing, Digital Channels, Contact Centres, Mergers & Acquisitions, Credit Cards and Technology all within Scotiabank. Jason has his MBA from Queen’s University and was a member of the Governor General’s leadership council. He loves to travel and lives in downtown Toronto.
Jason’s last role before joining the Small Business team was SVP, Canadian Banking Technology.
You were appointed Senior Vice President of Small Business at Scotiabank just a few months ago. How have the first few months been in this new role?
Having worked in a number of different business lines and functions within Scotiabank, I am proud and excited to be leading our Small Business team. It’s amazing to be in a position that enables me to assist and influence the small business landscape in Canada, understanding that they are the cornerstone of the Canadian economy. As an example, this past Friday I was in Barrie, Ontario meeting with business and government leaders to tour a new innovation hub called Sandbox. It’s designed to support innovation and idea sharing amongst start-ups, scale ups and large enterprises with full support from industry and government in the Barrie region. It was a terrific experience to see all the support going into this to make this hub a success and empowering to know that Scotiabank is playing a role in helping these small businesses succeed.
Throughout your 31-year career at Scotiabank, you’ve had several different positions in different departments. How would you say your previous experience has prepared you for your current role?
Having experience in multiple businesses really broadens your perspective and allows you to bring different insights into a new role. For example, in my last role leading our Canadian Banking Technology team, I was able to learn about the scale of and complex technology platforms the Bank needs to run its many businesses, and to witness the significant level of investment needed to stay on top of emerging innovations and solutions to meet the changing needs of our customers, particularly when it comes to digital banking. So I was able to come into this new role understanding the day-to-day challenges the team faces (as well as the opportunities) as they work to best meet the needs of small business customers with our current infrastructure. It really helps to bring a different mindset when looking at how we can capitalize on opportunities from a technology front.
Every job has its own number of challenges. As Senior VP of Small Business, what is the most challenging part of your role?
Finding the right balance when it comes to building a team to help us get to where we want to be – the leading bank for Small Businesses in Canada. We have a broad range of roles that make up our Small Business team from front line advisors and specialists who serve our customers directly, to product, analytic and transformation experts who are designing the customer experience and platforms of the future. It’s a balancing act between having the right people who are willing to go above and beyond for our customers every day to finding the talent that we need to build those innovative digital platforms that set us apart from the competition.
The small business industry plays a crucial role in Canada’s economy. What are some of the projects you’re hoping to put in place to help SME owners grow their business successfully?
We’re working on a number of new and innovative projects to support small business owners, particularly when it comes to key segments within this group. For example, we work closely with our colleagues at MD Financial to better serve the medical profession in Canada. We’re partnering across the Bank to best highlight a comprehensive value proposition to this segment, meeting their unique needs as business owners in their own right as well as helping them think about individual wealth accumulation and retirement goals.
Through The Scotiabank Women Initiative, we take a three-pronged comprehensive approach to supporting women entrepreneurs in Canada through access to capital, mentorships and education. The education piece is unique to this program, as we enable access to a series of Boot Camps across the country that “un-teach” traditionally-held ideas about success as a business owner, explore business-focused issues, and hear from the other women and Scotiabank employees who have been successful in their fields.
We also continue to partner closely with a number of organizations like Startup Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) to stay on top of industry trends and small business needs and extend our reach to more businesses across the country.
From an innovation standpoint, we’re continuing to modernize our payment services and experiences to enable business owners to “pay and get paid” in faster, more convenient ways than ever before. We’re working closely with our partners at the Bank to provide core services that are critical to helping our business owner’s move from costly cheque based payments to digital methods, helping them to save time and money by automating invoice and payment reconciliation activities.
And finally, we just launched a new credit card called the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Business card, designed to help small business owners earn valuable rewards, enjoy travel perks, and take advantage of exclusive business benefits. It also has no foreign transaction fees – a huge benefit for those sourcing or doing business across borders.
What would you say is the biggest financial challenge that entrepreneurs face and how can Scotiabank help them?
Three things come to mind:
- This includes ensuring your day-to-day payables and receivables are effectively managed. Scotiabank has a full suite of digital products and services designed exclusively for business owners to manage payments directly from their office or on their mobile phone.
- Ensuring a business has sufficient capital to set up and grow their business. Scotiabank can help tailor solutions for the needs of their business, whether it’s a payment product, business loan or operating line of credit. We also recently announced a partnership with Disruption Ventures (founded by Elaine Kunda), which is Canada’s first private female-founded venture capital fund for women entrepreneur. Funding women entrepreneurs is what drives tangible change, and Scotiabank’s partnership with Disruption Ventures is another way to expand access to capital.
- Ensuring new business owners are aware of all the financial elements that might impact the success of a business. Our small business advisors and specialists are trained to help small business owners understand how to set up the right package of financial products and services for their business’ unique needs and help them every step of the way.
Can you tell us about some of the benefits that Scotiabank offers to small business owners? / Can you highlight some of the customized offerings and services Scotiabank offers to Small and Medium Enterprises?
Scotiabank is committed to serving businesses of all sizes. It’s a priority for us as a bank and a critical driver of our country’s economic growth and international footprint. For us, some of the main areas of focus recently have been in healthcare and professional services, agriculture and franchising. Through our team, some of the ways we support SMEs include:
Setting up the appropriate Operating Accounts for the day to day operations of a business. For new business owners we have the Scotiabank Right Size Account for Businesses, which can be opened online or in-person. It offers free cheque deposits with your Smartphone, access to the ScotiaConnect mobile banking app, no minimum monthly balance requirements and great offers from some of our partners like ADP, Chase Merchant Services and Intuit QuickBooks.
We also enable access to digital banking for business owners, saving them crucial time that they need to grow their business or connect with their customers. Through ScotiaConnect, our digital banking platform for business, we are the first Canadian-based bank to leverage SWIFT’s Global Payments Initiative (SWIFT gpi) to enable our business customers to track their wire payments in real-time. Also, to ensure seamless, secure access for business banking on the go, we’ve introduced an integrated digital token and mobile app to securely access ScotiaConnect or Mobile Banking seamlessly on the go.
And lastly, investment solutions. We offer a wide range of possibilities here. For example, our crowd deposit plan – where a franchisee or association member pools their cash together into a single group fund to get a greater return on investment. Given the collective balance is bigger; everyone can earn a higher interest rate on their individual balances without any maintenance or transaction fees.
What kind of support does Scotiabank offer to new Startups?
Our philosophy is that we want to support every step of the way – from creating business plans, to finding an accountant, to setting up operating accounts. Scotiabank should be the first place new start-ups come to help them start their businesses and take them to the next level, allowing us to assist and advice as a key partner from inception.
In your opinion, what should the relationship between an entrepreneur and their financial advisor look like?
It should always be a partnership. An advisor should really understand the needs of the entrepreneur, as well as their future business and personal goals, to ensure they’re delivering the right advice and solutions that are unique to each person’s situation. We don’t want to be the bank that just provides you with an account. We want to be the bank that helps you fine-tune your ideas, launch your business, and help you think about your future as a business owner.
Entrepreneurs make a lot of mistakes and in some cases; their mistakes can significantly hurt their chances of success. What do you believe is the most common mistake that entrepreneurs make when it comes to their finances?
First, a common mistake that is made by entrepreneurs is not seeking advice from a small business banking advisor, and therefore, they fail to understand what financial products and solutions are appropriate and available for their needs.
Not selecting an appropriate accountant or bookkeeper is another common mistake that we see. An accountant can help business owners successfully meet their tax requirements and maximize tax savings opportunities along the way.
What are two tips you would give to a small business looking for help with financing?
Keep your business and personal expenses separate. New business owners sometimes say they will use their personal account and reimburse it later from the business but it can complicate things down the line, especially during tax season.
Connect your business plan with your own personal financial goals. Always have a long-term plan around your future. Many business owners think they’ll never stop working or they will sell the business, which will help with retirement, but that is not always the case.
On a final note, what does the future of banking look like in Canada? Do you believe that clients will always have the need for personal interaction with their banker or will it be moving towards complete digital banking?
We believe there will always be the need for both. Entrepreneurs will continue to thrive on being able to do business faster with digital banking. And we’ll continue to evolve our solutions to meet that demand.
However, owning a business requires a small group of key advisors to ensure important decisions for the future success of the business are made effectively. Many of our customers see our advisors as an extension of their business and I think that the need for personalized advice will remain.
Scotiabank is Canada’s international bank and a leading financial services provider in the Americas. We are dedicated to helping our more than 25 million customers become better off through a broad range of advice, products and services, including personal and commercial banking, wealth management and private banking, corporate and investment banking, and capital markets. With a team of more than 97,000 employees and assets of $998 billion (as at October 31, 2018), Scotiabank trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: BNS) and New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: BNS).
Canadian Banking provides a full suite of financial advice and banking solutions, supported by an excellent customer experience, to over 10 million Retail, Small Business, Commercial Banking, and Wealth Management customers. It serves these customers through its network of 963 branches and more than 3,600 automated banking machines (ABMs), as well as internet, mobile and telephone banking and specialized sales teams. Canadian Banking also provides an alternative self-directed banking solution to over two million Tangerine Bank customers. Canadian Banking is comprised of the following areas:
Retail and Small Business Banking provides financial advice and solutions and day-to-day banking products, including debit cards, chequing accounts, credit cards, investments, mortgages, loans and related creditor insurance products, to individuals and small businesses. Tangerine Bank provides day-to-day banking products, including chequing and saving accounts, credit cards, and investments to self-directed customers.
Commercial Banking delivers advice and a full suite of lending, deposit, cash management and trade finance solutions to medium and large businesses, including automotive dealers and their customers to whom we provide retail automotive financing solutions.
Wealth Management provides a suite of investment and wealth management advice, services, products and solutions to customers, as well as advisors. The asset management business is focused on developing investment solutions for both retail and institutional investors. The customer-facing wealth businesses, including private customer, online brokerage, full-service brokerage, pensions, institutional customer services and an independent advisor channel, are focused on providing a full suite of wealth management solutions to our customers.