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Gillian Riley and the Future of Digital Banking

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Gillian Riley is Executive Vice President, President  & CEO, Tangerine Bank. She was appointed to this role in December 2018, with responsibility for setting and driving Tangerine’s strategic objectives to solidify its position as Canada’s leading digital bank. She is also the Chair of Roynat Capital and the lead executive champion of The Scotiabank Women Initiative.

She joined Scotiabank in 1994 and has held executive and senior leadership positions in retail, small business, wealth management, commercial banking, and operations groups. Gillian is an active business and community leader, and serves as a Director of St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, the Chair of Roynat Capital, and Immediate Past President of the Canadian Club of Toronto. She is Co-Chair of the Toronto FitSpirit cabinet fundraising campaign and is a strong supporter of FitSpirit’s efforts to help Canadian girls discover the benefits and fun of being physically active. She has also held a number of director and advisory roles for various health, government and financial services organizations.

In 2016, she was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN), which recognizes the professional achievements of strong female leaders across the country.

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What are some of the initiatives that you’re hoping to put in place in your new role as Executive Vice President, President, and CEO of Tangerine Bank?

There are a couple of areas I would like to touch on. You probably know that Tangerine Bank is Canada’s leading digital bank. We can do this because of our culture, which enables us to be transparent, agile and nimble, and therefore a frictionless experience for our Clients. Our complete onboarding process is 7 minutes. We have a very strong NPS among the competing digital banks, which we plan to continue to maintain and build upon over the next 10 years to come.

We also are looking into multiple ways to expand the number of customers we have. We are the bank of the Toronto Raptors and explore opportunities to reach potential customers through our partnerships.

Kristine Owram, reporter, at Bloomberg, sat down with Gillian Riley, Executive Vice-President, Scotiabank, and three Scotiabank clients, Elaine Ilavsky Bowes, Sonja Davies and Teresa Cascioli during the launch of The Scotiabank Women Initiative event on December 5 at the Scotiabank Centre in Toronto. (CNW Group/Scotiabank)

One of your main objectives in your new role is for Tangerine Bank to continue to be Canada’s Leading Digital Bank. Do you believe that digitalized banks are where our future is heading?

Absolutely. The future of banking is indeed digital and I know that all banks are focused on growing digital options for Canadians. I have been learning more and more about our technology stack and understanding why Tangerine Bank is so well positioned as Canada’s leading digital bank. Clients have been looking to do banking on the digital level and that is what we have already been doing. We have 2.3 million Clients and will continue to grow at an accelerated pace for the future.


What are some of the steps that you’re taking into achieving your objective for Tangerine Bank to continue to be Canada’s Leading Digital Bank?

We’re delivering on new innovative banking experiences for Clients. Some of the features that we’ve recently launched include Goals for goal setting and Left to Spend. This allows Canadians to figure out with goal planning how much they spend, create a better savings plan, and have better rates so they can save more. It’s really important to have to supply our Clients with the tools to achieve their goals.

We’re leveraging our partnerships such as the Raptors and NBA Canada to increase our Client base. For example, Raptors fans are 21% more likely to use digital banking. Other statistics also help us determine the future partnerships that we wish to create.

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Many people are concerned that by digitalizing banks, there will no longer be that human interaction. What are your thoughts on that?

I think that Canadians and people in the world are becoming much more familiar with apps and using digital type channels and processes like Uber, Amazon and many others. So simplicity and ease of use are key for products and transactions. There are always opportunities for banks to improve the digitalization of their services including investments, corporate lending programs, etc.


How do you believe your past experience has prepared you for your current role?

I grew up in a very active family with 2 brothers. I played sports throughout my entire childhood and played competitive level soccer and was a coach in soccer for my 2 daughters. I learned about the importance of teamwork, friendship, and working with others. All of that focuses on how I build teams today and lead them.


You are also the lead executive champion of the Scotiabank Women Initiative. What was the inspiration behind that?

My prior role was heading up the commercial banking division of Scotiabank which deals with SMEs for various financial solutions. It became apparent to me that women entrepreneurs had a very difficult time accessing capital. In Canada, capital is only given by VCs to women 2-4%of the time. Some of the insights: there’s an unconscious bias that exists, but often women are tentative to reach out for capital and tend to get capital from friends and family. This initiative was put in place to help women entrepreneurs and provide them with support.


What are some of the programs that The Scotiabank Women Initiative offers to help women in their journey of entrepreneurship?

I’ve been working on this for a year and we launched this on December 5, 2018.

There are 3 parts:

a) Access to capital – We assist female entrepreneurs to gain access to capital.

b) Access to advisory/mentorship board –we provide one-on-one access for females to get help from a mentor solve some of their issues and/or build stronger companies.

c) There is an educational component – we’re having boot camps –for example, I teach ideas on how to succeed in business. Women in the program learn about technology, compliance, and how to build a business plan. They hear from other women on how to be successful in their various fields. We‘ve mobilized over 150 people at Scotiabank to really help women entrepreneurs be successful. There is the capital aspect but there’s also advisory board access coupled with education.


If you could give advice to women who have just taken the path of entrepreneurship, what would it be?

What’s really important for an entrepreneur is to not be afraid to ask questions and get feedback. And be curious!

The more questions that can be asked, the better outcome the entrepreneur will have with their business, future plans, and future growth.

In my own career, I remember a time when I wasn’t sure how to proceed with something and sat down with someone more senior for their recommendations. It really helped give me a better sense that asking questions is key, rather than being scared to ask for help.


Over the last 10 years, there’s been a significant increase in resources for women entrepreneurs. Do you believe that has led to a significant increase in success of female-led businesses?

Definitely! Access to resources is a significant factor in improving female lead businesses. Studies do show that female lead businesses are financially better run than males. Female businesses employ 1.5 million Canadians so they have an enormously positive effect on our economy. In the year to come, women are starting businesses at double the rate of men. There are studies that show that the growth of women lead businesses around the globe is going to be exponential by 2022.

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