Transformation & Disruption as an opportunity to innovate.

16.03.19 - Toronto, Canada


Recently I had the fantastic opportunity to sit on stage with the incomparable John Stackhouse (SVP, Office of the CEO at RBC). On the invitation from Joe Blomeley (SVP, Ontario Region Leader & Public Sector) we visited Morneau Shepell, an HR company headquartered in North York. Established in 1966, Morneau Shepell serves approximately 24,000 clients, ranging from small businesses to some of the largest corporations and associations.  With more than 4,500 employees in offices across North America, the United Kingdom and Australia, Morneau Shepell provides services to organizations around the globe. John and I were on stage to speak to RBC’s place in the innovation ecosystem, our most powerful tool in the innovation race, and the role that innovation plays within the bank. Here are some of the key themes we talked about.

1.     Looking ahead and seeing disruption as an opportunity rather than a threat

2018 was a record profit year for RBC, but Dave McKay and the senior leadership team across the enterprise are not resting on their laurels – they’re focusing on the transformation of the bank. This is a challenge to sell when most of RBC’s revenue comes from traditional lines of business. So, to deal with disruption, how do you turn an 85,000-person ship around that is doing better than ever?

Rather than thinking about changing directions, RBC is thinking about redirecting our energy – being more focused, more transparent, and executing better communication both internally and externally. We’re also seeing innovation and disruption as opportunities, not threats. The conversation from Dave is that the disruption happening around us is an incredible opportunity, rather than worry that we’re doomed if we don’t change. Our mission is to help clients thrive and communities prosper, and we don’t do that just through a great branch experience anymore – we embrace innovation as a way of serving our clients.

2.     The chicken and the egg

If you wait for a problem or opportunity to explicitly present itself, you will always be behind. For example, blockchain is not a technology we could “catch up” with if we started experimenting with the tech after it was already established. The challenge is that we have to make very large bets on what will be “big,” and if we get it wrong, we lose the advantage of our leadership/early-mover role. So, to balance our leadership in the development of technology with seeing what our competitors are doing and understanding the landscape, we step back and look at technology, capabilities, talent, etc. with a global lens. If we’re not looking to other countries, we’re missing something – for example, Sweden is already trying to go cashless, so we are well behind them. There are lots of organizations that we don’t compete with around the world, so we can have open, honest, direct conversations about opportunities and validation of our ideas. Also, by looking to other countries, we can have a view into the future. Open banking, GDPR – we don’t know when they’re coming to Canada, but versions of them certainly are.  

As an Innovation team at RBC, our #1 job is communication and transparency – we are helping to lead this journey and we want everyone to understand what we’re doing and why. I am often asked how we decide what to work on, and there are three main things that we consider:

·      Alignment: how does this align to RBC’s priorities?

·      Prioritization: how does this rank alongside other initiatives?

·      Business value & benefit: what value does this bring to the business?

If we can’t articulate these three things about a technology or capability, we shouldn’t be working on it at all.

3.     How Talent Drives Innovation

An essential part of RBC’s innovation strategy is attracting and retaining the right talent. My #1 responsibility in being a senior leader at RBC is talent, and I have a maniacal focus on finding and developing talent for my team. We’re not just competing with the other banks in Canada; we’re up against the top 20 banks in the world and the FAANGs – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. And it’s not just about technical and developer talent – we need operations, communications, project management, strategy, and many other essential roles to run a team or company. I love that RBC plays such a huge role in shaping the careers of so many people.

One point that John brought up that makes so much sense to me is differentiating between the “best” talent and the “right” talent. Like everything else, innovation is a team sport. To have a highly effective, well-functioning team, you need the right people with the right skills working together on the right things. I have the privilege of supporting super-smart people and making them agents of change and transformation that we can unleash across the enterprise; when we do that well, only good things can happen.

The Final Word

We are incredibly lucky to live in Canada, a country that is full of creative, brilliant minds and opportunities to grow. We are blessed by this country’s support of diversity and innovation, and we have a responsibility to future generations to navigate through these disruptive times and get things right for the future. Working for Canada’s largest company gives us an incredible opportunity to have an impact on the economy and on tens of thousands of people, and I genuinely believe that we cannot squander that opportunity – we need to continue to drive forward an innovation agenda that offers opportunities for all Canadians.

*The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RBC.


(trying to) Make My Mark

19.01.19 - Toronto, Canada

Over the weekend, #TeamRBC (shout out to Helen, Zach, Lisa, Graham, Anika, Daniel, Paul, Awaad & more) had the pleasure of being part of the 2019 DECA U Provincials at The Sheraton Center Hotel in Toronto. Once again RBC Insurance was a key Sponsor and proud supporter (thank you Catherine Bishop and Team!) with the theme of this years event being #MakeYourMark. DECA U Ontario President (and fabulous former RBC Innovation Team Member) Michele Duong invited me to be the keynote speaker and to share some of my experiences and my journey to (hopefully) inspire the 1,200 + university students attending.

DECA U Ontario is Canada's largest undergraduate association, who proudly holds the nation's largest undergraduate conference. DECA U has created a platform for students to complete, network, and develop their professional skills by participating in a series of case competitions, workshops, and conferences.

So, what did I talk about?

a (little) bit about me

I talked about who I am and what I do (if you're reading this on LinkedIn, I'm making an assumption that you know this and I'm not going to regurgitate my professional bio). How I got here and how I'm trying to Make My Mark. 

I then spent time talking about some tips, tricks, words of (potential) wisdom that I wish I had known/believed/listened to when i was starting out my career.

I also shared some thoughts on how everyone can try to make their own mark. Much like so many things in life, making your mark isn't always easy and is completely personal, unique and different for each and every one of us. Not better or worse. Just different.

(trying to) make my mark

Over the course of my career, I have had the privilege and pleasure of being featured in a range of print and digital publications (including Toronto's very own BetaKit). I've been interviewed on live TV (not easy or fun for me) and been a Judge and Presenter at numerous awards ceremonies and galas. I also get the opportunity to speak at a range of fantastic Industry events and even more fantastic Community events like the 2019 DECA U Provincials.

But why am I telling you/showing you this? Apart from maybe making my dear mother proud (Hi Sheila), all of this great coverage, this publicity, these fantastic opportunities (shout out to all the PR & Comms professionals) have enabled me to create a public brand as a Global Technology Leader. An Agent of Change and Transformation.

And I'm leveraging that brand, to try and Make My Mark.

something that’s (very) important or meaningful

For me, Making My Mark is about doing something (or somethings) that are very important and meaningful. Important and meaningful to me. And to society.

Three areas that I pride myself on being a very loud and proud advocate of are:

Women in Leadership and Women in Technology – may the best (wo) man win.

Being raised primarily by my Mother and my two older sisters, I've been incredibly lucky to have been surrounded by strong female role models my whole life. My biggest mentors/sponsors/champions to date have been women (I'll dive deeper into that later) and I'm immensely proud that some of my closest friends, peers and teammates at RBC are strong amazing women (props Alison, Simona, Lara, Devon, Nora, Shohreh, Jess, Anika and many more)!

But over the years, I've seen some (lots) of the ridiculous bias, absurd barriers and horrendous obstacles women face in certain industries like Technology and as they try to move into senior leadership positions.

Leveraging that public brand and using my (pretty damn loud) voice, I am trying to strongly encourage, publicly support and formally sponsor more women. In Leadership roles. And in the field of Technology.

Early talent – investing in my, your, our future.

This is me, paying it forward (we'll dive deeper into that later) and also selfishly wanting to play a role investing in the future leaders of this great nation (and others) we call home. In the not so distant future, as my career comes to an end and my little one starts his, I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that i did as much I could to support those future leaders as they rise to the occasion. Many of whom will have had support from terrific organizations like DECA U and RBC.

Diversity and Inclusivity – this is table stakes. Doing what’s right, for everyone.

To me, this sits right alongside saying Please and Thank you. Teams. Companies. Communities. Humanity. Are significantly better when they are Diverse and Inclusive.

“Inclusion is simply the best way to attract the right talent and to supercharge innovation in your organization. We've done a lot of great work here, but to continue moving forward, we need to be bolder. That means challenging others and challenging ourselves to build a culture that is rich in perspectives. And it means speaking honestly with our colleagues and clients to speak up for what's right.” - The Desk of Dave McKay (President & Chief Executive Officer, RBC

A big part of why I'm incredibly loud and proud of being part of Team RBC is because across the Enterprise and especially within where i work (Technology & Operations), the most senior leaders, the support functions, the people mangers, empower and encourage RBC'ers to champion and invest in these areas. To be true agents of change and transformation. Yes, there is still a ton of work that needs to be done, but i am confident we are heading in the right direction and starting to move at pace and with real conviction.

Now onto those tips, tricks and words of (potential) wisdom.

if I could turn back time (like cher)

talent + passion = success (happiness)

My dear cousin Yen sat me down at a steakhouse in KL, Malaysia when I was in my early to mid twenties and talked to me about this idea. If you focus on finding an opportunity that combines skills/tasks that you're really good at, within an industry/field/area that you/'re deeply passionate or excited about, you've got a pretty damn good recipe for setting yourself up for success.

So for me, that was roles that involved dealing with people and being focused on technology. Belinda (you'll hear more about her later) gave me my first real start as a Junior Sales Rep selling media into the Eastern European emerging markets. Since then, I've remained focused on internal and external customer facing roles in Digital, Mobile, Payments, FinTech and Banking IT.

He also told me to stop being a jerk to my little brother. Sorry bro.

build (maintain, upgrade) your brand

I talked about it before, take what you're passionate about, mix in your talent/skills and build a brand. LinkedIn. Twitter. A Blog. Your own Startup. The Community. Your Alma Matter. These all can help establish, define, stress test and amplify your brand. Don't spend forever on it, because trust me, it will change, it will evolve, just like you will.

network. network. (breathe) network

Two truths in my experience.

Success, however you may define it, is a combination of what you know AND who you know.

And almost everybody (and I mean everybody) finds networking uncomfortable, myself included. Just because they don't necessarily show it, doesn't mean they aren't just as nervous and uncomfortable as you are. Sometimes they (me) even bring along friends and colleagues for support (thanks Team). Remember this the next time you put on a name tag and walk into a crowded room.

(try to) be open, honest & direct

It took me a long time, sadly maybe too long to realize that I was a much better when I was trying to be open, honest and direct. Especially in the work environment. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for everything. Always be professional and never make it personal. But if I'm being open, honest and direct with you all right now, this approach as part of my brand has paid big dividends over the course of my career so far.

mistakes (like bad haircuts) are inevitable

I've made many mistakes, more than my fair share. I've also had many bad haircuts (including a flattop circa 1995). When I look back at so many of these mistakes, they have helped shape who I am, where I've been and where i want to go. Embrace these mistakes. Learn from these mistakes. I am telling you, these mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable.

(always) pay it forward

Don't ever get to big for your own boots. Don't ever forget where you came from. Don't forget to pay it forward.

Sounds simple, but it's easily forgotten when life gets busy. I've been in the same or very similar situations as many young students/professionals. And I was truly blessed to have a handful of people (women!) early in my career who took the time to chat with me. To take a chance on me. To teach me. To invest in me. And to champion me. Without them and their support, I do not believe i would be in the position I am today. Genuinely. And because of that, I commit to paying it forward every single day!

Thank you and much love, Belinda, Kylie, Aline and Beverley.

the world is not enough (for some)

Success. Awards. Trophies. Titles. Bonus Cheques.

What you want will evolve. It will change. They can haunt you. They can taunt you. At some stage and in some circumstances, you'll learn that no matter how many hours in a day you work (even 25), or how many wins you notch up, or how big or long your title is, it still won't satisfy that thirst.

Recognize this. Understand this. Temper this. Harness this.

(way easier said than done) keep calm & carry on

Finishing school and starting your career is tough. Fact.

Much like mistakes, you will face rejection. It sucks.

Keep calm and carry on.

My family immigrated from Malaysia to Australia, I went to some good (but not always the most highly regarded) schools and spent the first few years after university trying to get a good job at a great company, or a great job at a good company. If you'd asked me when I was ~25 if I thought I would work for Silicon Valley tech companies, travel the world for business, lead some amazing teams, deliver and launch some wicked products, speak at conferences, be in the news, on TV etc, I'm certain I would have looked you right in the eyes, grinned and said yes.

And I would have been 100% lying to you, and I would have been lying to me. I certainly wasn't open and honest.

Your career, much your life, is a marathon, not a sprint. You've got to learn to keep calm. You've got to learn to dust yourself off. And you've got learn to carry on. 

leverage technology (and shameless plug)

A tool that certainly was not available when I was graduating university is Prepped.

Built with love by the amazing RBC Ventures Team, Prepped helps young Canadians feel more prepared and confident, and learn the proven science to successful job searches.

Overwhelmingly, they heard that students feel ill-prepared to enter the job search market and that they don’t know how to effectively present themselves to employers.

Designed by HR experts and based on job search science, Prepped breaks down the job search into learning modules, short videos and simple exercises.

Let's talk job search science!

People who are taught job search skills, and how to present themselves well in interviews and networking, are 3 X more likely to get a job!

People who ask friends and family for help and leverage their peer networks for help and advice are 4 X more likely to get a job!

The Prepped Team’s vision is to help empower youth and thrive in their careers - thank you Julia, Laura and Team.

Invest in yourself and your future. Go to 

*stay gold ponyboy ((s) and girls)

(*The Outsiders. read the book and watch the movie)

I've joked my whole life about being a Small Town Asian Boy, just trying to make a buck. It probably should have been the title of this last piece or my yet to be written memoirs.

But all jokes aside, I want you to know and I want you to believe, that if this small town Asian boy (who just wanted to make a buck) can achieve what he's been able to achieve in the first half of a career, that every single person reading this, can do the same and even more. You can Make A Mark.

You could be a senior executive, a industry leader, an entrepreneur, a community builder, a partner, a parent, an educator, an agent of change and a champion of transformation. You could be them all!

That could be you making your mark. And that's totally awesome.

But those achievements can also help you find what's even more meaningful and important to you. And if it does. Go do it. Whatever it is. Make Your Mark on this life and the next.

If you got this far, my sincere thanks for taking the time. I do genuinely hope there was a small nugget of gold or two somewhere in the above. I'd love your feedback and Stay Gold.

*The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RBC.


RBC named Financial Institution of The Year 2018

27.11.18 - Toronto, Canada

For the second year in a row, RBC was recognized as the Financial Institution of the Year at the Annual Fintech & AI Awards, hosted by the Digital Finance Institute. The awards show, was held at the Carlu's glittering ballroom in downtown Toronto, with hundreds of guests from startups, banks, investment firms, and others from the Canadian tech ecosystem.

The Canadian Fintech & AI Awards celebrate Canadian innovation by recognizing outstanding companies in the regulatory tech, blockchain, AI, and fintech spaces, as well as choosing an Accelerator and Financial Institution of the Year. Canada is at the forefront of financial technology, and the quality of companies nominated for each award was a clear illustration of the creativity and innovation of Canadian entrepreneurs.

Other nominees in the category of Financial Institution of the Year included BMO, Canadian Tire Financial Services, CIBC, Scotiabank, Servus, VersaBank, Steinbach Credit Union, and Vancity. 

I had the honor of accepting the award on behalf of RBC and it is humbling to be recognized by our peers & the industry for driving innovation & technology in our core products and services as well as our continued commitment & passion in supporting the Canadian fintech and entrepreneurial ecosystem. At RBC, we're focused on delivering next-generation technology capabilities including data analytics & AI, blockchain, cybersecurity, voice, identity, location intelligence and payments. We are extremely passionate & as committed as ever to playing a big role in the amazing Canadian ecosystem.

I could not be prouder of the the entire Team, coast to coast here in Canada & around the world including the US, UK, Luxembourg, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, China, Hong Kong and The Caribbean. 

#OneRBC #RBCproud #OneTeamOneDream



20.11.18 - Toronto, Canada

 In Demark, the tech ecosystem is thriving. It was named the ‘most digital country’ in Europe according to the 2017 Digital Economy and Society Index. And Forbes expects that this year, Demark will be breaking records when it comes to venture capital raised. While Apple has recently scooped up two Danish startups.

For Canada’s part, the Denmark tech ecosystem is so promising that last year the government of Ontario and the Nordic country penned a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that aims to accelerate the collaboration between the Danish and Canadian fintech ecosystems. The MoU focuses on three main emerging technologies – blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.

Leading the charge in this pursuit is Copenhagen FinTech, which is the first and largest Nordic fintech working space and incubator. The over 200 startups who work with the incubator receive access to the extensive Copenhagen FinTech network, which stretches from across Norway, Sweden and Finland to other global hubs in Silicon Valley, the United Kingdom, and Singapore. The lab also offers mentorship to member companies and three-month incubation programs for ambitious entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into viable fintech companies. The Nordic region’s tech ecosystem is internationally renowned in emerging technologies like AI, blockchain and cybersecurity – technologies that RBC believes will fundamentally impact the future of banking.

At RBC, we’re committed to investing in and collaborating with the fintech community. That’s why we’ve signed on as Copenhagen FinTech’s first North American Global Partner sponsor.

With the ambition of building new relationships between Demark’s startups and key players in Ontario’s fintech community, we’re one of the first Canadian companies to help usher in a new era of collaboration between these two ecosystems.

Since partnering, we’ve seen how vibrant the Nordic region’s fintech community is. We’re excited to continue to learn from the best and brightest minds in the world with the aim of continuing to grow and support Canada’s innovation ecosystem.


Do you even Crowfund?

21.02.17 - Vancouver, Canada

Although Crowdfunding volumes in Canada grew 48% from 2013 to 2015 and reached $133m in 2015, it's growing much slower than leading international comparators such as the U.S. and U.K. where online alternative financing volumes are reported at USD 36bn and GBP 3.2bn, respectively. Having said that, the Canadian Market was predicted to reach $190m last year, confirming it to be a genuine source of seed and growth capital for companies seeking funding.

After an amazingly successful VanFunding 2016 in BC late last year, the 3rd annual Canadian Crowdfinance Summit (#CCS2017) is upon us already. 

Held at MaRS in downtown Toronto, it is Canada's largest national conference providing the most comprehensive thought leadership, education, networks, funding and investment opportunities to 500+ participants in Canada’s rapidly growing internet finance and fintech crowdfunding industry.

I'm excited to be speaking about the Canadian FinTech ecosystem alongside 75+ experts including Eva Wong of Borrowell, Janet Bannister of Real Ventures and Sue Britton of FinTech Growth Syndicate. 

Events like these don't just magically arrange themselves, so a big thanks to the NCFA for once again supporting and educating the wider ecosystem.