These days, it’s not enough to offer a good product or service. To please today’s customers, you need to deliver a flawless digital experience.
The ever-quickening pace of technological change continues to have profound effects on nearly every industry. It’s turned some industries, such as retail, on its head. Whether it’s how companies interact with customers, how they handle their supply chain or what they do with the data they collect, no company can operate in this era without considering how technology plays a role.
But what can all industries learn from this disruption? How can companies leverage new technologies like artificial intelligence or blockchain to differentiate themselves in a crowded and challenging marketplace?
Armughan Ahmad is the managing partner and president of digital and technology solutions at KPMG in Canada, and Alexander Peh is vice-president, technology and operations at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). As two executives who live and breathe innovation, they were eager to discuss how companies can thrive in this era of unprecedented change.
*Click link below for full interview.
Stone & Chalk is delighted to announce our new corporate partnership with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
As Canada’s biggest bank, and one of the largest in the world based on market capitalization, RBC has a diversified business model with a focus on innovation and providing exceptional experiences to more than 16 million clients in Canada, the U.S. and 34 other countries.
Alexander Peh, Vice President of Innovation at RBC supported the partnership saying: “We are thrilled to be joining Stone & Chalk as a corporate partner to expand our global lens on disruptive and innovative technologies. Stone & Chalk has a successful track record of attracting top technology startups and we are excited to play our part in supporting Australia’s fintech ecosystem.”
RBC is a global financial institution with over 84,000 employees and a purpose-driven, principles-led approach to delivering leading performance.
With these shared values, partnering with RBC enables Stone & Chalk to further expand Australia’s capability to a global marketplace for corporate innovation and build successful entrepreneurial communities. Further, this partnership provides opportunities for RBC to explore strategic partnerships with Australian startups and scaleups.
This marks the first Canadian corporate partnership and builds the foundations of a strong alliance between Australian and Canadian technology ecosystems.
The RBC Innovation team works closely with RBC Capital Partners, RBC’s strategic investment fund; RBC Ventures, a newly formed group focused on moving RBC beyond banking; as well as Borealis AI, a world-class RBC Research Institute dedicated to pursuing fundamental and applied research in machine learning.
Alex Scandurra, CEO, Stone & Chalk said that the partnership further built on Stone & Chalk’s vision to create a global marketplace for entrepreneurs to succeed. ‘Stone & Chalk is more than a co-working space, we champion innovation and create success for our partners and residents. This partnership with RBC expands our growing ecosystem and supports the creation of a global innovation capability and marketplace to drive future industries and economic growth.
We welcome Royal Bank of Canada to the Stone & Chalk family. As we expand our global footprint, our startups and scaleups will benefit from the commercial opportunities this exciting new partnership brings.”
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.
Alexander Peh - RBC Future Makers 21.11.18
In December 2017, the Government of Ontario and Copenhagen FinTech signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to create a partnership between the Danish and Ontario FinTech ecosystems. The MoU focuses on three main emerging technologies – blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.
RBC has since signed on as Copenhagen FinTech’s first North American Global Partner Sponsor.
“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,” said Alexander Peh, the vice-president of innovation at RBC. “We’re excited to support Copenhagen FinTech, the largest FinTech accelerator in the Nordic region, and be one of the first Canadian companies to help usher in a new era of collaboration between these two ecosystems.”
As part of the partnership, RBC has supported Copenhagen FinTech in delivering thought-leadership initiatives, including an event in October for AI leaders in Toronto.
“Canada and Toronto are a global powerhouse for artificial intelligence. During our visits we have been truly impressed with the talent, research and the hundreds of AI and machine-learning ventures ranging from health and clean tech to financial tech,” said Thomas Krogh Jensen, the chief executive officer of Copenhagen FinTech. “We see that Toronto’s tech industry is booming right now and we think that we can both learn a lot, but also provide an attractive market opportunity to the companies thinking about scaling their services to the Nordic region and rest of Europe.”
As cyber attacks become more frequent and costly, banks are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence to protect their networks—but so are the criminals.
The first recorded bank heist in US history occurred in 1831, when James Honeyman and William Murray entered the City Bank of New York, courtesy of forged keys—and made away with $245,000 in cash. Fast forward to 2016, and crooks made away with $1 billion from the Bangladesh Bank by using much the same tactic—although the forged keys were transmitted through the Swift network, via fiberoptic cables, sending fake instructions to the central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
In the modern world, the days of the stick-up man are fading, but the criminals themselves have
mostly swapped their bandanas for hoodies, their sawed-off shotguns for keyboards. Where
banks once had to guard against physical incursions, would-be bank robbers are increasingly
turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to assist them with heists.
This broad umbrella of technology—which includes machine learning, deep learning, and
automation—is now being deployed for sophisticated cyberattacks. Instead of the old standard distributed denial of service (DDoS) assaults that targets a small portion of a network, attackers can use their own versions of AI programs to craft targeted attacks by mining personally
identifiable data from organizations. This data is then used for advanced phishing attacks.
To combat this, the financial services industry is fighting fire with fire. AI is being developed for
use in cybersecurity as it eases many of the burdens they face when confronted with billions of network events to sift through every month, says the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC’s) head of
innovation, Alexander Peh.
“AI is one of the most transformational technologies we see today in that it opens up possible new products but also new ways to improve operations including protecting our internal and
client data,” says Peh. “We live in a world that is increasingly connected so there are more
avenues to attack. We do believe that we can continue to innovate and advocate for better
security and a deeper talent pool for security.”
RBC has also begun deploying AI in its cybersecurity defenses, according to Peh, mainly
around analyzing the threat data coming into its systems and finding ways to enhance its own
“We doubled our cybersecurity spend and that includes investments into adversarial AI and
other investments that we have made into the technology,” Peh says. “We use it to analyze 200
billion log events per month and tag it across our entire system.”
RBC inked a research and development deal with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University and its
technology arm BGN Technologies for $2 million earlier this year. The partnership will allow
BGN to explore how to use AI and machine learning to mitigate cyber threats.
RBC’s Peh says part of the research is to look into adversarial AI to find loopholes in algorithms
to better secure machine-learning models. It also has a partnership with Canada’s Waterloo
University around privacy and AI.
Waterloo – The tech startup scene is thriving in Canada. Various levels of government have funded more than 240 incubators and hubs nationwide. Canadian investors are increasingly active, and foreign investors are increasingly interested. It would seem there’s no shortage of funding for Canadian ideas and Canadian talent. Why then are there so few globally competitive Canadian tech firms? To help address this question Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has signed on as the exclusive financial sponsor of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology enterprises.
RBC’s support of the Institute comes just as the Institute has doubled the number of tech companies participating in the Lazaridis Scale-Up Program each year. The Bank’s investment will be dedicated to providing tech entrepreneurs access to an international network and entrée to a peer group of successful Canadian CEOs.
“Our support of the Lazaridis Institute underscores our commitment to empowering Canadian startups and scale-ups while at the same time allowing RBC to stay plugged into some of the most promising technology companies in Canada,” said Alexander Peh, vice-president, innovation at RBC. “We’re committed to working with leading universities to support the tech ecosystem and to helping tech startups catalyze ideas and scale operations. We see the Lazaridis Institute as particularly successful in providing tech companies with the resources and talent to push through any challenges and scale globally.”
The investment has been announced just as the Institute is gearing up for its first Scale-Up Program for Women Founders, starting in early 2019. The program retains its emphasis on customization and execution, bringing seasoned executives to the cohort for intensive weekend workshops around functional challenges. This cohort will also focus on the constraints confronting growth-stage tech companies founded or cofounded by a female entrepreneur.
“We aim to provide women founders and co-founders with the knowledge and support they need to scale their companies, achieve their potential and, ultimately, change the gender balance in the Canadian tech ecosystem,” announced Kim Morouney, managing director of the Lazaridis Institute and Lazaridis professor of Executive Development in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics. “We are excited to have the support of a purpose-driven organization like RBC, one that shares our commitment to diversity.”
“RBC is a strong and vocal advocate for the advancement of women and we’re proud to be supporting the Institute’s entrepreneurs including the latest cohort of women founders,” added Peh.
RBC has a long-standing focus on growing and collaborating with the technology sector in Canada. Their commitment to the Lazaridis Institute demonstrates their dedication to supporting growth-stage tech companies. “It’s all about giving these companies access: access to talent, access to markets, access to capital,” concludes Peh. Morouney agrees, “Partnerships like this are what we need to bring Canadian tech and Canadian talent to the world stage.”
On November 28, RBC is hosting its next FutureMakers Talks event with a focus on quantum computing.
As quantum computing is set to impact industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to cybersecurity, the event will explore how technologists can adapt and evolve with these changes. While quantum is still in its infancy, many technologists have stressed the importance for businesses to understand how it will change the way we analyze and solve problems.
Xanadu quantum application scientist Razieh Annabestani will headline with a talk on the current state of quantum computing technology. Xanadu raised a $9 million seed round in May to advance the Canadian quantum ecosystem.
Xanadu quantum application scientist Razieh Annabestani will headline the evening with a talk on the current state of quantum computing technology, covering the engineering obstacles that exist within the current physical platforms used to create quantum computing devices, and specific problems that can benefit from hybrid quantum-classical algorithms.
Xanadu has been working to advance the Canadian quantum ecosystem since its $9 million seed round in May. The company recently launched open source machine learning software for quantum computers, dubbed PennyLane, which can interact with quantum computers from different companies (such as the IBM Quantum Experience) in a hardware-agnostic way. The company is also a partner on CDL’s quantum machine learning program.
The Knowledge Society innovator Tommy Moffatt will share a presentation titled ‘Hybrid Algorithms for a Near-Term Quantum Revolution’; in his talk, Moffatt will highlight how systems that combine classical and quantum computers could create near-term applications for quantum technology, even if large-scale applications are decades away. QEYnet Inc. co-founders Cordell Grant and Jennifer Elliott will share perspective on how Quantum Key Distribution is imperative to defending against cyber threats that will be brought on by quantum computing.
“Quantum computing is expected to fundamentally impact traditional encryption methods and companies in all industries should be paying attention,” said Alexander Peh, vice-president of innovation at RBC. “Creating opportunities that focus on sharing knowledge on emerging technologies like quantum computing is important and FutureMakers Talks is set to do just that. It’s bringing together some of the brightest minds in the field to explore this developing area.”
Amir Feizpour, senior manager of data science and analytics at RBC, will also share a talk on ‘Quantum 101.’ Feizpour will discuss the evolution of computation over the years, and where quantum computing fits in the next stage of that evolution.
Alex Peh, PayPal Canada’s former head of mobile and market development, has made the move to RBC as its VP of innovation.
Peh started his role at PayPal Canada in 2014, where he was responsible for driving mobile payments adoption for the PayPal brand.
Peh also has a significant presence supporting Canadian startups and the broader tech ecosystem, acting as an advisor to MaRS’ commerce & finance and corporate innovation clusters, as well as the BCTIA.
Peh has a significant presence supporting Canadian startups and the broader tech ecosystem, acting as an advisor MaRS and the BCTIA. At PayPal, Peh drove initiatives like presenting sponsorship of BetaKit’s very-own CanCon podcast, as well as Dx3’s Startup Zone, which gave the startups exposure to over 4,500 people and a chance to pitch to retail heavyweights. By this year’s Dx3, Peh acknowledged that the startups participating went beyond mobile payments — once his biggest focus in his role — as the nature of innovation was evolving.
“For many years, we’ve been all about mobile. But mobile is now just part of everyone’s marketing and product plans, so we’re trying to think bigger than that,” Peh said.
For its part, RBC has been working to embrace emerging technologies, and was recognized as one of the top two banks in Canada for FinTech innovation. The bank has invested in startup organizations like OneEleven and Bayview Yards, and internally is adopting AI technology (disclosure: RBC is the proud sponsor of BetaKit’s AI Times newsletter). RBC has two machine learning labs in Toronto and Edmonton.
RBC also has not shied away from working with startups directly as an investor, providing CareGuide with a $1 million debt facility in June 2015 and strategic financing to Wave in its $32 million round.
According to Alexander Peh, PayPal Canada’s head of mobile and market development, bigger is better. It’s the philosophy behind a lot of initiatives at Paypal’s Startup Zone at Dx3 this year. The company has upped its startup presence to 35 companies from 25 last year, promising them two days of exposure to over 4,500 people at one of Canada’s largest retail and digital marketing events of the year March 8th and 9th.
“One of the toughest things for a startup and small business is: how do I get my product, brand, and service in front of people?” said Peh. The two best pieces of feedback we got from 20 or so startups were, ‘we have thousands of potential new customers, partners, media come through and look at us and evaluate what we do’,” Peh said. “They got to spend two days closely with 20 peers and fellow entrepreneurs and they all made contacts. So we decided to make it bigger.” “Being able to have an incredible household name like PayPal as a brand, and let these startups have conversations with clients and customers and partners, we’re excited about how we can leverage that,” said Peh. “We’re privileged to have this brand equity, and we’re trying to support and foster the Canadian startup community.”
You’ve all heard the name by now: PayPal. One of the world’s leading platforms for digital commerce is still going strong today, 17 years after being founded (then known as Confinity) in 1998. Better yet, they’re still trying to innovate the way we pay, and adapt our access to our own money in a world that is heavily reliant on technology. Alexander Peh, PayPal Canada’s Head of Mobile and Market Development, spoke to a small group of Vancouver’s biggest, and best names. The “in crowd” gathered as Peh shared some impressive details about PayPal’s recent activity, and their partnerships with amazing companies, as they strive to improve the lives of everyone they serve.
One of the world’s largest payments processors is making a play for B.C.PayPal Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:PYPL) is acquiring Vancouver-based TIO Networks in a deal worth $304 million. It partnered with the BC Tech Association in October 2015 to create a formalized financial technology cluster in Vancouver to help fintech startups innovate and generate revenue. Alexander Peh, PayPal Canada’s head of mobile, told BIV in October 2016 his company's strategy is geared towards collaborating with as opposed to competing against smaller financial technology companies.
PayPal’s solutions always seem to meet customers at the exact places they want to transact. That’s not just a coincidence—for more than 18 years, PayPal has been setting the pace for mobile payments thanks to precise product development and a genuine understanding of consumer needs. We talked to Alexander Peh, PayPal CA’s resident mobile whiz to get a better sense of what the “hot” fintech trends are and how other innovators can get there. Hear more of his thoughts on cross-border payments at Mobey Day Toronto, from December 7–8.
New Canadian FinTech company, Symend Inc, is pleased to announce the closing of their first round of investment after raising $1 Million in capital. The funding was raised largely by the founding partners alongside angel investors. It is the biggest raise of its kind for FinTech in Western Canada from angels in 2016.
“Delinquent debt and its flow down has the potential to impact anyone. I chose to be a part of Symend not only because of their innovative solution focusing on improving efficiency and effectiveness for creditors and vendors, but also for their objective to educate debtors and give them tools to manage debt and solutions to deal with it. I believe that Symend will have a genuine positive social impact in an industry many label as ineffective and costly,” commented Alexander Peh, Head of Market Development & Mobile at PayPal Canada.
Startups are often perceived as being on the cutting edge of technology – creating new ways to fix old problems. But what happens when a business matures and new competitors build better, faster products to meet shifting consumer demands?
Last month, “Canadian tech darling” Freshbooks unveiled a complete platform overhaul to address new feature requests and increased competition. It’s just one example of how fast-growing businesses need to continually innovate to remain competitive.
I recently asked Alexander Peh, Head of Mobile and Market Development at PayPal Canada, and Ben Zifkin, founder and CEO at Hubba to share their tips on building a startup culture that fosters continuous innovation.
The Mars Discovery District, a fixture in downtown Toronto for about a decade and which was formed to bring entrepreneurs and capital together, is set to add a new element to its business.
The entity, which has faced a series of obstacles of late, is adding a financial technology group to complement its existing focus on information and communications technology, clean technology and health. That goal is to develop strategic partnerships to power financial technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Alexander Peh, head of market development and mobile at PayPal Canada, said the FinTech launch “is a perfect time for us to stand up and say ‘we want to invest and work with Canadian start ups in a more formal way.’”
PayPal is no stranger to Canada, being one of the leading digital payment options available. But its market is worldwide, with a user base of 165 million customers around the world.
Alexander Peh, PayPal Canada’s head of mobile, started his Canadian dream four years ago with a goal of influencing people with new innovations. His task was complex and challenging: elevate the PayPal brand in Canada and help increase the adoption of mobile payments.
PayPal is commonly used on desktop, mainly through the one-click payment button on various sites such as eBay. But PayPal has a large mobile presence, with mobile apps on iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices.
Skipping lines, getting food and parking faster, and having an easier commute seems like a dream to any Torontonian who has been trapped on a pedestrian-congested sidewalk with 15 precious work break minutes. This is what PayPal is promising.
Their partnership with parking, commuting, and restaurant apps, most of which are Toronto startups, aims to make navigating the city safer, faster, and easier. The question is whether this can be done. A few choice apps are leading the way in cutting down waiting times and providing more accessible, faster navigation. Alexander Peh, PayPal Canada’s head of mobile, describes it as “building experiences,” by maximizing time and accessibility.
All of these apps have the option to pay with PayPal, which means you don’t need your wallet for any of these. “There’s a wallet free future in sight,” says Peh.
Financial technology, or FinTech, is one of the hottest tech trends of 2016, with start-ups entering the burgeoning category to help modernize bits and pieces of the financial system for today’s connected consumers.
Solving a friction: FinTech start-ups and established firms have sprouted up, aiming to add value-added services and access to capital for those who need it, like providing loans to small businesses that have cash flow challenges and may not have access to traditional bank financing, for example. Mobile peer-to-peer payments and sending money internationally to family or business vendors around the world have been growing in popularity.
“It’s about not always focusing on disrupting or challenging traditional business financial systems, but rather focusing on solving a friction in a current process,” says Alexander Peh, Head of Mobile and Market Development at PayPal Canada. “If you can find an area where people are frustrated with a gap in the financial system that isn’t servicing them, then FinTech companies can come in and fill those.”
New research from PayPal and Ipsos shows that mobile commerce is growing at more than double the rate of overall e-commerce in Canada. This growth presents opportunities for Canadian retailers, as mobile commerce spend had already reached $3.45 billion in 2013 – a number which is predicted to grow by 142 per cent next year.
From 2013-2016, the compound annual growth rate for mobile commerce in Canada is projected at 34 per cent versus only 14 per cent for overall e-commerce, including mobile commerce.
“We are at the dawn of a mobile-first era,” said Alexander Peh, head of mobile and market development at PayPal Canada. “At PayPal, we’ve seen our mobile growth rise from less than one per cent of our payment volume in 2010 to more than 20 per cent in 2014.”
“Canadians want to pay with their mobile phones, and ReUp offers small businesses a simple way to build a sleek mobile app with payment capabilities that directly caters to this growing demand,” said Alexander Peh, head of mobile and market development at PayPal Canada. “At PayPal, we’re always looking to collaborate with cool startups like ReUp that offer Canadians an innovative way to pay with their mobile phones and better positions Canadian small businesses to compete.”
ReUp started working with Paypal last year after finding that a lot of merchants had no way to accept PayPal in store. “We found that a lot of merchants want to offer PayPal as an option because customers have it, but retailers didn’t have any way in-store to accept PayPal. PayPal technology in Canada isn’t as available as a brick-and-mortar solution, minus you sitting at a computer to receive money in exchange for goods,” said Shahjahan. “For most fast-moving restaurants or businesses, they don’t have a lot of time for that workflow.”
Teamwork triumphs in Toronto. The theme of collaboration between start-ups and the big players dominated day one of Mobey Day. While some in the fintech industry say they’re disruptive, it seems that’s no longer true as they all look to work together.
Blockchain doesn’t Peh
On a panel examining cross border payments, Alexander Peh, from PayPal Canada, was sceptical about blockchain.
He says: “Everything is hypothetical and I’m trying to get my head around it. I’m not seeing anything to scale yet and what organisations will do with blockchain.”
In fact, I met Peh on Tuesday (6 December), as part of a fintech tour of Toronto, given to the international media by Canada’s Ministry of Economic Development and Growth (MEDG).
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