CEO Viewpoints | Season 2

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Australia’s Essential Energy: A CEO’s perspective on accelerating the energy transition

In the latest episode of Season 2 of our CEO Viewpoints podcast series, host James McLean sits down with John Cleland, Chief Executive Officer of Australia’s Essential Energy. John shares his experiences leading a utility through the energy transition and offers insights on his commitment to sustainable and safe energy, balancing customer and stakeholder expectations and the outlook for the utilities sector.

James McLean: Hi. Good morning. It's PwC CEO Viewpoints podcast series, where we discuss key themes and Canadian insights from the 26th Annual Global CEO Survey. My name is James McLean. I'm the National Utilities Leader for PwC Canada, and I'll be your host this episode. Thank you so much for joining us. This year as CEO Survey focuses on critical questions facing leaders today, how to balance reinventing the business to succeed in a changing world with the need to manage short term pressures and challenges. So let's dive deeper into this topic with our guest speaker today. I am thrilled to have John Cleland, CEO of Australia's Essential Energy here joining us in Calgary, all the way from the other side of the world. John is here to share his thoughts of leading and accelerating one of the most innovative and progressive energy transition journeys taking place anywhere in the world, balancing and extending customer and stakeholder expectations, commitment to sustainable and safe energy, and his outlook on where the sector is and where it will be headed. Welcome, John. It's great to have you here with us today.

John Cleland: Hi, James. It's a great pleasure to be with you.

James McLean: Let's dive straight into origin stories. I know Australia has a whole history of origin stories, but tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, a bit of background on the Essential Energy business and your path to becoming the CEO there.

John Cleland: My path to CEO was initially university, I studied economics and finance. I spent some time in chartered accounting with one of the big four chartered accounting firms. I spent some time in banking and finance and joined a diversified Australian listed industrial company and spent 11 years in ostensibly commercial and financial roles, initially for mergers and acquisitions and then a series of postings in different subsidiary companies in commercial and financial roles. And that ultimately resulted in a CFO role in the vertically integrated rail business in Western Australia, which had been recently privatized. And when that business was sold, I then went with that business and became CEO of the rail infrastructure business. That for me began a journey of really specialization in infrastructure and regulated utilities across rail, gas distribution, gas transmission, ports, sometime in mining, more recently over the last seven years, electricity distribution.

James McLean: There's so many parallels between Australia and Canada, maybe apart from the weather conditions, but certainly culturally. And maybe just paint a picture of the kind of scale customers, employers, what does that business look like?

John Cleland: So Essential Energy is quite unique and entirely remarkable business and network in that it covers the entire state of New South Wales in terms of the rural, remote and regional. So it covers 95 percent of New South Wales landmass. We've got 880,000 connected customers that the network comprises or covers 737,000 square kilometers, has 190,000 kilometers of overhead power lines and roughly 1.4 million power poles. And it geographically and climatically covers almost every conceivable situation, from alpine to desert, rainforest and everything in between. And so that it presents a unique range of challenges from a management or an operational perspective and a unique set of opportunities, particularly in the context of the energy transition and the emergence of customer energy resources.

James McLean: If you looked at the landscape of what that context of Essential Energy business looked like, there was prevailing sentiment in the industry that poles and wires businesses were in some sort of death spiral. How on earth can you make this a profitable business? Many people have been in a private sector business, would run a million miles away from that sort of challenge. What was it that enticed you into this role? And tell us a bit more about what that story is look like.

John Cleland: There had been a period of quite intense criticism of Essential Energy and other distribution networks in New South Wales, in particular off the back of two regulatory cycles that had seen significant investment back into the network. And so there was criticism of gold plating or the inference of gold plating, and there was criticism of the extent to which distribution charges had risen over that period. As you indicated, there was the inference and prevailing narrative that there was a death spiral being faced by distribution networks. And that was really off the back of the assumption that the high proportion of customers would go to effectively stand alone. So their own rooftop solar storage, energy management and effectively disconnect from the network. And that of course, would leave the fixed costs of the network falling on an ever declining number of customers, hence the death spiral. It had seen its retail business sold off and effectively it felt that the business had become disconnected from customers. That was a unique set of challenges for the business to work through culturally and a very significant adjustment. The energy sector in Australia had been and still largely is to some extent dominated by a one way flow of electrons from centrally located fossil generation through the transmission network, through the distribution network and to the customer as the end point. And that in 2016 was already changing with the penetration of rooftop solar and the development of larger scale renewable generation connected to the distribution network. The network was already transitioning to becoming a platform upon which customers could generate, store, trade, consume, optimize their consumption of electrons in a very different narrative, giving rise to a different set of challenges and a different set of required skill sets, experience and expertise within the business.

James McLean: John, you paint a great picture there of what that opportunity looked like. How old was that view of what the potential of the business could look like versus the adversities that you felt?

John Cleland: When I arrived in the business, there was that view probably wasn't widely held. The focus on cost cutting was all pervasive, and that had been a necessary process and period of cost reduction in the business and across the then three government owned networks in New South Wales. What I needed to do and what needed to happen in the business was a pivot, if you like, to a much more positive and forward looking narrative around distribution networks being the platform upon so much of what is positive about this transition can actually happen. It was also the important narrative that electricity distribution networks are an essential enabler of economic activity and life. They fulfill a truly critical role in all communities that would probably be lost a little bit through the period of cost reduction, and as I say, the focus on on costs.

James McLean: So given where you came in and that prevailing conditions, where did you start? How did you approach this day one through the first 100 plus days of the journey? Where did that start? And maybe can I talk us through some of those critical steps that you've been through since then?

John Cleland: Sure. It was a not insignificant challenge. I started the journey by spending a lot of time with employees and a lot of time in the field. And so I've traveled extensively and spent a lot of time on my feet in front of front line employees, the wonderful group of employees who undertake that really critical role. One of the outstanding successes of Essential Energy and its very fine workforce has been the development of digital tools. The success of that has been really based upon outstanding, talented individuals in the business, identifying problems and working with the technology group to effectively develop digital solutions. We were one of the first networks in Australia and possibly globally to do an on mass rollout of iPhones and iPads, and that was that was to all employees. So in 2016 that felt like quite a brave decision. And what that did was it allowed all of our employees to develop skills around the use of those devices. And remarkably, we were able to self or internally generate digital solutions to problems through specific examples. And the first and most significant was the development of our so-called Field Portal, which in essence is all of our network information overlaid on Google Maps. That was done internally. It was field based employees who worked out that they could actually achieve this outcome, that's given rise to a really phenomenal tool, which means that our crews in the field are operating now almost exclusively from iPhones and iPads rather than carrying lots of paper. The other was a development of our eHIRAC which is has an assessment or pre-start form which was entirely paper based and needing to cover a raft of tasks. So the eHIRAC has allowed crews to effectively do their complete pre-start and risk assessment electronically and absolutely tailor it to the the unique nature of the task their undertaking, that has had the benefit of creating much richer and more targeted conversations around the risks unique to each task, but it's also allowed us to capture a whole lot of data that was not previously available, always was captured in paper form.

James McLean: It strikes me like although those are digital changes, the implication feels like there may have been an even bigger cultural change that occurred as a result of doing those and other things that you've done. Maybe tell us a bit about that. What were the cultural implications of those changes as well?

John Cleland: And like all change, there was initially some level of resistance. The outset, it was quite the summit was quite intimidating. That's why these changes need to be undertaken on a sort of a relatively gradual basis to allow everyone the time to develop the skills and come with it. The other key element to this from a cultural and a skills perspective is hiring people into the business with new skill sets. And the sort of prime example of that is data science and data analytics. And once again, Essential Energy was probably ahead of several other businesses globally in terms of identifying the need for those skills and bringing in some extraordinarily talented individuals who came from a deep data science background and were able to bring really unique and powerful insights to the business and able to interrogate volumes of data that was were previously sort of inaccessible, if you like. The interaction between the data scientists and data analysts who joined the business and people already within the business who had the mindset and the sort of the inclination to test the boundaries of what was possible with digital tools has given rise to some really powerful outcomes, and all employees have been able to see the benefit of that. And that culturally is where the shift has really occurred.

James McLean: You know, it sounds like you stole a march on the rest of the industry because you started this back in 2016, 2017, and that the talent pool for those resources is much harder these days to access because these are very hot, hot commodities. It would be great to hear kind of how you've continued to add to those capabilities and skills and maybe where have those come from if these being people from elsewhere within the utility sector of you had to be creative about finding out that the talent pools that an access are the talent pools that wouldn't otherwise have been recognized?

John Cleland: Well, all of the above. So we've recruited from within the within the sector. Importantly, we've recruited from outside the sector. And that's been a powerful enabler, if you like, bringing in different skill sets and different mindsets. I think the most important element of this is the number of people who are existing employees of the business who have effectively developed new skill sets and moved into new career paths as a consequence of this change. And that's probably been singularly the most powerful enabler. I think everyone can see that there is an existing and increasing skills shortage within the both the technology and particularly in the energy sector. And so for Essential Energy and other industry participants, there will be a significant challenge in years to come to attract and importantly retain those skills. And so the development of internal talent becomes even more critical. Essential Energy has a very long standing and extraordinarily successful apprentice program.

James McLean: It doesn't matter how good the talent is that you bring in externally, is actually unlocking the potential of your current employee and talent base. There's no way to buy the talent. You have to build the talent yourself.

John Cleland: Absolutely.

James McLean: There's been, I'm sure, no doubt of stakeholder interactions both internally and externally. Maybe talk to us a little bit about some of those experiences, the positives and the learnings as well along the way around how those stakeholders have to be managed, included, engaged as you've gone through the journey?

John Cleland: Sure. The journey to the end point is a little uncertain at this point and there will inevitably be these significant challenges along the way. And so all stakeholders in the energy sector are probably apprehensive and sort of carefully watching what's going on across the industry and within individual organizations. And so our interaction with external stakeholders and our shareholders or shareholding ministers has really been based on a consistent flow of information and really, really trying to consistently paint the picture of where the organization is headed. We've maintained the focus on operational efficiency, but are now much more focused on developing a new range of of products and a new way of operating to really reflect the energy transition that's underway and the revolution that will and will take place at the household level in terms of the proliferation of rooftop solar storage, both within the home or within the network.

James McLean: I think that's maybe a theme I've observed and we've been criticized as the utilities industry. We tend to go very quickly to the technical. It sounds like your stakeholder engagement involvement approach and strategy was more maybe in storytelling and being able to make it what the changes were and the impacts of those changes, practical and relatable to the various different stakeholders.

John Cleland:That's a fair a fair synopsis. And I think the critical element of this always is to bring it back to the customer and to understand that firstly the customer will have far more autonomy and say in what happens in the future than they had previously understanding some of the power of the consumer and the enormous benefits that will flow to customers and consumers, as a consequence of this transition is critical to both how businesses operate, but also engagement with regulators and market bodies and shareholders.

James McLean: Now, that's fascinating. Making it real and the customer focus is I think is a great, great message for that for us all to consider. I'll switch a little bit now to some of the data points that we got from our Global CEO Survey. In the recent survey, 76 percent of global CEOs are making technology and reinvention orientated investments in their organizations. When you think of your transformational journey, what have been some of the critical investments? You've mentioned a couple of the examples, but maybe kind of talk a bit more about some of those others as well as some of the surprises along the way?

John Cleland: Sure. One very significant enhancement that I haven't mentioned is the development of a digital twin. We have partnered with an external organization, Neara, and over a journey of some six years, we've developed, developed a very robust digital twin, and that has allowed us to effectively take data collected ostensibly from LiDAR, place it into a digital model and get a much more detailed representation and insight into our network. And that has allowed us to much more accurately model the capacity of the network, and that is having positive ramifications in terms of the potential to host renewables and generation and the potential for customers with solar panels to export larger, larger amounts of electrons from their home and better, better utilize the economic investment they have made in panels. We're seeing sections and parts of our network where we were able to to effectively double the capacity. And that's just because we're much, much better able to model the capacity of the network, model the constraints and understand where the constraints are and aren't, as the case may be. It's also allowed for the rebuilding of the network, particularly to the extent that it was damaged by significant fires in Australia in 2019 and 2020. So rather than than crews going out and replicating what was there previously, planners and designers were able to look at the situation and optimize the rebuild in real time in a dynamic situation. The digital twin allows us to effectively model the capacity of each span of overhead network across 189,000 kilometers we have, and that previously would have required a site visit using different technologies or different skills if you like to model that capacity. That constraint really required blanket restrictions or blanket assumptions on the capacity of the network, and they've been able to be effectively challenged.

James McLean: Yeah, interesting. Resilience is the number one area that we're trying to focus on within the Canadian sector from a utility standpoint. And now being ready to not always be able to avoid a crisis, be able to respond to a crisis is one of the critical things that we feel is a core capability that any utility, successful utility is going to need, as you've described. Maybe give us a couple of top tips that you've had. And again, as someone that I spent time in Australia and love the environment there, it's been tragic to see that the environmental impacts that you've had there recently.

John Cleland: I would pay tribute to the the amazing Essential Energy workforce who have collectively become really expert at responding to climate impacts and these adverse scenarios for the business. And so our ability to respond to fires, floods and storms is really second to none, and a huge credit to the amazing the amazing workforce within the business. And we have consistently been identified and called out for being first on the ground and the most efficient of all utilities and emergency response organizations in reestablishing supply and supporting our customers through that period. And that has required the development of new processes and new equipment, new items of equipment. It's also necessitated and highlight of the benefit of empowerment of the right levels within the organization. So ensuring that at a sort of regional and local level there is the empowerment of the autonomy and the authority.

James McLean: Maybe we'll kind of move on to a topic which is around affordability and costs. And you kind of you mentioned the landscape of cost cutting that had occurred prior to your your environment, your involvement at Essential, but the success you've continued to achieve in terms of dropping kind of real term rates to customers, which I think is a a great way of engaging anyone in terms of being able to have that dialog. And interestingly, from the CEO survey, 52 percent of global CEOs have said that they have already begun cost cutting activities as a result of some of the challenges happening from an economic standpoint, including hiring freezes and workforce kind of caps and reductions. Talk to us a bit about like how you're balancing the need to continue to be cost effective whilst also innovating.

John Cleland: Sure. And it's important to note here the changing expectation of customers, expectation of customers, and that is a function both of the fact that customers are increasingly availing themselves of rooftop solar and battery storage is sort of an emerging trend, clearly, across the Essential Energy network. Roughly just under 30 percent of our residential customers now have panels on their roofs. And we are seeing the emergence, as I say, of batteries, electric vehicles slowly increasing in numbers in Australia. And the conversations we're having with customers and the engagement with customers throughout the preparation of our most recent regulatory proposal has really highlighted that customers are placing a much greater emphasis on reliability and resilience and flexibility within electricity, the provision of electricity as a service. It's also important to note that through COVID period, a high proportion of people worked and educated from home. And so the level of focus on reliability and resilience is much, much higher. What we have seen consistently is a willingness on the part of customers to accept some level of increase in our costs to ensure that they are able to avail themselves of all the beneficial elements of the energy transition. So specifically the ability to install rooftop solar and to export a meaningful amount from that storage assets, electrons are generated to avail themselves of storage to own and effectively and economically charge electric vehicles, which is clearly a major, major area of consideration for networks and electricity providers globally. That has really changed the conversation and that gives rise to a to a different conversation with economic regulators as well, and different different consideration for economic regulators as they consider distribution charges going forward.

James McLean: So I guess a recognition that there is now you can't constantly be on a downward trend on costs, you know, particularly in the short term if you've got to make investments. But they're enabling the resilience, reliability and that flexibility you talk about from a kind of consumer customer standpoint that gives them options as they think about generation and storage themselves and how that impacts on the grid. I'm looking forward to some of our teams utilities doing that, having just put solar on my own house. Now to some of those somewhat cliched questions. If you look back now on the journey, what would you have done differently?

John Cleland: The key point I would make here, and this is extraordinarily relevant to the energy transition is that the future is largely unknowable. And it's very easy in an industry that is operated in a very similar manner for several decades to undertake this transition. And if you look back at the the sort of the learning rate and the cost curve on on solar, so solar panels, it's always exceeded expectations. The lesson there is to embrace the uncertainty, to accept that learning rates and cost curves move in ways that that are very rarely correctly predicted, and particularly in Australia, where the penetration of solar panels is much higher than other jurisdictions globally. And in many ways it's only just beginning. And so understanding the extent to which and there's a very small number of our customers who have storage within their homes today and a very small proportion who have electric vehicles, the extent to which that will change over the next two, three, five years.

James McLean: Rapid fire last rounds. I'm always up for a good book recommendation or a podcast or a movie film documentary. Anything that you share with our listeners that's really inspired or will be great and relevant for the conversation that we've had today that we could take away from the discussion.

John Cleland: Sure. And if I can, I'm going to reference two books in this situation. First, you'll be pleased to hear is a book published by PwC, Ten Years to Midnight by Blair Sheppard. Really very effectively and articulately outlines some of the social and political challenges and macro forces that are impacting on the on the globe. The second is The Big Switch by Saul Griffith, an Australian scientist and energy industry commentator, who has been intimately involved in the Inflation Reduction Act and a lot of the policy in the US. And The Big Switches is really around the electrification of everything and the enormity of what will happen at a household level.

James McLean: Two great recommendations, John. It's been a pleasure. I don't know, I feel like I've gone through an MBA class in terms of kind of what it takes to take your business through the transition from a utility standpoint. I know we're spending some time together later today. Any kind of closing remarks from yourself? If not, it's a massive thank you from me, and I'll hand it over to you to close it out.

John Cleland: My closing remark would be, as I say, the energy transition is inevitable, will ultimately be entirely positive. The journey, the journey will present many challenges, and it will largely and predominantly be driven by consumers and customers. And the focus on customers and consumers will be critical and is critical for all all distribution networks and all industry participants.

James McLean: Love that closing message, John. Thank you so much.

John Cleland: Thanks, James. Much appreciate it.

How an engaging and agile culture strengthens resilience

In this episode of the CEO Viewpoints podcast, host Allan Buitendag, a Partner in PwC’s Financial Services practice, speaks with Kevin Strain, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sun Life about his approach to staying ahead of the accelerating pace of change while navigating increasingly complex and volatile conditions. Kevin shares his approach to building a bright future for Sun Life during these challenging times and talks about the power of creating an engaging and agile culture as a key to navigating disruption and strengthening resilience.

Allan Buitendag: Hi, and welcome to PwC CEO Viewpoints podcast series, where we discuss key themes and Canadian highlights from our 26th Annual Global CEO survey. My name is Allan Buitendag, and I'm a partner in the financial services practice, and I'll be your host today. Thanks so much for joining us. This year, our CEO survey focuses on a critical question facing leaders today, how to balance reinvesting in the business to succeed in a changing world with the need to manage short term pressures and challenges. So let's dive deeper into this topic with our guest speaker today. I'm thrilled to have Kevin Strain, global CEO of Sun Life, joining us. Welcome, Kevin. It's great to have you here with us.

Kevin Strain: Well, thanks, Allan.

Allan Buitendag: Kevin, it's a complex time marked by a succession of crises, volatility and uncertainty, even as companies face intense pressure to change how they do business. We've experienced challenging periods before, but there's a feeling that some of these crises are happening more frequently. The pace of change is a little bit faster. What's your current outlook on the impact on Sun Life and how are you planning your strategy to navigate these headwinds?

Kevin Strain: Of course, Sun Life's been in business for over 150 years, and we've seen a lot of things and learned from a lot of things from World Wars to Great Depressions to the global financial crisis. And one of the things we've done is tried to build our business to be resilient. And a resilient business for us comes through a number of different factors. The first is obviously, the mix of business, and we've built our mix of business to withstand different stresses and different ways of seeing things. And that mix of business is one where we've got this incredible foundation in Canada and our CEO in Canada, Jacques Goulet, would tell you that Canada is a growth business for us and we're seeing growth out of Canada. That stability that we get from Canada is really important. And Canada is our only business globally that touches all aspects of our business. It's in individual insurance, it's in group insurance, it's in pensions, individual wealth, asset management. We see all of the aspects of what's happened in the world happen to us in Canada, and it's a great place for us to learn, to experience, to take other factors to other parts of our business in a place where we have scale and there's a lot of stability to the economy and to the country and to the geopolitical situation. So starting out with this strong foundation in Canada is really important to how we built our business and our learnings and how we think about risk and risk management. Over 50 percent of our income now comes through the United States. We've been in business there for over 130 years. We understand the U.S. very well. And just the sheer size of the economy, the population, the ability to work in the U.S. is really important to us. And we've aligned with trends around health and the importance of health and the reach of health. And so we did an acquisition last year. It closed last year. Our largest ever acquisition outside of Canada in the group benefits space, acquiring a company called DentaQuest. And so that's an example of where we've gone deeper in the health space. And then we've had a very long term commitment to Asia over 130 years in Asia, it's close to now 20 percent of our income. In the countries we work in alone, we have close to three and a half billion people who do need our product and our services. And you have this amazing growing economies where the middle class is growing. And so we've got this tailwind to Asia that's different than what we see in Canada and the U.S. And in fact, as a company, we're now half protection and half asset management, and that's also quite unique. So these mix of businesses and following trends and having a mix where Western economies are feeling an impact more than Asia or vice versa, where we can create this balance has been really important. Probably even more important, though, is our people and our culture. If you look at our culture, we have very strong understandings of the fundamentals of our business. Having a culture where people can speak out, where people can feel they can be their authentic self, where we can create a diverse business environment and leverage the global thinking of a company like this. So the strength of our people, the strength of our culture is really important to that resilience. And then even the core to that is being a purpose driven culture. And our purpose is helping clients achieve lifetime profits and security and live healthier lives and really focusing on our purpose. It drives some of that resilience. And so having a strong purpose, having an alignment with what people need fundamentally builds a strength in our business.

Allan Buitendag: That's fantastic, Kevin. Thanks very much. You alluded to this a little bit, but Sun Life has been active in the deals space with recent acquisitions, like a majority stake in Advisors Asset Management and DentaQuest in the U.S., as well as ongoing discussions about further expansion in Asia. How are you thinking about this and what's your strategy for reaching into these adjacent areas?

Kevin Strain: You know, it's interesting. If I stood back now that we're half asset management and half protection, I don't see asset management as an adjacency anymore. It's a core part of our business we're about 50 percent each. But we are seeing adjacency opportunities with health ecosystems, and we're the largest investor in a company, a digital insurance company called Bowtie in Hong Kong. Bowtie sells health insurance only digitally, but it has built along with the coffee shop, a clinic, where you can go into the clinic and you can do health assessments, visit a Chinese medicine doctor, they have a small pharmacy. So they're extending into this broader health ecosystem. DentaQuest has just under 100 dental practices that they own and operate in the United States. And we're the largest investor in a company here called Dialogue, which in Canada, which does virtual health and also wellness programs. And so if you look at this, these are, to me, extensions, but they're logical extensions to our group business in the U.S. and in Canada with Dialogue and with the DentaQuest advantage, dental plus systems, and to our platform in terms of how we're doing insurance in Asia through Bowtie. So this health ecosystem one, it's an interesting one to me where we can see this road to building a stronger business and becoming more impactful to people in terms of our purpose, right? Helping them live healthier lives by getting better dental care for them, by providing virtual care. One of the things we did during COVID was we offered all of our group clients access to Dialogue for free because we saw that there was just this need for a different way to get health care during COVID. And in the case of Bowtie, we're finding a way to tap into a market that's acting and differently than our current sort of client base, but where we can learn from and develop and grow.

Allan Buitendag: That's fascinating, Kevin. And having spent some time with your teams in Asia, I know the Bowtie investment is of keen interest for everybody at Sun Life and really an example of looking at different kinds of businesses and how they can supplement what you're doing. When it comes to where you're investing your time and resources, how do you balance the need to realize long term goals of the company with the more immediate pressures?

Kevin Strain: I think as the CEO, there's really only a couple of things that are important that you need to get right. Clearly, you want to have a good strategy that addresses the needs of your clients, that aligns with your business strengths, that highlights where you're going. And even more important is who's on the executive team, who's leading those businesses, are they aligned culturally with the company, are they thinking long term like we're thinking, are they putting the client first? And for me, we've got an incredible executive team leading these businesses, which means I don't have to and I'm not trying to. And there's no way that a CEO could know everything about all of the aspects of a business like Sun Life that is so broad and deep. And so my job is to know what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are, what my team's strengths and weaknesses are, and put the best people in charge of each of these businesses. And so if I use the strategy as kind of the centering point and really good people who are delivering on that strategy, that's the most effective way for me to use my time.

Allan Buitendag: Well, thanks, Kevin. That's a great segue into my next question around tapping into the strength of your people. As many Canadian businesses continue to assess their approaches to returning to the office and maintaining strong organizational cultures, a number of CEOs have raised questions about productivity levels in fully remote workplaces. What's your view and experience with this at Sun Life?

Kevin Strain: Yeah. You know, it's interesting. I really believe that one of the lasting impacts of COVID is going to be hybrid work. Hybrid work is here to stay. And if you look around, people value that and it can be very productive. During COVID, we were work- from-home. And as a company Sun Life pivoted to work-from-home extremely well. In fact, some of our most productive years were when we were under COVID, working from home. We were able to shift really quickly. Now we're in this process of moving towards hybrid, where on days where we're going to be more effective working from home, we'll work from home, and on days we're going to be more effective working in the office, we'll work in the office. That has become more of a journey almost than either one pre-COVID where we're primarily working in the office or COVID where we are fully working from home. But I also believe it's going to have the biggest impact because people are actually going to be able to leverage moments of togetherness when they need to be in the office, when they need to collaborate, when they need to be there for clients, when they need to build culture or training. And then there's going to be days when you're more effective at home, and you're going to save the commute, you're going to create some flexibility into your day. And I think when people can actually find that right balance of when they choose to work in the office and when they choose to work from home, our productivity is going to even increase.

Allan Buitendag : Well, I think, Kevin, everybody's looking to find the same answers there. Are there other aspects of Sun Life's culture that you're looking to build upon or strengthen?

Kevin Strain: Culturally, I think there's a couple of elements that are really important. We're a purpose driven company. And when I took over as CEO, one of the first things I did was to look at our strategy and our purpose, and did our purpose make sense. And everybody kept saying to me, Kevin, don't touch our purpose. We love our purpose. So then I would say, yeah, you love our purpose. How often are we achieving it? Show me when we've helped a client achieve lifetime financial security. Show me when we've helped a client live a healthier life. That's a change that we're trying to evolve, is that we don't just love our purpose. We're purpose driven. We're purpose impactful. We're having impacts. And that measurement of client results that actually deliver on our purpose is an important pivot for our culture that we're undertaking right now. The second I would say and interestingly is building on this concept that we can be our authentic self at work, and that we can show people who we are, we can bring diversity to the workplace, we can leverage this incredible diversity that we have. We've been doing that. But that's an area that I want to continue to see grow. And for us to do more in terms of diversity, equity, inclusion and thinking about those types of things. And then the other one is, as a company, we're looking at how we make decisions, especially now in a hybrid environment, and how do we more effectively make decisions identifying who's the decision maker, who are advisors. As the world changes so quickly now, having that sort of clarity of who the decision maker is and moving quickly, I think is going to be really important to us moving forward. Also, I'd say there's another aspect to that is that I do want my business leaders to understand the technology more. You still need to understand people, risk management and distribution. But as a business leader now, you have to understand technology because it's changing how we do things and we're trying to get people to think and act more like a digital company, which means, you know, more bias to action, more focus on some of those outcomes, bringing more I.T. knowledge into the business so that they think differently and having our I.T people think more like business people and bringing those two things together.

Allan Buitendag: Thanks, Kevin. I think we're seeing that across a number of enterprises as we continue to bring business and I.T. together to drive things forward into the future. What are some of the other things you're doing at Sun Life to create that change, whether it's the agility piece you talked about or thinking more broadly across the business?

Kevin Strain: Three years ago, we started a digital enterprise project which had three elements to it, which were to help us think and act more like a digital company. The first and probably easiest element was modernizing our tech stack. And you know, five years ago probably there was zero of our computing capability that was in the cloud, and today it's well over 50 percent. The second and more important thing was to start to work in a more agile manner. We've been running projects on an agile basis where we set up this concept of two in a box where there's a business leader and an I.T. leader, and they're working on smaller deliverables that happen more quickly, that happen closer to the client. And that shift to an agile way of working is an important aspect of change. And then the third and final one is thinking more about client experience and client journeys. And so one of the things we need to do as part of this client journey is understanding our client better, making digital friendships with them, thinking about where they're at and where their life's taking them, and how can we help them with our purpose. It doesn't mean that we don't want face to face and advice and advisors, and there's a role for that. But there's also a role for the company to build this understanding and then allowing people to leverage this great set of capabilities we have.

Allan Buitendag: Thanks, Kevin. You talked about having really good people running the businesses. As a leader of a global company, how do you balance that federated model versus ensuring that Sun Life's culture is spread around the world and the strengths of your culture are bred into all of the local businesses?

Kevin Strain: It's a great question. It's interesting. If you go into any of our businesses around the world, it feels like Sun Life. And I think that there's a couple of things that we do really well. When we're onboarding people, especially senior people, we do a lot of work on, do they fit the culture, right? Are they client focused? Right? Are they collaborative? Are they team building? Do they think about diversity and do they think diversely? And so we look for some of those cultural elements as we're bringing in senior people. And those elements exist in every country, right? It's not a country specific thing. So we try to do that, and then we bring our senior leaders together in multiple forums so that they can experience the culture together and learn from each other. And so finding those inner connectivity opportunities is really important to driving that connection to the company. On top of that, we try to make sure the executive team, people like me and Manjit, who is our CFO, and Tom Murphy, who's our Chief Risk Officer, we get out into these countries a lot so that we can learn about the people who are there, but they can also learn about about us. So I think finding ways to share that culture is also important. So it's almost a combination of making sure when we hire people that we think they'll fit the culture and then allowing them to experience the culture in multiple ways.

Allan Buitendag: One of the big topics right now on the digital innovation front is generative A.I.. What are your thoughts on this and what opportunities do you see for it at Sun Life?

Kevin Strain: We could step back and say, is generative A.I. good or bad? It's going to be transformational and it's going to help companies do things faster and also to do them cheaper. And so I think that ignoring this major change you do at your peril. I think there's major opportunities with generative A.I. to allow us to give clients a better and quicker experience. We need to continue to think about that, evolve that and build that into our business practices. It won't just be about saving costs. It'll be about doing things faster and better. We've started to look at this in multiple different areas, and I think that that's the right way to think about it and to leverage what are different companies doing? What are the consultants saying about it? What are the IT companies doing? What are some of the best practices? How do we learn from this? What are the opportunities? I think just being aware of what generative A.I. can do and managing it. I do think, though, that it will be aligned with the person. So we're going to need to align it with a person where you can have that person who's building a relationship, but it should allow that relationship to be formed more quickly and with better data and better understanding of the client behind it. So I think there's a massive opportunity for us to leverage this to do the core of what we do better.

Allan Buitendag: You talked a little earlier about how culture gets disseminated across the organization in different jurisdictions. I think innovation is another one of those. How do you think about bringing innovation across your organization and how does the organization set itself up to drive and foster innovation within its businesses?

Kevin Strain: It's a great question. You want innovation to be happening not at the CEO level, but to be happening all through the organization. And you want people to be thinking about what they do day-to-day and how technology may be able to make it better and more efficient. We need to find ways to continue to push that thinking down into the organization and across the organization while bringing through some of this thought leadership where, as a global company, we get to meet some of the biggest companies CEOs, some of the most sophisticated organizations in the world, both in our business, but in other businesses and technology businesses, bring that thinking in and try to spur the innovation, but allow for the actual implementation of it to be close to the client. Right. So we should, if you think about generative A.I., we're trying to learn more about what's happening with it, what others are doing, how do we think about it, and push that understanding down into the organization where the change can happen closer to the client.

Allan Buitendag: Well, thanks very much, Kevin. A.I. is clearly top of mind for many executives today. When it comes to the innovation piece and bringing it further down to your organization, how do you feel you create an environment where people are safe to experiment with these things or even safe to fail?

Kevin Strain: Well, part of our agile way of working is trying to sort of say to people, it's okay to fail. Right? Which is one of the reasons you want to have smaller decisions being made. The bigger the decision, the more people worry about failure. So if we can push it down closer to the client, where a failure can be rectified, you know, within 24 hours, that's a better kind of failure than, the old days, we used to do product, it would take a year to do a product. If you failed on that product, you've lost a year's worth of work and millions of dollars. If we can make tweaks to a product, if we can add new features to a product that are much closer to the client, that take two to three days to make, and if it's not quite right yet, you fix it, you tweak it. That real agile way of working is, I think, the most important thing, so that when you're failing, it's almost just part of what you expected in the normal process. It’s not even seen as failure, right? It’s seen as we tried this and it didn’t work. Let’s try this.

Allan Buitendag: Thanks very much, Kevin, for an inspiring discussion and sharing your insights with us. And I'd like to thank our listeners for joining us today. Be sure to tune in for our next episode. 

Leading with purpose in an increasingly complex world

In this episode of CEO Viewpoints, host Andrew Dooner, a Partner in PwC’s global corporate strategy practice, sits down with Christine Bergeron, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vancity to discuss the power of being a purpose-led organization while navigating key issues like economic uncertainty, transforming for the future and ESG matters like climate change. Christine talks about Vancity’s integrated approach to thinking about people, planet and profit and how embedding purpose into the business strategy enables sustainable outcomes.

Andrew Dooner: Hi, and welcome to PwC Canada’s CEO Viewpoints podcast series, where we discuss key themes and Canadian highlights from our 26th Annual Global CEO survey. My name is Andrew Dooner, and I’m a partner in strategy& at PwC Global Corporate Strategy Practice, and I’ll be your host for this episode. Thanks so much for joining us. This year, our CEO survey focuses on a critical question facing leaders today, how to balance reinventing the business to succeed in a changing world with the need to manage short term pressures and challenges. So, let’s dive deeper into this topic with our guest speaker today from Vancity, Canada’s largest community credit union. With more than 560,000 member owners and 34 billion in assets, Vancity and its members use finance as a force for change to build a clean and fair world. I’m thrilled to have Christine Bergeron, CEO of Vancity, joining us here today in Vancouver. Welcome, Christine. Great to have you here with us.

Christine Bergeron: Thanks for having me.

Andrew Dooner: Christine, today, you’re the CEO of Vancity. I think it’s always important to understand how that journey came to be. So you can tell us a little bit about your journey to become CEO.

Christine Bergeron: Sure. So I worked in finance probably almost 25 years now, but I actually started as a venture capitalist. I was investing in cleantech and initially in fuel cells and hydrogen technology. So back and forth quite a bit between BC and Silicon Valley. And then I switched it and actually ran a hedge fund, wanted to understand public markets looking again at sustainability. And in both of those examples in my career really had a lot of breadth in the experience because they were firms that were starting up. And so I just wore a lot of hats and really got to see, you know, the broader set of information as opposed to, you know, you often, you come into an organization and you’re an analyst and that’s your job and you do it really well. But I was lucky and took the opportunities to do things a little bit differently. And so then I joined Vancity 12 years ago, and at the time it was to help build out an impact investment fund. And then that didn’t quite unfold the way we wanted back then. Not very many people talked about impact investing that long ago, but we did over time actually build that out. But along the way, I took on quite a few different leadership roles leading business banking, then wealth, commercial real estate and a lot of Vancity’s impact work. So between the lines of business and then also impact strategy, which are pretty core to the credit union and then took on interim CEO and then full time CEO during COVID. So that’s the quick version of the path.

Andrew Dooner: One of the things that might be helpful for our listeners is if you were to describe Vancity and what you do and what you stand for. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Christine Bergeron: We are focused really on people, planet and profit, and that I think does encapsulate it. You know, we put people at the center. We need to be sustainable for the long term. And ultimately our view is that, as an organization, we’re not successful if the communities and businesses that are around us are also thriving. So we’re really focused on ensuring that we’re helping those who are typically underserved. But ultimately, it’s people at the center.

Andrew Dooner: Every year we speak to hundreds of global CEOs about their outlook for global and local economies, you know, the risks and the opportunities they see and how they’re helping their organizations strike a real balance between building for the future and managing for the here and now. This year, when we went through our global CEO survey, one of the things that really rose to the top as a theme was this notion of macroeconomic uncertainty and how leadership teams are really struggling with it. I’d really be keen to hear your perspective on how you’re helping your team and how you and your team are thinking about navigating an increasingly uncertain environment.

Christine Bergeron: Well, it definitely is uncertain, it’s been pretty volatile. Yeah, the way that we are thinking about it is probably the way most are is building out scenarios, you know, thinking about protecting the short term, but ultimately thinking about long term because you can quite easily get so focused on navigating the next 12 months and the next 18 months, which of course is critical. But if you do that without that longer term lens, you won’t get to where you need to go. And that’s hard, right? You have to carve out the time for that. I think the second piece I would say is you need to navigate it as people, right, as executive teams because you need to pace your energy. And we’ve seen that through COVID. Pretty intense for a lot of executive teams and really pacing through, you know, how do we support each other as we think through these short term challenges with, okay, long term strategy, where do we need to go?

Andrew Dooner: So, Christine, many of the CEOs that we connect with every year as we go through our annual CEO survey raised a number of different concerns. And this year, one of the things that became quite evident with over 40 percent of our respondents was the notion of shrinking half lives. The idea that many of the CEOs we talked to felt that their organization faced actually a risk around survivability in the next ten years absent transformation. So I know we talk a little bit about macro trends, but I’d be interested in how that finding resonates with you and how you and your team are thinking through this problem.

Christine Bergeron: When we think about it at Vancity, you know, our core model is really focusing on member needs and our impacting communities. So that holds and we feel that it will hold. The way I think about it is twofold. So first, what’s your purpose? Does that hold, right? And so from a Vancity perspective, I always think about it around what happens if we didn’t exist? Like, who’s going to care? And on the one hand, you think, yeah, there’s, you know, there’s large banks, other people, you can go get financial services. But we know we’ve done a lot of work on this. We know that the communities in which we work and serve members would absolutely lose some key supports. They lose some key funding, key networks. And actually many people who do get financial services from us might not get them elsewhere or not in the same way, including we have microlending programs where we support small businesses and really that we’re always trying to innovate on ensuring people are properly banks are getting the right credit, etc. So actually we think there would be a hole. So our purpose holds. So that’s good. But the second side is what are the actions and strategies that are in place for the long term to keep adjusting and delivering on what members need to ensure that we have the profitability that we need for that long term. And that is where we do need to adjust 100 percent from what our digital offerings are, how we do our processes, how we strategize around new things like open banking, changing member needs of brands, online call centers, you know, how do we do that? And that’s actually quite a lot of transformation for an organization. You know, on the one hand it’s a continuation and these aren’t new trends, but it’s a big lift to do that. So we definitely have to keep adjusting those strategies to be where we need to be in 10 years to serve our members.

Andrew Dooner: Christine, If I can ask a lot of what Vancity is known for in the market is being a purpose driven organization, I’d be quite keen to hear what does it mean for you and for your team to be a purpose driven organization?

Christine Bergeron: So I’ll maybe just start with a bit of context because it’s been a purpose driven organization from its founding. Over the decades, Vancity has always had some key pillars around social inclusion, environmental sustainability and co-operative principles. They’ve evolved, of course, around what goes under that and what are the key issues really facing society in the moment. But those haven’t changed all that much. So it’s why we’ve had so many firsts over the decades. And it is about what’s the current external environment? What does that mean today from that purpose lens? I think at the end of the day, it’s removing the frame that these are separate elements, that you’ve got some impacting community over here and over here you’re trying to make some money. It’s the integrated approach to thinking about people, planet and profit. Like truly balanced in terms of how you think about it. So for us, that’s like every business decision. It’s an operational decision. It’s hiring decisions, procurement. They all take that lens and it’s why over the years we’ve continued to report on that. We’ve had integrated reporting for a while. We’ve got our climate reporting because they’re equally important to our financials. They’re one in the same. In that sense, obviously numbers are different from other aspects, but it’s removing that belief that they’re in separate sides and that you’re just donating some money over here. It’s really embedded in business strategy.

Andrew Dooner: So if I can ask a follow up question on that. If you think about your anchor as being a purpose driven organization, do you feel like that helps your ability to kind of stay relevant in changing times, or does it create constraints in terms of your ability to be flexible and move?

Christine Bergeron: I think it keeps us focused on back to that point of, you know, why do we exist and hence why do we need to transform? It’s not for the sake of it, it’s to keep filling a need in the market and that has shifted over the decades that Vancity has been around. You know, it’s been over 76 years, and unfortunately there are continue to be social issues, environmental issues that have changed but that continue to need focus and attention. So I think it keeps us grounded. Of course, there are always constraints in the industry that you’re in, but I don’t think the purpose creates the constraint. I think that definitely keeps us grounded.

Andrew Doone: You know, if you were giving advice to individuals or teams that are looking to really double down on purpose as an organization, what advice would you give them?

Christine Bergeron: My perspective is to always step back and think about the levers you have in an organization and the industry you’re in. So what is it that you can do to make an impact in your community? What’s that purpose? And so, for example, you know, with Vancity, even though we’ve been purpose-led, we still have to step back every so often and say, okay, what are the levers now and where do we lean in? So for us, we finance others. So the lever is around our lending, the levers around wealth management. In other industries, your lever is much more focused, perhaps on your supply chain. It might be more focused on just different stakeholders and community. And I think that gives you a framework to start with, because often people say, I don’t know where to start. There’s so much to do. How do we figure that out? And the best way from my experience in working with quite a few other organizations is to think about your key levers of impact.

Andrew Dooner: So one question I wanted to follow up on is whether it’s globally or simply outside the walls of this office tower, we see a broad range of what I characterize as really mixed signals, right, economics, geopolitically, socially, environmentally. There’s a lot of kind of mixed signals of what’s going on close to home and overseas. The risk of boiling it down to, you know,a single question. I’d love to get your perspective of are we on track?

Christine Bergeron: Are we on track? That is a big question. I guess, you know, it would be hard to look at all the data, you know, specific to climate and say we’re on track, but I wouldn’t want it to come across as, you know, a negative response either, because I do think that there’s been significant progress. And, you know, you need to directionally appreciate that. At least if I think back 10 years ago, the conversations, the topics, the understanding of the issues, they were certainly not front and center in the business world. And so that has changed substantially. Do we need to keep leaning in? Yeah. Do we need to go faster? Yeah, I would say so, especially around climate. And certainly climate’s not separate from all these other issues, but it’s one that, you know, you can measure a little bit more easily than some of the social elements, but it is ensuring and thinking about climate in the broader sense of ensuring people aren’t left behind, which is a lot of our focus. So I guess if the question was advice, I think yeah, go faster, push harder, embed it more deeply into your business. And I guess actually the advice is maybe not totally just for business leaders. You know, it’s for those who own stock, the shareholders of companies, consumers, you know, we’re seeing a big shift that people are demanding more change. You know, you wear a lot of hats as an individual, right? You’re a citizen. So you vote, you’re a consumer, you’re a shareholder, you’ve got investments and you know, you’ve got a role in a company. Even if you’re not a CEO, you’re an employee who can make a difference. And so I think my main comment is use every hat you have, use every lever and keep going.

Andrew Doone: One of the things that that’s come up over the course of our interview is, you know, this notion of ensuring that people are included in the change, as well as, this notion of some people potentially being left behind as we transition. I’d really love to get your perspective on what are some of the risks that you see as you go through your day to day work and as you and your team think about the future, this idea of, you know, who might get left behind and how.

Christine Bergeron: We think about this a lot because it’s easier to think about, okay, how do we come up with a way to help people buy an electric vehicle. But there’s a lot of assumptions that go into that around, well, what’s your income level and, you know, do you even own a vehicle, and are you on transit or not, and what does that look like? And it tends to help certain demographics that still aren’t fully and properly represented at decision making tables. So we think about it in the context of how do we as a credit union with members who are broadly across all demographics from, you know, if you took income levels, age groups, racial backgrounds, it’s fully diverse. What can we bring forward as innovations and support for, in the form of products, that will help create a more inclusive environment? And so we’ve been doing some little things that we’re trying to see, okay, can we scale that everything from giving people free consultation around how do you retrofit your home? So of course, that supports people who are homeowners, right? So that’s not necessarily helping if you’re a renter. How do we then support those who are doing the buildings where people are renting the units to get those down to net zero? So we’re looking at different net zero pilot programs with developers on the nonprofit side of affordable housing. How do we keep thinking through climate resilient, affordable housing and bringing those pieces together? And there are a lot of great people in community thinking about these things too, telling us whether what we’re trying to put forward is working or not. So the risk is that otherwise you’ve got a very large percentage of the population that’s not going to be able to adapt. So we recently did studies that said, you know, in BC, one in three people were impacted by climate related events the last two years. So one in three. And when you think about that, we’ve had floods, heat domes, fires. So it’s not totally surprising. And of those over 50 percent feel high financial stress. High financial stress is, you know, a tipping point. You don’t say high financial stress unless you’re really close to the line. And so the concern is, as these climate related events keep happening, those who don’t have the means to adapt, what are they going to do? Right. And so you’re going to see that the impacts are on those who have less financial means, really. And so we keep trying to think about how do we do our best, our part, to at least minimize that.

Andrew Dooner: One of the things that we’ve observed, certainly over the course of our CEO surveys over time is changing importance of, you know, what some would call the ESG agenda. One argument that’s been put forward is that sometimes people view ESG or climate as more of a luxury good. When the economy is strong, it’s absolutely time to take action. What’s your sentiment based on your interactions with peers, other CEOs? Is this time different? Are we in a different place?

Christine Bergeron: I do think it’s a little bit different this time. And here’s my reason for why, others might disagree. I think if you speak about ESG just broadly and use and throw that term around, then no, you know, that’s going to become the trend, the fad move in and out and it becomes politicized, which is not helpful. I think the concept of ESG from where it came from, was always about a risk framework, and it was around assessing environmental risks, social risk, governance risks on a company’s financial performance. And I think that methodology has actually really meant to minimize risk broadly. It was never really meant to determine how much impact, positive impact you are actually having in the world. So this is where I think people have been using ESG in a variety of ways to say, what’s your ESG strategy versus is ESG as a risk framework? I think it’s a little bit different now because as an example, and if you think internationally people are reporting on it, they’re being regulated on it. People are seeing the physical transition risks of climate or feeling the impacts. Individuals, as I just said, you know, one in three, they’re feeling the impacts themselves. And so then that becomes definitely more momentum for change, right? When individuals start to understand this super abstract concept of, you know, a changing climate, when it actually affects them, then they’re like, Oh, I get that now. Right. So I think from a business perspective. If you are thinking about the long term of your business and you’re not thinking about climate risk as one of those broad risks, I mean, I would be surprised if a company is not doing that given the data we’re seeing and the impacts that we’ve seen. So I do think is a bit different because of the international standards coming out, the regulations coming out, as financial institutions need to start disclosing emissions that will trickle down to companies and how do they then disclose and how do they get to, you know, again, you get all the way down to the more granular level. Now, does disclosing and reporting, you know, get us to change we need? Not in and of itself, right. That simply lets you know the risks. And but again, as leaders and organizations and CEOs and citizens, you’re now thinking about that longer term. Okay. If you know those are the risks, what are you doing to mitigate them? So I do think it’s different. And certainly those at the table, the conversations that people are having, those were not happening 10 years ago.

Andrew Dooner: So, Christine, oftentimes we see the notion of being a purpose driven organization or an ESG driven organization and a profitable organization being placed as that of attention or at odds with each other. Can you talk to me about your perspective on that issue and how you and your team navigate some of those tensions?

Christine Bergeron: So we don’t view it as a tension. I think that’s where, probably, we’re a bit different in that they’re really not at odds when we think about our decision making. From an organizational perspective, you typically will have more productive, engaged team members when you’re thinking about all those different stakeholders that, you know, make up your worlds as an organization. If you’re paying attention to each of those, that includes environment, that includes you, for us, our members, that includes other stakeholders along the way, you could think that your supply chain, you know, on and on, that makes for a better business. There’s been more and more research, you know, showing that again, over the long term right. From a quarter to quarter perspective, I fully appreciate organizations that were, you know, we’re not public. We don’t have quarterly reporting. I fully appreciate the additional complexity of a public company. So in a way, we’re lucky we don’t have that. We have members who are very clear on what they want from their credit union, and that’s to serve them, of course, to bring really strong financial products to them and to contribute to the community in which they live and work. So for us, there’s no tension. Does it mean that sometimes our decisions are more complex? Sure. I’ve been in organizations. I ran a hedge fund, you know. I know what it’s like when, you know, your key focus is profit. It’s actually sometimes a simpler decision matrix than if you’re really trying to ensure you’re thinking about all aspects and who’s impacted. And that’s where, you know, earlier when I was saying we think about that broadly in our decisions around procurement as an example and employee benefits, it’s always balancing that out. So do we need to make money? 100 percent, right. To be sustainable for the long term, we need to do that. We need to do that in order to reinvest in technology, to give our members what they need. But it’s not about maximizing that profit at any cost. And I think that’s the subtlety that people don’t always appreciate, because sometimes people think we’re a not for profit, like we’re not not for profit. We do need to make money and we need to make enough to reinvest and to give back. But it’s not maximizing for the sake of that.

Andrew Dooner: Very helpful perspective. So before we conclude the episode, Christine, I did want to ask, do you have any messages or advice for listeners to consider, whether it comes down to how to be a purpose driven organization, how to think about their role in society, how to think about some of the topics we talked about around balancing a short term versus a long term?

Christine Bergeron: I guess my advice would be if you mean it, then think about the levers you have as an organization to have the greatest impact in your community. And when you do that, my experience is that you focus in, you start to allocate resources differently and ultimately you are thinking about the long term impacts that you can have as an organization. And again, from my experience, my perspective, that has almost always meant better results over the long term. So that would be my advice.

Andrew Dooner: Christine, I really appreciate you taking the time to be here with us and with our listeners today. Thanks again for an inspiring discussion and for sharing your insights on what it means to be a purpose driven organization, how to navigate an increasingly complicated and kind of complex economic and social environment, as well as how you and your team really wrestle with some of the big challenges that you face on a daily basis to strike that balance between the short and the long term. So thanks again for being here.

Christine Bergeron: Thanks for having me. 

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About CEO Viewpoints

This podcast is a mini-series of Shift and is dedicated to discussing Canadian insights from PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey. The survey explored a central question facing executives today: how to manage today’s pressing issues while staying ahead of long-term challenges. In each episode, we’ll hear from CEOs from both Canada and around the world on how they’re striking a balance between these competing pressures during this period of heightened uncertainty. Listen as they describe what they’re doing to stay ahead of these trends and equip their organizations to thrive both now and in the future.

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