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Building consensus on large infrastructure projects

In this episode of Shift, Ron Jaikaran, Director of Commercial Projects at Infrastructure Ontario discusses Ontario’s Accelerated High-Speed Internet Program. Ron discusses the opportunities and challenges in undertaking such a large project and how Infrastructure Ontario is managing various partnerships at the municipal and provincial levels.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi. Welcome to Shift, a PwC Canada podcast series. Having a strategic vision for where you're going next can be a challenge. Just saying transformation doesn't make it happen, and making an investment doesn't mean you'll automatically capture its full value. We're hearing firsthand from industry leaders on how they're making strategic transformations a priority. I'm your host, Jon Finkelstein, Executive Creative Director of PwC Canada. Welcome to another episode of Shift. Today, we're diving into Ontario's groundbreaking initiative, the accelerated high speed internet program. Spearheaded by the Ontario government's historic $4 billion investment. We're fast tracking to become a fully connected province by 2025 and redefining what digital access means in Canada. In the spotlight today, we've got Ron Jaikaran, director of commercial projects, Infrastructure Ontario. He's one of the strategic minds from Infrastructure Ontario driving this incredible transformation. Now, Ron and I are going to deep dive into how this historic investment isn't just changing the game for unserved and underserved communities, but also setting a new benchmark for connectivity, innovation and economic growth. Hi Ron, thanks for being here and giving us an insider's take on making digital inclusivity a reality. Welcome to Shift. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what your role is at IO.

Ron Jaikaran: Jon, thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity. A little bit about me. I've spent about ten years in government in several capacities, primarily in finance and treasury roles. I've led the development of multiple annual provincial budgets. I've supported the government with securing strategic investments that support economic growth and development, and later decided to shift towards working on energy and electricity sector policy at the Ontario Financing Authority. I then transitioned to Infrastructure Ontario, which is a crown agency of the province that partners with both public and private sectors to deliver all major public infrastructure projects in Ontario. In my current role here at IO, I lead the delivery and execution of the Accelerated High Speed Internet program, which is part of Ontario government's commitment of nearly $4 billion to connect every region of the province to reliable, high speed internet by the end of 2025. It's the single largest investment in high speed internet in any province by any government in Canadian history.

Jon Finkelstein: That's a really large number. What was the reaction to that number? I'm really curious.

Ron Jaikaran: Yeah, I think it demonstrated the government's commitment to getting the job done. Our geography, our terrain is quite unique in Ontario. We often think of the urban centers, but there are a lot of remote and rural regions. So it really demonstrated the government's commitment to investing in this project.

Jon Finkelstein: With such a significant investment, what are the primary goals of the program for Ontario communities, especially when we're thinking about unserved and underserved communities?

Ron Jaikaran: Yeah, we had a couple objectives that we wanted to achieve. It's really about enabling access to high speed internet. So that's 5010 service to all parts of the province by the end of 2025. Part of that commitment was to prioritize fiber connections. It is more reliable, long lasting infrastructure that we intentionally prioritize to ensure that the government's investment was being optimized.

Jon Finkelstein: With a project of this magnitude, I can't even get my head wrapped around 4 billion. That's a lot of money, obviously, a lot of technology, and it takes a lot of people. What were some of the teams involved for the collaboration with this change, and how did you go about wrangling that? 

Ron Jaikaran: So through our program, we're aiming to reach up to 266,000 of the hardest to reach unserved and underserved homes and businesses in over 300 municipalities across the province. Now, when you think of our stakeholder ecosystem that we need to collaborate with, it's well over 500 delivery partners, all with their own requirements and processes and challenges and biases. And we needed to work with all of them to ensure alignment. Ultimately, we contract with a total of eight internet service providers national, regional and local players. The projects are being built, as I mentioned in over 300 municipalities across Ontario, each with their own capital plans, their own permitting processes for installing fiber in the ground. We have over 60 electricity utility companies in Ontario, with a handful of them covering the majority of the province, and they're regulated by our arm's length regulator, the Ontario Energy Board. We are pulling together multiple government ministries, departments and agencies. We're working with engineering, procurement and construction firms and much more. And I was really at the center, ensuring that the right connections are being made and information and data flowing between all parties at all times.

Jon Finkelstein: You're like an internet hub.

Ron Jaikaran: Definitely.

Jon Finkelstein: Obviously, I work on projects that have lots of people but 500 partners down to aid in different operating models and capital plans. What was the hardest part about that?

Ron Jaikaran: Really, the hardest part was getting everyone in line, building consensus and trying to get people to grow in the right direction. That was a massive undertaking. It's a huge change management exercise that we've been undertaking for the past several years, and pulling all those people together, as I said, with varying perspectives, biases and challenges was a really, really difficult task.

Jon Finkelstein: I'll ask you the hard question on that one. What advice or what tips would you have? Or is there any specific areas that you like? Hey, if you're going to do something like this? You want to be thinking this way?

Ron Jaikaran: Yeah, definitely. A perspective that IO brings to all of its projects is that private sector lens to tackle some of the government's toughest challenges. One of the things we did early on was engage the market and engage them in a couple of ways to begin to identify some of those pain points and develop solutions collaboratively. The first way was around market soundings that helped us design our competitive procurement process and reverse auctions that would foster fair and open competition. And the second was a more technical form of market engagement, where we brought together representatives from internet service providers, municipalities, utilities, government departments, and we created a forum to discuss a number of topics. So bringing the market's view early, their input early into the problem solving was critical. We heard clearly from the market that government subsidies alone weren't enough to help solve the problems. They were important, but there needed to be rule changes, new processes to come in place, and those also added significant value.

Jon Finkelstein: Okay, first of all, we need to figure out how to align and get everybody rowing in the same direction, which must have been extremely difficult. I'm just trying to imagine what some of those meetings might have been like. And how do you wrangle that many people together? I'm just really as an aside, just as an interested party. How does that happen? What magic technology might you use?

Ron Jaikaran: It was no easy task. We used quite a combination of tactics to do that. One of the key enablers that made this a success was that we had government partners that were willing to challenge status quo thinking and make changes that helped reduce red tape. We've worked through political offices, our connections with internet service providers. We had commercially confidential meetings, market soundings where we invited participants. It was multi-pronged in the way we engaged sectors and depending on topics, we tried to have the right stakeholders in the room so they didn't have to be in every conversation, but were aware of the gambit of topics that we were discussing.

Jon Finkelstein: Working with a government who was open to new models or changing the way we do things. I mean, I read some stuff around some of the different acts that were like the reducing red tape act, etc., etc.. Ron, I'm curious whether or not did Covid and the impact that the pandemic had on us and our reliance on technology, did that have any impact on how government responded to the need and how it may have been more flexible in terms of red tape and doing things quickly?

Ron Jaikaran: So many of us don't really think about broadband or having access to high speed internet, because it's always at our fingertips, like you mentioned. In today's economy, access to fast and reliable internet is an essential service that should always be available to everyone, no matter where they live. That being said, there's still a large digital divide in Ontario and particularly in those remote and rural communities. And just like you said, the pandemic really amplified that issue when governments had to implement public safety measures that saw most of their businesses and schools and other vendors close in physical locations, and there were many parts of the province that had poor or no access to high speed internet. And as a result, many Ontarians were unable to work from home or attend school or access virtual health care services. So that really led the government to make significant investments in building broadband infrastructure, and we're seeing it around the world. That was critical for the government to consider. Broadband services and access to it, help bring greater digital and social inclusivity, enable stronger participation in our digital economy, fosters economic development. Ontario, Ontarians can stay in touch with family and friends. They have access to those public services, operate their businesses, and work from anywhere in the province. And that will help create jobs and drive economic growth, especially in those rural and remote communities that didn't have any access.

Jon Finkelstein: So managing these tight timescales, though, that had to be a challenge on its own. I mean, you have to change your traditional approaches. You probably have a bigger reliance on real time data. Can you take us through a little bit about how that went down and how you managed to make every second count?

Ron Jaikaran: Absolutely. So when you think about a project of this scale and how large Ontario really is, it's about one and a half times bigger than the state of Texas. Traditionally, a project of this magnitude can take over ten years to build and we're compressing those timelines into just three years. As you can imagine, you need to think creatively, come up with a series of innovations. And that's what we did. We tried to put them in place to get the projects completed on time. We had, beginning with the procurement, we had to find ISP partners that were willing to build these projects quickly under these tight timelines. What we did was we designed a two stage procurement process that featured the first ever large scale reverse auction process in Canada. What we did was we divided the province up into about 90 service areas and through our mapping and modeling, we assigned government subsidy prices to each of those regions, and we allowed internet service providers to bid for government subsidies in a reverse auction format, meaning the lowest bid for government subsidies would win. So it allowed us to optimize the way government subsidies would be utilized and discover the best subsidy levels under this competitive tension. That allowed us to streamline the negotiations we needed to undertake, and quickly execute contracts to give our counterparties enough time to get into the field and start working. That being said, we also need to introduce a suite of innovative tools to help accelerate broadband builds. As I mentioned, the subsidies weren't enough. What we heard from our stakeholder engagements was that there were other tools and processes and and legislative changes that would help accelerate the bill. You talked a little bit about technology. An integral part of our program was centered around an innovative tool called the Broadband One Window Platform. It was designed to enhance coordination and engagement with public and private sector partners. I mentioned over 500 stakeholders. So this tool really allowed us to do that. It's an ArcGIS online platform that integrates geospatial mapping, analytics, cloud infrastructure. It's the first digital platform in Ontario history that was legally mandated to address some of the barriers and streamline communication among stakeholders. It allows us to facilitate permitting between our eight ISP counterparties and the over 300 municipalities and over 60 utilities across Ontario. That platform allows us to enable reporting and dashboarding, so we can track the progress of every project at an extremely granular level. So it's brought a whole new layer of transparency that governments never otherwise had. To assist stakeholders that needs support in carrying out the work we also put in place what we call our technical assistance team. We brought together experts from the municipal utility sector, urban planning experts, engineers, broadband and network design experts, and many more that can help our delivery partners with any and all challenges they face, whether that may be around permits or design work, or even dispute resolution. As you can imagine with that many stakeholders, many disputes come up. And maybe I'll give you a little more on the legislation if that's okay.

Jon Finkelstein: No, I want to hear about the legislation. Hey. With the reverse auction being the first time that happened in Canada for this type of thing?

Ron Jaikaran: Yeah.

Jon Finkelstein: What was the reaction from ISPs when they saw how the procurement process was being run?

Ron Jaikaran: Part of what we did in designing that procurement process was what we called market signals. So we worked with the ISPs and and in a sense, co-developed and designed the process to ensure that we had a competitive market that ISPs were willing and able to participate fairly in. So we took their perspectives early on in the design of the program. So it wasn't a surprise. And we had great participation in that reverse auction.

Jon Finkelstein: That's that's a lovely way at it. To make sure that when you go out there with an ask that the ask is clear to the people you're asking. What a brilliant way to save a lot of time.

Ron Jaikaran: That's right. And we wanted to ensure that we set expectations with the market. So we also shared what the contractual terms would look like ahead of time. We created a new construct called pay for performance contracts. So you wouldn't get paid until access was delivered, which is different than some of the traditional government programs. So that was another unique innovation that we had. But again, we tested that with the market and ensured that the terms of the contracts were somewhat palatable to them. Again, that was another tool we used and another process that we undertook to speed up our negotiations and execute contracts quickly. So the expectations in the market were all set well in advance. 

Jon Finkelstein: It just goes to show you that when something urgent is needed, you can really wrangle a lot of different people together to solve an important problem. And that includes, as you were saying, legislation. So I think that you wanted to talk a bit more of that and tell me a little bit about what that was like in terms of how the Ontario government went around to revolutionizing or transforming its legislation to pave the way.

Ron Jaikaran: So we held a number of technical working group sessions. We pulled together municipal, the utility experts, industry associations, various parties to talk about all the challenges associated with building broadband infrastructure, whether that be burying the fiber in the ground along the side of a road or attaching to pole infrastructure. And through those technical working group sessions, we came up with over 30 potential recommendations to government, some of it legislative and regulatory changes, other process improvements, all designed to remove and reduce barriers. And we presented that recommendation package to government. And as I mentioned, they were very willing and supportive of removing and reducing those barriers. And to be honest, some of these barriers have been in place for decades, over 50 years. And we had a government that was willing to make change. And that led to the implementation and amendments of over five pieces of key pieces of legislation. We implemented a Building Broadband Faster Act. We made changes to the Ontario Energy Board Act. Some of those changes that were introduced created new service standards and timelines for municipalities to approve permits. Utility companies were required to grant access to their poll infrastructure in a certain time frame. Locate companies had to issue locates under a certain period of time. So all of these little aspects helped speed up processes that were otherwise challenges in the past. We also mandated data sharing through our legislation so that stakeholders could share their infrastructure data and facilitate better and earlier network and route planning across the province. And finally, we worked with the private sector to introduce new processes and work methods that made it easier and less costly for internet service providers to attach to electricity poles. So all of these measures together our broadband one window, technical assistance team, the legislative package, all of that was put in place to help reduce and remove barriers that have plagued the industries for decades.

Jon Finkelstein: I can only imagine that there's no going back now. No. But in all seriousness, though, that is a massive transformation just in terms of process and how things are done. How does that carry over into the future, and what lessons do you take forward from this experience, and how do you apply that to the next one?

Ron Jaikaran: In our case, the government set a very tight timeline, so we knew we had to pull all parties together. Having a clearly defined problem statement was critical, and partners that were willing to undertake change and adopt new processes was critical in in making this a success. And that early and often engagement with our delivery partners, it's critical. I think that's one of the key success factors that should be carried on in any project that we deliver.

Jon Finkelstein: Cool. So technology continues to evolve as you better than anybody else knows. How do you plan a program like this to ensure that the infrastructure that you're choosing, the infrastructure that you're building today, is going to be useful and meet future needs?

Ron Jaikaran: Yeah, and that was one of the critical principles of our, our program, making sure that government dollars were going towards long lasting future proof infrastructure. And I think a big part of that was having access to reliable, good quality data. And that was a big challenge for us. We had to work with the federal government to ensure we had the latest broadband coverage data. I mentioned that we implemented data sharing legislation that allowed us to gather data from municipalities, utilities, and we we housed that all in our platform to make sure we had the best understanding of the landscape, existing pole infrastructure. But pulling together all those data elements and sharing it with internet service providers allowed for better route planning, faster route planning, and we think will help optimize the way broadband is deployed in Ontario.

Jon Finkelstein: Thinking about this massive undertaking, I'd love to know what do you think this means? What kind of impact is this going to have on citizens?

Ron Jaikaran: It brings greater digital and social inclusivity, and it enables stronger participation for citizens and in the digital economy. When you think about all the services that are available online, whether that's virtual health care or education, taking courses online, renewing your driver's license or setting up a business, registering your business, there's so many different things that we do online now. Having access to internet enables that, and especially high speed internet in those rural communities where they might not have those opportunities.

Jon Finkelstein: The interesting thing for me is I always think about, oh, the rural communities are now connected to us, but actually we're also now connected to them. And there's probably a whole swath of stuff, economic cap, like you've kind of opened up a whole other world now. Our whole other world is opening up, which is great for everybody.

Ron Jaikaran: That's right. And with the way the world is going, the Internet of Things becoming a trend, AI, ChatGPT is extremely popular. Those parts of the province will now have access to all that and it levels the playing field, and ensures equity and accessibility across our province.

Jon Finkelstein: This would not have been possible without the government, without Infrastructure Ontario quarterbacking this thing or organizing it, leading it.

Ron Jaikaran: And when you think about those communities, they're often lower population densities that don't make it economical for ISPs to invest in broadband infrastructure. So there's a market failure there. And that's where the government subsidies and rule changes have helped bring broadband to communities that would have never otherwise received service.

Jon Finkelstein: As an optimistic person by nature, I believe difficult things are worth doing. And when you come up against a thing like this where it's like it seems insurmountable, how do you even go about doing that? But it gives me great optimism to think that we can pool all these different people together, including government, to come up with a way to address a really important problem in our province.

Ron Jaikaran: It shows what we can do if we have that combined goal or that common goal in mind. And it really sets a precedent for other projects, opens up opportunities for things like digital twins, where, you know, if we have better data, it helps facilitate better earlier planning and coordination of infrastructure projects. It makes it easier rather than having data dispersed among stakeholders, you have it all in one place. It just makes it more efficient to plan infrastructure projects and deliver them across the province.

Jon Finkelstein: So I'm curious, during all of this transformation that's going on here, is there a story or a particular moment that was challenging when you weren't sure how you're going to overcome it, but somehow the team did?

Ron Jaikaran: I think we had a lot of those bumps along the way. I think when we started this project, we weren't even sure how we were going to build a competitive process to have participants willing to bid for projects, and that was a major challenge for us. As we continue to go down this path of building projects, new issues arise. There are new barriers to connecting to poles or building in municipalities that are coming up. So that's where our technical assistance team has really helped resolve some of those challenges. There wouldn't be a mechanism to solving those challenges. It usually ends up being letters to the minister or mayors or political representatives to help triage these issues, so that the technical assistance team is really helped alleviate some of the challenges that we've faced.

Jon Finkelstein: Ron. Now that IO has done and is doing this, you're on track for 2025. Do you think people will kind of hold this up as an example of anything is possible? So when faced with something that seems really difficult. Do you think people go, well, we'll look at what Infrastructure Ontario did with high speed internet. We could do this.

Ron Jaikaran: Absolutely. It set a precedent for what could be done in such a short amount of time. We've had other jurisdictions reach out to us, asking us, hey, how did you pull this off? IO is being seen as a leading organization in tackling some of the biggest and most complex problems that the government faces. A big portion of the work is around delivering major infrastructure projects. You think about hospitals and schools, but you may not think about broadband infrastructure. You may not think of other unique challenges that governments face. So IO is being tapped on the shoulder to do many projects, and that's very exciting.

Jon Finkelstein: I was looking at one of the articles on the website that kind of identifies a lot of the different technologies, from satellites to whatever, and it is quite breathtaking to think about all of the different pieces that go into something like this. I mean, this really is incredible. All right. What's next on the horizon?

Ron Jaikaran: While our reverse auctions were a great process for connecting the regions of Ontario, there were still pockets that received no bids through our auction. It may have been a result of just challenging geography. No existing infrastructure or government subsidies weren't sufficient. What we did was we designed a brand new procurement for satellite internet service. So those most rural and remote regions of the province, we've created a competitive process the first time ever to procure a satellite internet provider that will provide internet service at 5010 to those geographies.

Jon Finkelstein: Hey, what does 5010 mean?

Ron Jaikaran: 50 megabit per second download and ten megabit per second upload. 

Jon Finkelstein: Speeds and feeds, I love it. Cool, cool. With a project of this magnitude, how do you go through the organization and agree on change? How do you build consensus? 

Ron Jaikaran: Yeah, that's a great question. As I mentioned, engaging the various groups early and often helped demonstrate our willingness to listen and advocate for process improvements and implementation of new tools that would help make this project successful. It isn't always an easy task, and we found that information doesn't necessarily flow efficiently or effectively through some organizations. It was important that we connected at all levels of the organizations that we were working with. So we worked with senior leaders to ensure that we had buy-in and commitment to delivering these projects. And we also worked with the folks on the ground, the ones that were actually putting fiber in the ground or attaching pole. We had to make sure all parts of these organizations were aligned and essentially rolling in the right direction. And I would say we're now experiencing the fruits of all that labour. We're seeing internet service providers engage their stakeholders early. They're sharing information, they're having dialogs. And this is helping really to iron out issues earlier before they escalate to disputes. We're seeing planning and permitting activities happening earlier, approvals taking place within the new legislative timelines. And we're starting to see connections being made already. So people are starting to receive their internet connections. It was quite an effort. But we're starting to see the fruits of our labor.

Jon Finkelstein: Wow. You really have thought of everything to make sure that the experience is good, that people live up to their commitments, that it's done in a timely fashion, an unbelievable amount of orchestration that went in. Congratulations.

Ron Jaikaran: Yeah. Thank you.

Jon Finkelstein: Well, that's the end of another amazing Shift podcast. Ron, thank you so much for taking the time and sharing with us this incredible story about how you and Infrastructure Ontario and ISPs and the government all came together to help deliver high speed internet all across the province by 2025. Thank you so much for being a guest on Shift.

Ron Jaikaran: Thanks again for having me, Jon. It was a pleasure.

Jon Finkelstein: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift, a PwC Canada podcast series. If you've enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, you can subscribe to Shift on Spotify, Apple or Google Podcasting platforms. You can find more details at Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time. 

Navigating large-scale transformation as a business leader

In our newest episode of the Shift podcast, Pierre Miron, Executive Vice-President, Chief Growth Officer Canadian Operations at Industrial Alliance, discusses the importance of aligning strategy, workforce and culture to build an enterprise fit for the future. 

Jon Finkelstein: Hi, welcome to Shift, a PwC Canada podcast series. Having a strategic vision for where you're going next can be a challenge. Just saying "transformation" doesn't make it happen. And making an investment doesn't mean you'll automatically capture its full value. We're hearing firsthand from industry leaders on how they're making strategic transformations a priority. I'm your host, Jon Finkelstein, Executive Creative Director of PwC Canada. 

Jon Finkelstein: Hi, and welcome to another episode of Shift. Hope everybody's doing well. Today we're talking about transformation for growth and efficiency. As everything continues to change around us, hello, and the new technologies disrupt how we live, transformation is an even hotter topic than it's ever been. So much is at stake. Organizations are super focused on integrating the organization and aligning to their strategy. Now, it's not easy. I know, I know. I know. But you know me. Difficult things are worth doing. And few know this better than my guest today, Pierre Miron. He's Executive Vice President, Chief Growth Officer, Canadian Operations at Industrial Alliance. Now, Pierre has held a number of high ranking positions at iA since 2018. He supervises all Canadian business segments, including wealth management, individual insurance, savings and retirement, group benefits and retirement solutions, global client experience, dealer services, as well as subsidies in auto and home insurance, auto finance and special projects. All this to say, Pierre, you know a thing or two because you've seen a thing or two, and that gives you a really unique perspective on these massive enterprise transformations. Pierre, welcome to Shift. 

Pierre Miron: Thank you for inviting me. Very pleased to be with you this afternoon. 

Jon Finkelstein: It's so good to have you here now. So, Pierre, I'd love you to share a little bit about your journey at iA. You started as CIO to CTO and now you're the Chief Growth Officer. That's huge. Tell us a little bit about that. 

Pierre Miron: Yeah. Thank you. Will be pleased to describe a bit about this journey. So I joined the company back in September 2018. I got two roles at that time, Global Chief Information Officer, as well as Global Digital Strategy Officer, because we thought at that time that both were tightly coupled together. We saw that, okay, there was a need for changing a little bit that where we were providing I.T. services to all of the entire entities of the group. So that was the first time that this company hired a, what we call a global CIO. But more than that, giving the responsibility of establishing the digital strategy of the overall company to a guy like me was quite unusual. And we started to execute on this and we put together all the people coming from all the different sectors that we're in, that you described earlier, by starting to work on establishing, what will be the, let's call that the digital ambition of the company. It took us a year to get it done, while at the same time I was changing or transforming the I.T. business model in order to start delivering on that journey. So we took a year to come up with a huge investment plan because at the end of the day, when you decide to enter into a digital transformation, it would require a huge I.T. investment. There was two major things that we came up with. The first thing was catching up on an investment that we should have made earlier. Basically, modernization of business platform. And the second thing was about what would be the targets, the specific target for each business units in order to become much more digital. And we had to pick up, I would say, or to select what would be the most valuable thing that we should have done, we should do, into that digital journey. 

Jon Finkelstein: I'm curious, though, when you started off, and I ask a lot of anecdotal questions or just tangential questions, when- did you think a year in planning? How did that line up to how long you thought it would take? 

Pierre Miron: Yeah, to be honest, I didn't know what was the starting point. It took me a month or two to figure out the overall assessment, I would say. I came up earlier in that process of transforming the I.T. business model because I was quite sure that we needed to change the way we were providing I.T. services. So we started to transform the I.T. business model, earlier in that process, we started to invest on some specific thing that we thought that was beneficial for the company, such as improving significantly the employee experience and the anecdote related to this, we did that a year before the pandemic comes in, and guess what? We were ready to face the pandemic situation. Over the weekend, we've been able to make sure that all the employees were able to work even though they were not present at the office, because we made that investment a year before. But the most complicated part was on the client side, as opposed to doing some innovation on the employee experience side. 

Jon Finkelstein: Technology plays a huge role in enterprise transformations. Pierre, you come from, I.T. Tell us a little bit about the I.T. journey and give us some insight about what you were thinking about. 

Pierre Miron: Yeah, I used to say one thing. I.T. is business, business is I.T. Especially in the finance world. So yes, you're right. I.T. is a big enabler of this transformation. So when I joined the company back in 2018, we made some changes within, let's call that the I.T. posture, or the strategic direction of I.T. One of the key things that we decided to change was the notion of building software. Because we're quite good at building software. But I said to myself, “We need to become more of a system integrator as opposed to being a software builder.” The first strategy that we've changed is this notion of buy and build, reuse, buy and build in that order. “Buy,” meaning buying a piece of software as opposed to develop software internally, which was a big shift within I.T. Good adoption by the business, difficult to change the posture within I.T. That's why we changed this, this overall I.T. business model. The other thing that we've made as a huge commitment is going over to cloud for any kind of solution. Cloud first, digital first. That's quite easy to say, but quite complex to change because of the origin of this company. The payoff has been great so far about those two changes. Cloud and digital first, and reuse, buy and build. So for example, we've been using a platform that exists for 50 years, five zero, within the life insurance. So we decided to buy a generic software for all the administration of life insurance policy, which is an Oracle platform run over the cloud. We made a good decision to go over to this, but you could imagine the change that we needed to make, especially I.T. staff because they were used to build software, and tomorrow we're going to configure, as opposed to developing new software. So that's a big shift we're making. The same thing with Salesforce. The same thing with Workday and everything else. So that's why we started to work on the I.T. side in order to get ready for the business transformation, because we needed to change the I.T. posture in that sense. 

Jon Finkelstein: Let's talk a little bit about your role as Chief Growth Officer and what that really means. 

Pierre Miron: Coming back to this digital transformation, we saw at that time an opportunity to leverage one pillar, that was a kind of unusual for this company, that we mean client experience. One of the strengths of this company is distribution network. We see ourselves as a manufacturer of insurance products, and we sell those products through a distribution network, mainly independent distribution network. The real client for us at that time was the advisor as opposed to being the end client that buys our insurance policy. But after talking and talking and talking again and again about this, we came up with this notion of having two different customers. The first one is the division network or the advisor. And the second one is the client. So we said ourself, if we are able to leverage both, meaning being closer to the end client and at the same time continue to leverage this distribution network, we're going to win this fight. So that's basically one of the main pillars of this transformation. So one key thing that we have done is to implement a new business function that we call an umbrella function which is really to enable the client experience across a different business unit that were mostly driven by silo. That was a challenge, I would say. So that's basically one of the main thing that we came up with with this transformation. Having said that, I was the guy in the position to enable the new function by taking over the responsibility of the business units. That's why I came up with with this new role of Chief Growth Officer. So I'm not there to run each business unit independently. I'm there to implement or to leverage, if you wish, this new pillar that we've put in place which has a client experience. 

Jon Finkelstein: I definitely want to talk to you about the client experience, the employee experience. And I actually love as a creative ad guy, I really like the 'invested in you.' That notion of investing in the organization, investing in the people, investing in your clients, investing in the business. It's running through the whole entire organization, which, as I said, as a creative guy I really love. And you start to give it meaning and you start to give it teeth. So as you started to bring all these pieces together, I'd love to hear your thoughts on, because I hear this a lot about the idea between centralized and integrated business models and how that impacts or changes how you can get your transformation done. 

Pierre Miron: You said centralize. I will say a federated model is a bit different. The thing that we are doing right now is trying to avoid making too many changes within each business unit. The umbrella function that we're putting in place, the main function within this client experience is what we call the “growth hub”. It's a combination of people and technology that will enable as much as we can what we could call the next best action related to a transaction we've done with a customer. For example, if we sell a life insurance policy to an advisor, we're going to send out the transaction to this “growth hub”, and the “growth hub” will, with algorithmic, with data, with analytics, with A.I, will determine right away what should be the next best action and send the lead to the appropriate business unit that should process the lead. For example, in that case, we may know that this person owns a home or has a car. I'm going to send a link to the PNC division in order to see, is there an opportunity to cross-sell this customer right away. That's basically one of the main functions of this new hub that we've put in place, which is enable or leveraging as much as we can this client experience. The other thing is to enable a consistent user experience through different business unit, that work across a different business unit that we're in. Which was not the case because all the business unit were run independently prior to this change that we have made. 

Jon Finkelstein: As you work through this period, I'm curious about the cultural shifts, the ramifications, the impact, the reception. Right, because we do tons of change. And how was it for you? How did the employees feel about what was happening? 

Pierre Miron: Prior to go over this transformation, we sat down with the board of directors and the CEO to identify what will be the key success factor of this transformation. And one thing that we came up with was the evolution of the culture. So we made some changes prior to go over this transformation by enabling this culture of collaboration that we were looking for, by also hiring a new CHRO, if you wish, and by enabling this integrated culture within the company to allow me to go over this process. Because otherwise it would have been very difficult. And we got full support from the board and from the CEO as well, and the H.R. committee, because all these pieces were connected together, because that's not my first transformation and each time we go over a transformation, I've tried to identify what will be the key success factor of value transformation like this. And one thing that you said was enabling some aspect of the culture that was key for this transformation. 

Jon Finkelstein: So when you're coming up with your KPIs, I'm curious. Did you have KPIs that were both market facing and internal facing, in terms of that? When you think about KPIs, it has both sides. It's the market facing success of the business, but also measuring and being able to think about adoption and how employees are responding and adopting the transformation, wouldn't you say? 

Pierre Miron: So let's start with the employee, because that's more easy to do, I would say. So we've been monitoring on a monthly basis what we call the pulse survey to get some insight from the employee about the transformation that we were embarking on. We started to act on the feedback that we were collecting on a monthly basis to make sure that, okay, this thing about the culture will be there, right? And we did a huge amount of townhall and huge amount of presentation to explain what will be the key aspect of the target culture that we're looking for. So on one side started to work on this thing. On the other side, we did a lot of stuff, to be honest with you. But one of the key things that we came up with was an external study about the client segmentation. In order to leverage this cross-sell opportunity, we needed to see who is our customer that deals with us right now, because the angle that we had at that time was the angle coming from the advisor, because we didn't have a very specific view of who are the current customer. So some findings that were quite interesting: even though that we are targeting Gen-Z and millennial, for example, these studies showed that we were not there. So in terms of making sure that the offering versus the targeted customer was in line, we came up with this. Maybe we're not at the right place with the advisor because the advisors are selling ourselves what they know. It's not about targeting the client base that we were looking for. So one key thing was about, okay, who will be our future customer? And the other thing we've been able to define some specific KPI related to this global customer experience, such as customer lifetime value. What would be the key success factor that we're going to be monitoring along the way that we were not in the past? Okay. We were monitoring a huge amount of KPIs related to the sales activity through the distribution and was well established, to be honest with you. But on the customer side, NPS, CLV and some specific KPI has been implemented throughout this journey. And we are monitoring right now what would be, and the other thing that we're going to be doing that we don't do right now? For example, in the CLV customer lifetime value, more cross-selling, more product bundling, more pricing strategy and everything else in order to leverage this KPI. So for us, it was new KPI that we didn't have before this transformation that has been eye opener for huge amount of manager, if you wish. 

Jon Finkelstein: For me, it's really interesting to think about how you've taken a holistic or integrated approach to everything in terms of how you're aligning the business, how you're thinking about your customers, how you're cross-selling across all the different offerings that you have, and also making sure that the technology supports it. When you say it like that, it sounds easy. Oh, yeah, we're just going to do all this stuff, sure, and you just basically check a box. But I'm also curious, as you thought about your target consumer and you looked at your offering, did you look at and think about what role partnerships and acquisitions might play in how you service customers and how you continue? 

Pierre Miron: Yeah, that's another angle that we've been working on. So in terms of the growth strategy now, what will be the enabler down the road? Because maybe you're not aware, but we're number one in terms of life insurance policy being sold in Canada, not in terms of the size, but in terms of the volume. So that's a good strength for us. But we're not there in the PNC. We're not there on the group benefits. We're not there yet on the wealth management. So we saw the opportunity to scale a bit more our businesses. So how do we scale those businesses? That's basically the question we're trying to answer. Continue this thing about distribution, but a little bit different than what we used to do. Distribution means, okay, partnership with the independent MGA or a new distribution network. But what about business ecosystem? What about digital ecosystem, for example? How about targeting new clients that we don't have access right now to through the traditional distribution network? So we’re now working on defining this new channel. It could be physical channel or digital channel because of the investment in I.T. that we have made, we have now the ability to buy businesses or block of businesses, and integrate those block of businesses within the technology because we do have the scale capability that we didn't have in the past with the cloud, with everything that we have selected as the business platform. So scales really matter. And this cross-sell opportunity with the growth up, with everything else. Automatically when you buy a block of business, it will fall under this umbrella of the global six, and there we go. We have now an exponential capability with this process. All of these things will contribute to grow the business I would say. With the main core competency that we have in this company. So we're looking a little bit different than what we have done in the past, even though that we've been successful. It's not about being successful, it's about being there for the long run, being sustainable. But looking at the business and the different fashion than what we used to do. 

Jon Finkelstein: That's awesome. From my perspective, it seems so complicated in terms of the variety of tentacles and the businesses, all the different parts of the technology. I can't even imagine how difficult that must have been actually to put all those pieces together and, manufacture support and consent and enthusiasm within the organization. Did it feel overwhelming when you started? Like, did you think that it was possible? Because it seems like such a big undertaking? 

Pierre Miron: Yeah, it's a big undertaking, but it's going to be a journey. It's not going to be done over a year and we've been there for more than 125 years and we want to stay there. That's basically the thing that we are working on. We're looking for the long run. We've conducted a huge amount of study. We look at what's happening in Europe and United States to figure out, are we doing the right things about this notion of what we call 'phygital,' which is a combination of human advisors as well as digital, sophisticated digital tool. We strongly believe that will be the recipe of the future for us. We're not going to be fully digital like some company that decided to go through. We're trying to leverage as much as we can, discuss this client experience and by doing more cross-sell, cross-selling opportunity, if you wish. Being more specific about the operations that we have in front of us related to the client, it's a bit easier because I'm not there to reinvent all the business. I'm there to leverage as much as we can this client experience because we see that as a huge organic growth opportunity, if you wish. 

Jon Finkelstein: I'm assuming that a lot of our listeners are in the midst of transformations as well and, what I'm hearing from you, which is actually really encouraging, is that, A: you don't have to feel like you have to rush. Things don't happen in a year. And being mindful and planning and having executive buy-in all the way down the organization is fundamental. Pierre, there's a huge difference between road mapping and strategy and planning and actually implementing transformation. You know, both sides of it. I'd love to hear a little bit more about the secrets and how you think about implementation and why that's so important. 

Pierre Miron: So in terms of implementation, yeah, you talk about, you're talking about implementation, but to me, one of the key success factors in my career has been the combination of strategy and execution. Meaning that I'm not looking for the best strategy. I'm looking for the strategy that's going to be able to execute in this company. Because at the end of the day, you need to take that into consideration in order to be successful. So coming back to this cultural aspect that we've talked earlier, one of the things that we have done within the executive committee and the board of directors is our ability to debate and to me it was a key success factor to put on the table not only my vision, the vision that everyone that has contributed those workshop and defining the ambition has been put on the table and we've been able to debate and decide that's basically where we are going. To me, that was key to making sure that all my colleagues will be embarking with me in that journey. That was the first thing. Starting to create trust, starting to demonstrate our ability to execute by working together. To me, strategy and execution is key. 

Jon Finkelstein: You and your colleagues basically need to be in lockstep and embrace this together. Can you elaborate a little bit more on the power of effective leadership and its importance in transformation? 

Pierre Miron: Before going into that leadership role, one key thing that I suggested to do in terms of making sure that we create the alignment was to change the compensation formula. Making sure that all of us within the executive committee will be evaluated with the same criteria identity, which was not the case at the beginning of that journey. I said, I don't want to change everything. I want to make sure that what we call the strategic incentive will be the same for everyone within this group. We started to execute on that. And guess what? The year after we cascaded down to the other level of VP because all the people thought that was a good way to align ourselves in that role. So basically some key success factor to be honest with you. In terms of leadership, to me, I don't know how many times I had to communicate, communicate and communicate the vision and the strategy. I can't remember how many times I did some presentation because all those people were very busy about their day to day job. When you have a guy like me that said, okay, we need to transform, we need to change, we need to change, but why do we change? What was the case for change? So I needed to explain very often why we needed changes. 

Jon Finkelstein: If things are good, people don't want to change. They're like ah, this is fine. 

Pierre Miron: Yeah. In my previous job, we face a real crisis. We needed to change. In that situation, there were no crisis. The company's performing well, so why do we need to change? So we needed , we needed not only me, the CEO and the board of director, we spent a huge amount of time explaining why we are making so much changes in this company until the people, “Okay, now I get it. And I'm bargaining on this.” There was a shift, I would say, a year and a half ago about, “Okay, now I understand where you're going, you guys”, because none of those people are of the ability to understand something that is not that clear. Right? Until that is a vision, how do we translate the vision into some concrete action? And what would be the impact on me? So we needed to explain that very often, I would say. So communication has been key, to be honest with you, within that journey. 

Jon Finkelstein: That doesn't surprise me at all. The whole communicate early, communicate often, be clear, be motivational, all that kind of good stuff. You're right. Because it does take some time to get people to really latch on to what it is you're trying to do and honestly, what's in it for them. And being able to articulate that is super important as well. What's the future for Industrial Alliance look like? What kind of key priorities are you looking at as you continue to grow? 

Pierre Miron: So one of the things that we've done is to change the way we were making priorities within that company. We are entering into the second strategic plan in this company. We have fixed some of the business processes that were required to speed up this transformation, such as a priority mechanism, the compensation formula, our ability to execute and so on, and the level of adoption has increased significantly. For example, at the beginning when we came up with this global six function, a lot of people, “Pierre, we don't need that. We've been able to execute without that. Why, why, why do we need to implement?” But we got some insights from, from another company that has gone through the same kind of transformation. And the CEO said, okay, once you start executing on this, once the people will see the benefits, there will be no return back. And here we go. Now we have entry into there is no return back. So that's the kind of thing that we have seen so far. So coming back to your question, we're trying now to speed up some of the key initiatives in order to demonstrate the benefits out of these initiatives. So we have selected a specific number of initiative within the overall portfolio of initiative that will be key for enabling more quickly the transformation or the benefit of this transformation. And we are executing more and more on these things. 

Jon Finkelstein: It never stops either. 

Pierre Miron: And a quick anecdote, if you wish, on this. After the first three months of this, I personally came up with this overall assessment of the investment that we had to make. And the CEO said to me, “Pierre, are you serious?” I said, “Hmm, I think so.” And guess what? Once done, we're going to continue to invest heavily on I.T. And that's basically what's happening right now after five years. So we're going to continue to invest heavily within I.T. because we strongly believe that the future is there. And we believe also that we have a huge opportunity in front of us, not only organically, but inorganically as well. 

Jon Finkelstein: It's interesting that the way you describe it, it's like transformation isn't something that you do. It's a way of being in a way, isn't it, because you're always in a state of transformation. It's just a way of thinking about your approach to the business, the approach to the people, the approach to technology. It's always in flux. We're already at the end of the podcast. It's unfathomable. There's so much to take in Pierre, such a complicated but also really inspiring transformation that you've done at iA and given us a really holistic look at all the ins and outs between the people, the technology, the business case, making sure leadership is on board, all of it. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us. 

Pierre Miron: Thank you for inviting me. I appreciate it. 

Jon Finkelstein: And I reserve, hopefully, the ability to call you back at a later date because I feel like we just started to scratch the surface of where things are at Industrial Alliance and where things are going. I have a feeling that in very short time we can be checking back with you to hear even more incredible stuff. Thanks again for being on Shift. 

Jon Finkelstein: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift, a PwC Canada podcast series. If you've enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, you can subscribe to Shift on Spotify, Apple, or Google podcasting platforms. You can find more details at PwC dot com slash ca slash shift. Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario Limited liability partnership for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time. 

Building trust in telecom with a human-led, tech enabled approach

In this episode of the Shift podcast, Pamela Snively, Chief Data & Trust Officer at TELUS, and Ojas Rege, SVP and GM of Privacy and Data Governance at OneTrust discuss the importance of embedding data trust and transparency throughout an organization. Together, they discuss how a human-led, tech-enabled approach to privacy innovation can build customer trust and give organizations a competitive edge.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi, welcome to Shift, a PwC Canada podcast series. Having a strategic vision for where you’re going next can be a challenge. Just saying transformation doesn’t make it happen, and making an investment doesn’t mean you’ll automatically capture its full value. We’re hearing first hand from industry leaders on how they’re making strategic transformations a priority. I’m your host, Jon Finkelstein, executive creative director of PwC Canada. Hi, welcome to another episode of Shift. We’ve got a really good one for you today. It’s about building trust in telecom with a human-led, tech-enabled approach. And I have two experts with me today. I have Pamela Snively, chief data and trust officer at TELUS. Welcome, Pamela.

Pamela Snively: Thanks very much, Jon.

Jon Finkelstein: And Ojas Rege, SVP and GM of privacy and data governance at OneTrust. Ojas, welcome.

Ojas Rege: Thank you. Good to be here.

Jon Finkelstein: So I’m really excited to talk about trust and privacy today because it is such a hot topic right now. Before we get started though, it would be really great for our listeners to know a little bit about you and how you got to where you are. Pamela, we’ll start with you. Tell us a little bit about your journey at TELUS.

Pamela Snively: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. I am the chief data and trust officer at TELUS, as you mentioned earlier. I started there about seven years ago, and I am charged with developing a trustworthy, sustainable data handling practice at TELUS. So our privacy program, our data ethics program, overall data governance, looking at ways that we can generate trust in the way that we handle and innovate with data.

Jon Finkelstein: You know, privacy and trust are so foundationally important right now to reputation, to revenue, to success, to what customers are expecting transparency. It’s a very big responsibility. And one that TELUS is doing amazing things. Ojas, tell me a little bit about you and your career and your path over at OneTrust.

Ojas Rege: I’ve been in the technology world for a little bit over 30 years now. The reason is because technology helps change lives in the way people work. It’s always been interesting to me. At OneTrust, our focus is building software solutions that help accomplish tasks, like and responsibilities like Pam just describe, you know, how do I enable my teams internally to take on all these new trust and privacy initiatives. So that’s what we do. We’re a software player. My journey with privacy started right two years after the iPhone launched. I was in prior life working in mobile security, and everyone might remember there was a sudden new trend called BYOD, bring your own device. People were bringing their own iPhones to work, and suddenly privacy became front and center because people were really concerned about using their personal devices for work and what do employers see, what do they not see. It brought privacy to the public eye well before the GDPR and other regulations happened. So I think that’s been a phenomenal journey in the last 15 years to see the increasing importance in privacy. And obviously as a software company, that’s what we focus on.

Jon Finkelstein: You know, when we talk about privacy and we talk about trust, and they’re kind of like two sides of the same coin in a way, but there’s a really big difference between privacy and trust, especially as we think about it in terms of like organizational and how it relates to customers. Ojas, how would you describe the difference or how would you define privacy versus trust?

Ojas Rege: Trust is a perception that an individual has about another individual or organization based on certain actions that other person or organization has taken. Privacy is one of those classes, I believe, of actions of being able to responsibly manage the data that belongs to someone who’s not you, right, the data of an individual. So I don’t believe that you can establish trust as an organization without respecting privacy. But privacy is one component of what you need to get in place to be able to establish trust with whoever your constituent is.

Jon Finkelstein: I love it. I mean, it’s an interesting differentiation. And it leads me to a question for you, Pam. You’ve been in the privacy and trust business for quite, quite some time. I have to imagine that you’ve you’ve really seen trust evolve, whether it’s cultural, economic, whether it’s the media. I’d love to get your perspective a little bit on some of the changes you’ve seen in the privacy and data trust world.

Pamela Snively: I think the last few years have been marked by really remarkable change, significant change in that space. There’s been a proliferation of privacy regulation and increasingly active engagement from privacy regulators in Canada and in fact, internationally. So that’s been one piece of the backdrop. And then we have the fact that the pandemic accelerated digital innovation, and that pace has not subsided. But we’re seeing innovation across the board, as you say, in banking and currency, in agriculture, in telecom, certainly in healthcare, particularly in education. There isn’t an area that hasn’t been impacted by absolutely rapid innovation in the data space specifically. But what we’ve seen as we’ve moved so many aspects of our lives online is we’ve also seen a plummeting of trust in the digital ecosystem. We’re sort of forced online these days, but at the same time, we don’t really trust what’s going on online. We’re not sure if we can trust organizations with our data. We’re not sure if we can trust the government with our data. We don’t know what is happening, and the technology is quite complex. So I think what we’re seeing right now is a real crisis of trust. And I think we might be approaching an inflection point where if we don’t address that trust deficit, if we don’t act to improve consumer trust in the digital ecosystem, then we jeopardize a lot of the innovation that we’ve realized to date. And even more importantly, we jeopardize a future innovation and we put future innovation at risk. So the discussion has gotten very big. But I think even more importantly, it’s almost existential in terms of our ability to continue to innovate if we don’t address this now together.

Jon Finkelstein: So Ojas, tell me, you know, given all of the change that’s going on and the extra importance that both organizations and consumers are citizens are seeing, what do you think will happen to organizations either when they get it wrong or how can organizations really make their programs successful?

Ojas Rege: So there’s always going to be an economic driver for most organizations, right. There’s clearly a altruistic bent to some, but there’s an economic driver for all. So the moment that trust within a market starts driving business, where the trust you have with your consumers, let’s say, is part of their decision making process, the importance of trust ratchets up in that organization. In terms of what to do, sometimes people don’t know where to start. Arguably, no company knows exactly where to start because it’s complicated. It touches every single interaction that you have, both internally and externally. So what I always find is that there’s basic principles that you have to really start with, right? So there is no trust without transparency. So one very important place for every organization to start is what is the level of transparency I have with my customers? Where are the gaps? Where is the trust gap that I have, and how do I actually become more transparent and make it easy for a customer to understand what I do? Because transparency is two things. It’s the willingness to share what you do, but also second, it’s the ability to put that in a simple, easy to understand language.

Jon Finkelstein: Awesome.

Pamela Snively: I agree with everything that Ojas said, and I have really seen that play out at TELUS when we talk about the importance of appealing to the business and talking about trust to the business. And I think for me that’s been a very valuable tool in driving a, you know, a privacy and a sustainable data ethics program through the organization. Because if we are talking about privacy as a compliance function, the business isn’t going to care as much about it. But when I’m talking to them about trust and how to engage with their customers, they are listening, you know, attentively and they’re going to do even more than I ask them to do, because that’s exactly the outcome they want as well. So that’s been transformational for me in terms of the discussions that I have with my business peers and colleagues within the organization. And it’s put us all on the same page in terms of what we’re trying to achieve as opposed to it being like a compliance function or oversight function or in many organizations, it’s still seen as a policing function, which I think is really missing an opportunity when that’s how you are approaching it.

Jon Finkelstein: At PwC, we talk a lot about human-led, tech-powered.A big part of how we bring our strategy to life is by combining the right digital tools with our people’s passion and insight so that we can help organizations accelerate a tech-enabled future. We call this approach “human-led, tech powered. Pam, could you tell us a bit about what human-led, tech powered means to you at TELUS?

Pamela Snively: At TELUS, when I talk about being human-centric versus data-centric or anything else, it really comes down to putting the customer first and thinking about it from the from the perspective of the customer. And so even though we want to be human centric, we also have to be really technically savvy. And I used to talk about the fact that privacy isn’t rocket science, that it’s, you know, this is pretty basic stuff. It’s simple legislation about respecting customers wishes and expectations with their data. But as technology has gotten more complex and humans expectations have gotten more complex, I no longer think it’s true to say it’s not really rocket science. It’s getting awfully close to rocket science. And we need more technology solutions to help us support this technical innovation. I now can’t do this on a, you know, on an Excel spreadsheet and a few PowerPoints. I need really solid tools to help me interpret what is happening with our technology, to help me track what is happening with complex consents, nuanced consents, and to look at all the different types of risks that are associated with any given initiative with data. We are doing more and more with data. If every aspect of our company is data driven, that means we are constantly assessing the implications and impacts of data. And that means we need to be really good at it, really agile, and we need to be able to support that agile innovation across the organization. And we need excellent tools in order to be able to do that. It isn’t rocket science, but it’s, as I say, a lot closer than I used to think, and it requires commensurate technology.

Jon Finkelstein: Speaking of rocket science and commensurate technology, Ojas, I’m really interested in how you might describe and what human-led, tech-powered means to you. And then I’d love to hear about what’s going on at OneTrust and how you’re working with TELUS and how the tech is powering trust here.

Ojas Rege: It will be human-led part of that is tailor-made for privacy because similar to what we’ve been talking about, it is all about the human. And where the tech comes in is how do you scale? Right. I mean, organizations, as Pam has mentioned, are really complicated. There’s so many processes, there’s so many things, so many individuals they interact with. And if you had one person you were interacting with, you know, you could probably manage things pretty easily. But when you have thousands or millions of customers, when you have thousands or tens of thousands of employees where technology comes in place to help you scale your processes within the organization so that you can continue to do the right thing and you can continue to do it consistently across the different groups. Because otherwise sometimes one group’s doing one thing and other ones doing another thing. And that inconsistency can result in some real gaps in in privacy. One of the areas we’re seeing a lot of focus amongst our customers these days is on the consent side. Right. How do I collect consent effectively? How do I manage that? How do I make sure that it’s aligned with the data that I’ve collected? And then how do I make sure that all my processes are appropriately mapped in the organization so I know what’s happening to that data? Right. Because like the prior discussion, that data is really reflective of an individual, and I need to make sure there is no gaps in the process, no blind spots, so that suddenly something starts happening that I’m not aware of. So that to me is the the role of technology. It’s a human-led process that’s about because it’s the people within TELUS that are leading the process and they care about the humans, which are their customers. The technology sits on the back end to allow them to scale and be effective with the strategies they have in place.

Jon Finkelstein: Interesting. I think that’s worth repeating, actually. Sort of the takeaway here for listeners is it’s a holistic approach to trust. This is not one siloed thing. It’s not just about compliance, it’s not just about privacy. But as you think of your total trust agenda, quote unquote, I think it’s important and what we’re hearing is that you have to think about it across the enterprise. Right. You’ve only got one brand, one chance really with the world to prove that you are what you say you are, so make it count.

Pamela Snively: I love the way you put that, Jon. And I and I think another aspect of this is recognizing that this has to not just go across the organization, but it has to penetrate every level of the organization. Can’t just be that privacy comes out of, you know, your privacy office. You know, you’ve got an environmental team that focuses on, you know, your sustainability brand. It has to be that this penetrates the culture of the organization and every decision that gets made, which is why we are really focused on my team, on, you know, data literacy across the entire organization. We decided a few years ago we need to upskill the whole organization and how to think critically about data and how to contemplate the ethical decisions that they’re going to have to face every single day in the work that they do around data. So that extra piece of of training, not just your annual privacy compliance training, but how do we really prepare people for this next generation of data decision making? I also think it’s really important to look at when Ojas talked about the scaling and using tools to scale these programs, how we can decentralize those. Again, we cannot have every data decision going through my office. That would be crazy, because every decision we make is data driven now. So what we’re looking at now is how do we how decentralize this and have tools that can be used across the organization? So one of the things that we do like about the OneTrust solutions and, you know, one of the drivers for us to put it in place across TELUS was that it is accessible by all of our team members, that we can have a decentralized and train our team members to be able to use that tool and make decisions based on some of the assessments that are within the tool. And that combined with the data literacy with our data ethics campaigns and training, makes for a really powerful combination and allows us to make sure that we’ve actually penetrated the organization and impacted the way decisions are made, not just the way we talk about how decisions are made.

Ojas Rege: And one of the attributes that we see of successful programs like Pam described is that they don’t view this as control. They view this as collaboration. Right. Every individual in the organization needs to do the right thing. And you can’t do that unless you’ve got a collaborative system in place to be able to support them.

Jon Finkelstein: I love that. Collaboration, not control. That kind of says it all there too. Especially when you think about it beyond the idea of just it being sort of the data set, right. So I’m wondering, Ojas for you, what do you think the big barrier here is for organizations of really thinking about their trust holistically and to kind of making sure that they see it more as a business driver than a compliance check box?

Ojas Rege: There’s a strategic and mindset barrier in some organizations, right, just in terms of how they think about their business. But I think there’s also two very practical barriers. And I have a lot of empathy for organizations on this because it ain’t easy, right one of the practical barriers is complexity. The regulatory complexity, the organizational complexity, the data systems complexity, right. How do I navigate that? So even if I have the best intention, how do I navigate that? How do I get the budget to do the right things and so forth? So I got to have a starting point, right? Just like getting to the crawl stage can be challenging. And then the second very practical barrier is data sprawl. I’ve been collecting data for 30 years, 40 years. I don’t know where that data is necessarily, right. Many organizations are in that position. And that’s part of the complexity that I already mentioned. But it’s also a really fundamental issue in and of itself. And one of the catalysts now to get that right is a lot of organizations are going through data migrations, thinking about cloud, thinking about rethinking their data systems, so that can be a good catalyst. But if we can help organizations, we mean the industry, can help organizations navigate the complexity and the data sprawl, then they can start getting closer to meeting the overall trust strategy or trust goals that they’ve set in place.

Jon Finkelstein: Yeah, that’s a whole other thing, isn’t it? We were talking about sort of creating a holistic or standardized ecosystem that everyone can kind of get in behind. PwC’s been working with TELUS on some pretty interesting initiatives around creating trust, specifically around electronic medical records.

Pamela Snively: That’s a really good example of what I was talking about earlier where, you know, we do want to share that information and make sure that we are building an ecosystem that people can trust. And what we found, you know, when there was such a move at a fairly quick pace to virtual care during the pandemic, there were a lot of people that didn’t know how to make decisions about whether they should trust a particular system. There were no standards out there. What are the indicators of a good privacy, respectful virtual care system? What security standards should be in place? This was so new and we were moving so quickly that people were kind of left adrift, not knowing what to how to measure it and what to measure it against. So we worked with PwC to develop standards for virtual care, privacy and security standards. We talked to a lot of the regulators and key stakeholders in the field, and developed a whole set of privacy and security standards so that organizations that are building these programs can use those to measure themselves against. And then individuals who are using these programs can use them to assess the programs that they’re going to use. Similarly, we’ve taken the same approach with electronic medical records recently. So we’ve been working on a standard for privacy and security for electronic medical records. We know this is such a fundamental part of of taking our health care program into the next century or even into this century, ensuring that we can have that interoperability of our medical care, that we can move from one place to another and be able to access information. But we absolutely know that this has to be done in a way that is privacy, respectful and secure. And we need the confidence and trust of patients and consumers to be able to build this in a meaningful way. That if people don’t trust these solutions, they won’t use these solutions. The last thing we want is people to not go to their physicians and caregivers because they don’t trust the technology. So this is critically important to the health of all of our citizens, as well as to our entire health care system. So I’ve been really happy to work with with PwC on that standard. And again, in this for this one, working with some regulators, with some of the key stakeholders in the industry and experts in the industry to make sure we’re getting this right.

Jon Finkelstein: So that’s the end of another edition of Shift, another episode. That’s the end of another episode of Shift. Pam, Ojas, thank you so much for being here. It’s really opened the aperture, I think on the importance of trust privacy, of course, but the whole trust agenda, thinking about a holistically and looking at as a way to drive the business. Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to have you.

Pamela Snively: Thank you, Jon. Really enjoy the discussion. And thanks, Ojas.

Ojas Rege: Thanks so much, Jon. I really enjoyed this. And Pam, just a great discussion. Very glad I was able to join you on this really awesome podcast.

Jon Finkelstein: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift, a PwC Canada Podcast series. If you’ve enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, you can subscribe to Shift on Spotify, Apple or Google podcasting platforms. You can find more details at Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Ontario Limited Liability Partnership for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board: Using data to transform legal risk management and drive organizational value

In this episode of the Shift podcast, Michaël Hassan, Managing Director and Divisional General Counsel, Public Sector Pension Investment Board discusses why having a strategic approach to collecting, analyzing and using data is a key part of transforming the legal function and leads to increased efficiencies and value for the business.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi, welcome to Shift a PwC Canada podcast series. Having a strategic vision for where you're going next can be a challenge. Just saying transformation doesn't make it happen. And making an investment doesn't mean you'll automatically capture its full value. We're hearing firsthand from industry leaders on how they're making strategic transformations a priority. I'm your host, Jon Finkelstein, executive creative director of PwC Canada. We're back and we have an amazing episode for you on a different topic that you might be thinking about in terms of transformations. I have Michaël Hassan, managing director and divisional general counsel of PSP Investments. Welcome.

Michaël Hassan: Thank you, Jon. Really happy to be here with you.

Jon Finkelstein: So we're going to open up the hood on how legal function can provide more value to organizations, not in the way that you expect. So Michaël, welcome. And I'd love to hear a little bit about your journey and what it is you're up to at PSP Investments.

Michaël Hassan: Sure. Maybe just a little bit of a background. I've been at PSP, so Public Sector Pension Investment Board is a Canadian pension fund with over $240 billion of assets under management. And we basically invest all around the world in the private side and the public side. So the legal department supports those investment activities and the commercial activities that we have. So I've been here for 16 years and prior to that worked in places where there was no tech and there was no legal operations. So you just had to figure it out. So that kind of helps the journey. What have we been doing at PSP? We have been in a journey of data and mining data at PSP, finding unstructured data, trying to structure it into something that we can build out and create insights that we were not able to see previously.

Jon Finkelstein: Okay. But hold on a second, when we think about legal functions and data and insights, this isn't something that I normally would associate with a legal function. And what do people actually think legal functions do?

Michaël Hassan: Good question. Well, if you ask my 12 year old daughter, she'll say that, Dad, you have a really boring job. You spend a lot of time on the phone and a lot of time drafting contracts, which is true. And that is the typical in-house function of a lawyer protecting the company as best we can, making sure that our internal clients don't do things that they shouldn't do. I think there's been a shift over the past few years, and legal departments or traditional legal departments need to do better, need to do more. You can't just have a report to the board that says, well, here's a few pieces of litigation, but we have nothing else to tell you. And then the board or your management team says, well, why are you so many? What are you guys doing here? And well, we're just protecting the fort. We're the Guardians of the Galaxy, say, well, you need to expand and explain what that galaxy looks like. And that's what we've been trying to do, moving away from that traditional legal department perspective and bringing technology and data into how we do things, how we build insight, how we share that insight with internal clients, and how we make things go a little smoother than they typically do under, you know, a traditional legal department.

Jon Finkelstein: What kind of reaction did you get? I'm just curious. When you started to build up this function, say, hey, we need to think about data, we need to think about technology, we need to think about our operations and our operating model, all that kind of stuff. Were they like, you stay in your lane lawyers and let us deal with the stuff or they're like, hey, this sounds like a great life preserver or could absolutely add something to the business. Let's go.

Michaël Hassan: That's a great way of presenting it. I think there's been an evolution in the leadership of the legal department over the years. I have been pushing this legal department for many years to adopt technology. I'm always fearful of like the oncoming recession. So, it's always coming right. And that's kind of how you think. But when you think that way, you kind of think, well, how can we be more efficient or how can we make sure that people are not twiddling their thumbs and are busy all the time? Because you want people to be busy, to be engaged. And that was kind of part of the feeling. Well we will incorporate technology and some improved processes will make the job of the internal lawyer more interesting. Like nobody wants to do 50 NDAs every day. It's finding ways to improve the quality of the work that we do and create more engagement. When you incorporated data into the life of a lawyer or legal operations, you will level set the playing field. So I've been at PSP for 16 years. By having deep data and insights that you can draw from databases, from, you know, Power BIs, from those types of business intelligence tools, you can level set the playing field between a lawyer that's been here for sixteen years, has done thousands of transactions and a lawyer that just started two weeks before.

Jon Finkelstein: What do you mean by leveling the playing field?

Michaël Hassan: What internal clients really seek out from our legal department? So we're a transactional shop. We do mergers and acquisitions, we do investments, and they're always looking for, well, what do we usually do or what's market? So when you're just starting out right and you're onboarding a new lawyer, it's allowing that individual who just started out to have that same insight or tap into that insight quickly and in intelligent manner. And that's very powerful for our internal clients. Because when they ask what is market or what is market at PSP, that's what they expect. What I can provide with a 16 year tenure, basically is anecdotal evidence. We usually do that. But when you can show it to somebody, when you can show that Power BI, say well, in 75 percent of cases we get this right or we get this obligation, it's a lot more compelling and a powerful story for internal clients. And they kind of, oh, okay. Well, they're not just kind of like fudging it. They’re really basing their decisions on actual insights that we've gathered over the years.

Jon Finkelstein: It had this idea that data could be an incredibly powerful advantage, competitive advantage even. And you started to do some research to figure out, because you're obviously a seeker, you're someone who wants to make change, all that kind of good stuff. You started looking, you started Google and stuff online. I want to hear a little bit about that story.

Michaël Hassan: I'll explain what we tried to do. So few years ago, I think it goes even back like five years ago. I started kind of dabbling in this, saying, how could we do things better? How can we tell a better story to our management teams, to our board as to what we are working on, how busy we are, help with the business case to hire more resources if we need them, or switch priorities in terms of who does what and how. And it just started to get me thinking of, okay, well, everybody talks about KPIs. It's amazing. KPIs are easy when it's numbers, right? But for legal departments, KPIs, what do they mean? Okay, well, I reviewed 50,000 contracts. That's great. But it doesn't tell the story as to what value we're bringing. So I started to kind of do a deeper dive as to what that is, but then it just kind of unlocked. Well, hold on. It's not just about the quantitative things as well. Can I measure the qualitative of all of this? Is there a way to find other KPIs that tell a better story as to who we are? Then tell another story or provide further and build insights. So that's kind of how it started. So I tried to do this on my own learning power BI by myself, having my team learn power BI. And so while I really suck at this, so I'm going to ask our internal team to do this. This is what I want to do. And I discovered that they also really sucked at it, because they didn't understand my business. So I started googling, believe it or not, legal dashboard KPIs. And I found this video from PwC Australia. I cold call PwC Australia, and I actually freeze frame sum of things to show my IT team, saying I want this. They said, we don't know how to do this and we don't have time to do it. Can you please speak to somebody? So we spoke to the legal transformation team in Australia and which contacted us with the Canadian team and that's how we started our relationship with PwC, who were very intrigued by how much effort we had put into to this. So they really helped us bring our game to the next level in terms of what insights, and I think I really credit to PwC on telling the story. I think that's what they taught me. Say, okay, you got to be able to tell the story. Raw data doesn't tell you anything. So what do you want to tell your management team? What do you want to tell your internal team? How do you want the legal department to be considered and remembered? And that's how we came up with this beautiful legal KPI dashboard.

Jon Finkelstein: I want to ask you, when you have good data, and you're actually able to track it and correlate with like how the business is working. It can both be enlightening and terrifying. So I'm wondering were people feeling more on the enlightened side, like being able to use the data to make, you know, proper strategic decisions.

Michaël Hassan I could tell you that there was a lot of reluctance to adopt this, because sometimes you don't want to look at the mirror. Right. You kind of know, but you don't want to really know what's going on. Data doesn't really lie. For me, that's the opportunity. It's like saying, one, we're self-aware, we know what's going on. We are going to be lean and mean. We are going to manage things because we are measuring things.

Jon Finkelstein: I want to ask you also about how that benefits the people working within the legal function at PSP. Now we're talking about data where people are spending time, where value is being created. What kind of impact that have on your people, really? How does it enhance their employee experience or their engagement?

Michaël Hassan: Two messages here. One is initially, employers don't like to enter data. The exercise was trying to make the data capture exercise as simple and as seamless as possible because lawyers don't like to do clerical things. When they started to see how that translates and what it means for them, I think there was an element of pride and say we are able as a legal department to communicate in ways that we weren't able to communicate previously, when they discovered the power of telling a story in a different way.

Jon Finkelstein: So, Michaël, I'm wondering within PSP, why should the rest of the organization really pay attention to or care about what you're doing with data and transforming the legal function? What impact is that going to have on the broader organization, especially as we think about things like inflation and what's happening in the economy and all these kinds of things as CEOs and C-suites are looking for answers.

Michaël Hassan: So the benefits for the broader organization is having one, an efficient legal department. I think that's a given. But then they have the ability to tap into insights that they wouldn't necessarily be able to tap into. Particular example is if I'm working on a real estate transaction with a real estate group, they don't know what the private equity group does or how the credit investment group does its investments. The next time they do a transaction in a jurisdiction in or space that they don't know very well, suddenly it gives them that insights, it speeds things up, they'll know who we worked with, which law firms, which accounting firm, which advisors. It's really powerful stuff and it speeds up the discovery process instead of just kind of relying on your own experience and you're able to tap into a broader, much broader viewpoint than you currently have. So that's kind of a very powerful aspect. And legal departments are very strategically placed in organizations to have a perspective and touch upon many different things that are organizational.

Jon Finkelstein: Historically, organizations have put the legal department probably a little bit of a box. You stick to your thing over there and we'll stick to our thing over here. You, Michaël, don't think about it that way. You think about how you can transform a legal function to provide incredible value to the organization. So tell me, how do you make that switch between stick to, you know, your thing and really opening it up to provide value for the organization?

Michaël Hassan: I think, Jon, that every lawyer internally or externally wants to have an impact. And I think that's kind of the key for me. And we see a lot of things. And sometimes, you know, we're just saying, hey, stay in your lane, stay quiet, be passive, we'll tell you when we need legal to do something. Right. And I don't think our legal department sees it that way. We are active participants in the transactions, in the commercial reality of PSP, and we are loud. And that's how you get the respect from your stakeholders.

Jon Finkelstein: You said something though, Michaël, that I love, and that is be loud. Right. You have a perspective. You have data to back it up. You're looking at the data and how it can contribute to the business from a completely different perspective. But I have a question for you. What advice do you have for our listeners if they're thinking about doing this? How do you even start?

Michaël Hassan: How do you start? So it's surprising when you ask questions and you ask people around you in different functions, not legal functions. And you ask, well, how do you do things or what data do you collect? And you'd be surprised that people enter data into Excel spreadsheets. There is an Excel spreadsheet out there that's structured data that you might be able to use. So kind of be curious, look around, ask a lot of questions. What it's going to help you do is want to understand the business better, but also give you an ability to tap into data that you wouldn't necessarily have. You're not steward of that data, but that's okay. You don't need to control all of the data that's there. But how could you use that and just find these insights and correlations that you wouldn't think about? So I think the first is a discovery exercise, getting to know the business better, asking a lot of questions, being friendly, allowing people to share, and then share your dream and your vision with them. Say, hey, this is how I'm going to be able to help you. If you help me, this is what the deliverable will look like and I will give you full visibility on it. So you're going to know having access to those maturities, to those interest rates, to those refinancings, to the JV or shareholder terms and conditions. It's pretty powerful stuff. And people are interested because they don't even have to maintain it. Right. It's amazing. It's like a gift, the gift that keeps on giving.

Jon Finkelstein: And I was actually thinking to myself that based on how the economy is, how organizations are transforming, doing what you're doing, leading the way like you're doing isn't actually a nice to have at all. This is a strategic imperative. It's a competitive advantage.

Michaël Hassan: I agree that it's a competitive advantage. I think we're going into a cycle. I think we've been talking about going into a recessive cycle for many years, but it's, I think finally, unfortunately happening and you got to be prepared for this. And when you know what the issues are and you have credibility because you have data and you're not just talking anecdotally, it's very helpful. People will be asking legal departments, well, how are you going to trim down spending? How are you going to look at legal fees and how are you going to control legal fees? And then if you don't know how to answer those questions, well, maybe you're not in the right spot. So you got to have control over it. So then you can have an action plan to be able to take measures and actions in order to reduce your legal spend or make it smarter or insource, outsource, or just kind of decide what is the right formula, what levers can you pull in order to make your legal department and the legal function more efficient, less of a cost center, but also providing value to the deal teams and to the organization generally.

Jon Finkelstein: Lastly, I want to thank you for spending the time with us to tell us about the transformation that you're undertaking and how powerful it can be and really what to be thinking about as far as other legal functions are concerned when it comes to looking at how they can transform, really provide more value to the organization.

Michaël Hassan: Well, what a pleasure this was for me to talk about what I find a lot of fun. I hope that this is helpful for other legal departments in other organizations to think a little bit differently.

Jon Finkelstein: And thank you to our listeners also. We really appreciate you taking the time to listen to Shift. Until the next time, be well and see you then. Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift, a PwC Canada Podcast series. If you enjoy this episode and want to hear more, you can subscribe to Shift on Spotify, Apple or Google podcasting platforms. You can find more details at Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Ontario Limited Liability Partnership for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time.

About the Shift podcast

Successful business transformation is taking on the demands of today while preparing for the challenges of tomorrow. In each episode of Shift, we amplify the voice of leading industry experts, to share their unique perspectives on what it takes to transform.

Join us to learn how these leaders are approaching and executing on their transformation journeys while ensuring they perform as they transform. Listen as they describe what they're doing to create sustained outcomes for their employees, customers and communities.

Legal disclaimer

This podcast has been prepared for general guidance on matters of interest only, and does not constitute professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this podcast, and, to the extent permitted by law, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, its members, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.

“PwC” refers to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership, which is a member firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, each member firm of which is a separate legal entity.

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Jon Finkelstein

Executive Creative Director, PwC Digital Services, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8452

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Chris Mar

Partner, National Transformation Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8125

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