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Best Buy Canada: Understanding what your customer needs today and tomorrow

How Best Buy Canada rose to the challenge to meet their customers where they are during the pandemic.

For retailers, the pandemic upended much of what they knew about doing business. With ever-changing customer needs and an unclear road map, the industry had to evolve and adapt on the fly.

On the latest episode of the Shift podcast, we sit down with Stephen Gordon, Director of Multi Channel Logistics at Best Buy Canada, to discuss how he navigated the early days of the pandemic and remarks on what he sees as the enduring changes to supply chain logistics and retail.

He talks about how strong communication combined with outside-of-the-box thinking paved the way for Best Buy Canada’s successful response to the pandemic’s challenges from a supply chain perspective and beyond.

Jon: Welcome  to another exciting episode of Shift, pandemic edition still. And today we have Stephen Gordon, Director of Multi Channel Logistics at Best Buy. For those of you who know me, you know I love tech, you know I love gizmos, and you know I love retail and supply chain, as it turns out. We're going to be talking about some really interesting stuff today with Stephen. Welcome to the show.

Stephen: Thank you, nice to be here.

Jon: So, Stephen, maybe you could do us a little favor here, and for those of you who don't know you, maybe you could just take a second and just tell us a little bit about what your role is at Best Buy, and a little bit about yourself.

Stephen: Sure. Currently, I oversee most of the supply chain functions at Best Buy, including transportation, distribution, and also eCommerce fulfillment and delivery. I've been with the company 27 years, so that through that time we've seen a lot of different shifts in the organization. We started off back in 1993 with Future Shop, and then as you know, Best Buy came in and purchased Future Shop, and we basically carried on with a dual brand strategy and then we consolidated the brands a few years back there. So, there's been a lot of different transformation within the organization, and I've obviously been a big part of that during the last 27 years.

Jon: Oh man, I have to imagine so much has changed in the last year. That's probably the understatement of the year, I get it. But to work in retail, to be someone who is responsible for logistics and supply chain, and last mile, and all this stuff. The playbook must be thrown out, no?

Stephen: Obviously, it was unprecedented, the shift that we went through last year, but I think as an organization we've always been focused on continuous improvement, we've always been focused on keeping everybody on their toes to change and transform, so I think that really helped us last year. But it was a challenging year, definitely, from a last mile perspective.

Jon: Unbelievable. Well, let's talk about that for a second. I'm really curious, we've had a few guests on now since, well it's been a year I guess since the pandemic started, and it's always really interesting to hear how large organizations handle it. We've talked to TELUS recently about how they were approaching networking and all this kind of stuff. So, the pandemic hit, Stephen, what did you guys do right away? How did you put employee and staff safety first? This must have been a real shockwave.

Stephen: Obviously, yeah, to your point, the safety of our associates, employees and customers was the top priority, and we used that in every decision that we made this past year. But right at the beginning, the environment was changing extremely fast.

Jon: Hey Stephen, I'm curious, when you guys were thinking about shifting the way you do business, your operating model, meeting customer expectations, etc. What was the reaction from the staff when all this went down, your employees? Because at PWC, we obviously talk and do a lot of work on the employee side as well, and I'm just wondering, and maybe this is just anecdotal, I don't know, but what was it like with all of your associates and the people working within your stores, as the rules changed, as safety became a greater priority, was there much dialogue back and forth between the stores, the staff and head office?

Stephen: Yeah. I think that was one of the critical things for us in how we managed to survive and prosper in this environment, is that it was open communication. We basically cascaded information on an hourly, daily basis to the associates, to let them know, "Here's the operating model," or, "Here's the things that we're trying to accomplish and here's what it means to you." Yeah, it was a daily occurrence. And I think that, as we got information, we had to interpret information, especially with the different provincial guidelines. We had to figure out, what does that mean for us, from a retail organization? How can we operate? How we can serve our customers? And then from there, we would communicate to the associates.

So, "Here's what that means from an operating model." And then also from a safety perspective, we had to get the PPE out to the stores, and each store focused on what does the store layout look like? How do we keep people socially distanced? How do we keep people socially distanced? How do we make sure everybody's safe? And that was one of the keys initially out the gate was, making sure that people were informed, making sure that people knew what the next step was, and also making sure people had the environment and the equipment to stay safe.

Jon: Yeah. My hats off go obviously to anybody who's working in that front line.

Jon: Going to switch gears here, as consumers, our expectations have completely changed. We often talk about as shorthand, that Amazon model, and Uber for that matter, how they've completely changed our expectations as shoppers, as consumers. It's like, I've been known to say, what is it? The slowest internet you'll put up with is the fastest internet you ever had. It's like, we're just trained to expect the best and that becomes the bar. So now, with the delivery culture and curbside, and eCommerce, and all the stuff that's changed, what do you think the best parts about this massive acceleration has been for you and for Best Buy?

Stephen: I think, obviously with customers, to your point, it's the convenience factor. So, time becomes extremely important to customers, and I think that what we've seen is a shift online, and it's not just people who have been shopping online, buying more frequently online, we've also got customers who are buying online for the first time. So, I think for us, the exciting part is that we get to invest in technology to try and make the online experience as frictionless as possible.

What we've done in the brick and mortar retail for many years is try and refine that process, standardize that process, so the customer has the same experience each time they come into a store, regardless of the store they come into. Online presents a 10X challenge in that sense, because there's a lot more moving parts, a lot more third party involvement, a lot more technology involved, and I think that's the exciting part, is that how do we deliver that experience, that same consistent, reliable experience in an online setting, as we've done in the retail setting over the years?

And I think that it's not just setting up and investing in the online pieces. The convenience factor, from a customer, convenience could mean something different depending on the day of the week. It could be that they want it direct to home, they want a curbside, they want to pick it up in store, they want to shop in store. So, we have to make sure that we're investing in each one of those areas and channels, and make sure that we can really refine that process and make it consistent, reliable for the customer. That's why I think for me, being in supply chain at this time, is extremely exciting, because technology is going to play a big part, and making sure that we can deliver on that customer experience is a big challenge for us.

Jon: what's your perspective on the notion of eCommerce and whether or not it's changed the game forever? There's all these different delivery and distribution channels happening now, and we'll get into a little bit of marketplace maybe a little bit later. But what do you think has stuck? Do you think people are going to go back to as much brick and mortar, or do you think this time has changed it for good?

Stephen: Well, I think the feeling was always that Canadian online was underserved, and we weren't growing as quickly as a lot of other countries, and I think this pandemic has really pushed that forward and accelerated online. Again, if it's delivered consistently and reliable, I think that's going to stick, people are used to that convenience. We'll continue to invest in brick and mortar, and again deliver the experience as customer demands evolve.

You want to go to the store for an experience that you can't get by interacting online. Whether it's a high touch purchase, like a connected home package, or sound system, or home theater, or an appliance, when you're spending thousands of dollars on an item. I think that in-store experience is still a viable experience and will still continue to be important to customers, but I think that convenience of online and the multichannel approach is still going to be a big part of shopper's experience going forward..

Jon: Yeah. I tend to agree and I think the role of the store, the physical store will probably change dramatically and I love what you said there about, every channel's going to have its own purpose and its own power, I suppose. And the physical store is really, I think, going to be about experience and about curation and about expert sales, because that's what you really can't get as well online, I suppose.

Stephen:  Yeah. No, I agree. And I think as well that it's going to continue to evolve and we just have to be ready to be able to invest in those interactions that the customers are looking for, or pivot to double down on areas that we've invested in before, but we just need to make that experience a bit better. I think the store is a focal point for the customer, when you think about services, going in and getting a diagnostic on your laptop, or even returning product. I think having retail to take your product back, if the product doesn't fit what you're looking for, is a real good convenient way to get that product back and find something that fits your needs better.

Jon: Totally, yeah. So, as a director of multichannel logistics, I'm curious, what was your biggest challenge when all this thing went down?

Stephen: I think the biggest thing initially was keeping operations running. The fluctuations in volume, as the stores started to close initially, a lot of the volume went online, which is a different dynamic, and then as the stores started to open up there was more of a balance there.

And then I think that one of the key things was the innovation, optimization, the pivot as we change business. I think from our logistics and distribution environment, we've always focused on continuous improvement, we've always focused on making sure that we're bridging the gaps, we're improving day to day processes, and we're getting the associates and the people on the front lines involved in those changes. The leadership had the faith in the associates, the associates had the trust in the leadership, and we were able to make those changes quickly, as things changed.

Jon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, speaking of peak volume, this was the first COVID holiday. I can't even imagine the stress that was around that.

Stephen: Yeah. I think we probably realized a couple of months into the pandemic that the Canadian from a last mile perspective, and even from our perspective, fulfillment and delivery was going to be a challenge. With the type of growth we were seeing, and then you add peak volumes on top of that, we knew that we had to start planning early to be able to accomplish and get through that volume. So, again, we talked a bit before, one of the key things for us was to accelerate the technology roadmap. We had fulfillment stores, or we had stores, 131 or so stores, but we didn't really use them strategically for fulfillment to the customers.

So, what we had to do was look at technology and see, how do we engage these stores where these stores would be closer to the customer? So, rather than ship it from one of our fulfillment centers, if you're a customer in Victoria, how do we leverage that store to get that product to you quicker? And what that accomplishes, is it not only accomplishes a quicker, more efficient delivery, but it takes that volume away from the national and regional processing centers that the carriers were having the biggest challenge with. The other thing was, we had to try and come up with tools that allow customers to interact with us without necessarily going into the store, if it was an easy purchase for the customer to make.

So, quick and easy pick up for us was a prepaid model. Before we just had a reserve and pick up, where you could reserve it, but you still had to pay for that product in-store, which again was time in the store for the customer. So, we looked at this quick and easy pickup, which prepaid pickup in store, you've already paid for it, the transaction's easy, and then that allowed us to take a look at something like curbside. So, now that the customer's paid for it, can we deliver that product to the customer's car?

But we also had to look at how do we promote these services? So, promoting contactless convenient options, like curbside and prepaid pickup to the customers, planned early receipts coming into our distribution centers, so we could get the store stocked up early, and then obviously once that's all done, we're encouraging customers to come in and shop earlier, so that we can spread out that Black Friday, Boxing Day peak and try and have it more of a monthly promotion, as opposed to a weekly or a daily promotion. So, those were all the things that we thought about as the pandemic hit, and we worked and built towards those to try and get us through the peak periods.

Jon: I can't even imagine the mayhem that might have been with a lot of planning, because I just have to think it's so complicated sitting in your chair, So being able to rise to the challenge on the delivery window, the speed, the volume. I even read that some organizations were partnering with Uber and Uber Eats for delivery because they just didn't know how else to do it.

Stephen: Yeah. And when you think about it, you're totally right, that at the end of it all, especially in supply chain. Supply chain is one of those areas that if people don't hear that there's a problem, then they think that everything's okay. But if we didn't put these things in place, and a normal year with the growth that we experience would have been a challenge in itself, but the fact that we had to transform the network and all of this technology and capability to meet the volume at the peak period, was a testament to everybody that we worked with and also the people on our teams to make it happen. And I think overall, delivered a very similar experience than we did last year, as far as the number of days to deliver, riding all the delays and stuff we had in the network, but the growth was significant, and I think that was a big win for us.

One of the things as well I think is, as we talk about what did we learn from the pandemic, and we talked about continuous improvement and how that set us up in order to pivot quickly, from our own staffing perspective, but we leveraged some strategic partners that we had built up over the year. We worked with these partners, as far as carriers are concerned. We communicated with them, we innovated together, we shared information with them. I think that those partners are the partners that come and help when you need it most, and don't underestimate the value of working with these partners on a daily basis, in more of a win/win scenario. Not just, "Hey, I'm paying for a service, here's what I want for that service." But how do we work together to take costs out the network, and also deliver a better customer experience? And I think we leveraged those partners during the time of need, and they came to our assistance and helped us out in that sense.

Jon: That's amazing. I was reading somewhere else too about Gen Z and online versus boomers and that kind of stuff, and I was wondering what your take is on assortment versus availability? And I thought it was very interesting personally how people are more interested in the things that are in stock, versus the things that they may necessarily want. They would choose availability over choice. How do you respond to that, as someone who's into and runs supply chain and delivery, and all this kind of stuff?

Stephen: That's good, from a supply chain perspective. For us to sell the product that we have available We want the customer to get the product that's available as close to their home as possible. So, I think it's a good thing for us. I would also say that, you're saying with the Gen Z, I think there as an eco consciousness there as well, that when you take a look at these networks we're building and take a look at the growth in eCommerce, I think they're also looking for that environmentally friendly or eco sensitive company that can deliver that experience, and I think for us, that's where it's critical that we can reduce the kilometers that we're traveling to deliver that package to the customer, and have that local to local connection, because it makes a big difference for the environment, and I think they're also conscious of that as well.

Jon: Yeah. Well, that's why I love what you were saying about maybe potentially, I don't know if it's going to be a long term strategy, using some of your stores for fulfillment, because you have a lot of stores, a big network, and it would certainly make a lot more sense to start to reduce the distance traveled, the miles, and you're right, Gen Z is very interested in purpose driven organizations who take this seriously. So, I think it's great to hear.

Stephen: Yeah. And it's something that we've already ... We did launch it last year during the pandemic, and this year is going to be a refinement year for us, to really understand the Canadian network is extremely dense, and I think 90% of our customers live within 10 to 15 kilometers from our fulfillment centers or stores. So, we just need to make sure that we can get the inventory in the right location and have the network to service that customer. So, we're well on our way to delivering that, and this year's going to be a big year to continue that journey.

Jon: Is there anything that you would change?

Stephen: From what perspective?

Jon: Well, in terms of how you're setting up the future, because basically, and this is just my own ... I live in my own world or whatever, but as you start to plan these things and put different mechanisms in place for supply chain, for delivery, for fulfillment, for all those kind of stuff, is there anything that you would want to go back and redo, or have you been super happy with the changes and the direction of all the stuff that you've done so far?

Stephen: I'd like to do it faster.

Jon: How do you do that? How do you do it faster? How could you do it faster?

Stephen: I think it's technology. I think it all comes back to, again, we're a retailer. And now we're transitioning to a multichannel retailer that has to have all their systems interacting and talking to each other, and sometimes making a change to add a carrier, or add a level of service, or direct orders to a certain location is quite complicated. So, I think as we go through and we uncover the technology needs, some of it's quick and some of it's going to take a bit longer, and I think that we're moving at a pretty decent pace.

That's why it's exciting to be in supply chain at this time, because it's an extremely complex network to set up, and it's extremely complex to deliver that experience to the customer. One of the things that is going to be a game changer I think for retailers, as they use their retail stores for fulfillment, is demand planning and being able to have that inventory. To your point, customers are buying what's available instead of what they want, we have to anticipate that need for the customer and start to place inventory in locations where we know the demand for the product is going to be, not that it's already been.

And I think that's the big nut that we have to crack to make this efficient, and I think that artificial intelligence, machine learning, all of these tools are going to come into play because our human brains don't have the capacity to manage that much variation. So, I think that that's the exciting part, and we're not there yet. So, I think again, I think we're probably quite advanced as far as the network we've got set up, but again, we know where we need to get to, and it's how do we get there as quickly as possible?

Jon: So, Stephen, you've been through what I have to imagine is probably one of the most action packed, Topsy-Turvy years in your career. Would I be right in that?

Stephen: Yes.

Jon: Would you be willing to share your top three tips for our listeners, for any retail organization who's trying to manage their logistics and supply chain risks. You've been there, you've seen it, you've pivoted, you've invented. What do you say to them? What are your top three things to be thinking about? Top three tips?

Stephen: I think one of the things that was really big for us is having accurate and timely data. We've got, like any organization, tons of information flowing from multiple different systems. But how do we get that all in an area where we can consume it, asses it, and then make decisions?

So, I would say have accurate and timely data that allows you to make quick and fast decisions, but also when you make a decision, it allows you to measure the impact. The other thing I would say is, and I touched on it before, is on a daily basis, take a look at who your strategic partners are, and if you don't have them, then we should be investing in partnerships that make sense for us, because those are the people that are going to help us when we need the help the most

And I think that the last thing was just consistent, open and honest communication through the journey. A lot of the times, you don't know what's going to be next, what the next disruption's going to be, but I think you have to communicate to the people that you work with, to your partners.

Jon: Well, the notion of communication is so important, and we talk a lot about it at PWC. But I'm interested, before we get into our lightning round of random non sequitur questions, I'm curious about, as a leader, what's it been like leading in a remote world? You talk a lot about transparent open communications with both partners and employees, etc. What was it like for you?

Stephen: It was definitely a different environment from seeing people, from meeting people, from popping into people's offices. We had to ... Visiting the distribution centers, that I did frequently. We had to try and manage through this virtual world, and I think the key there was, we set up a daily communications meeting with my direct reports and again, it's an opportunity to keep each other up to date on what's going on, identify any challenges or concerns, ask for help, pivot if we needed to pivot. I think that was the key for us, is that it was almost that we had to increase the frequency of communication, just to make sure that we were all on the same page, the facts were on the table, and then we could make decisions based on that.

And I think that we had to constantly change our direction, our decisions, on what we wanted to do based on what we knew at that point in time. I think, again, it's set the expectations. "Here's my limitations. Here's what I can do through the communication." Communicate that to your leaders, communicate that to your coworkers, stay connected to people, especially your peers. we did more cross functional work because we had to get people, as we were solving complex problems that were multi divisional in an organization, we had to get the right people on frequent communication strings, in order to decide how we were going to best serve our customers.

Jon: Amazing. Just last random question of my own. what product type was the most popular selling item in the pandemic? Was it computers, or monitors or ...?

Stephen: Yeah. It was headphones.

Jon: Headphones?

Stephen: Yeah. iPod pros, we sold tens of thousands of those. The funny thing was, and I think this is what happened to individuals, and it definitely happened to me. You get home and you realize that that coffee pot you're using every morning is no good, so you buy a new coffee pot. And then your toaster doesn't toast fast enough, so you buy a new toaster. And then you realize, "Hey, this monitor isn't big enough." So, I think people went through different variations in a lot of home office stuff, but not just home office stuff. Small appliances were really big as well. Coffee makers, vacuums, toasters. Anything that would help them be more comfortable in the home.

Yeah. You know the interesting thing as well, is that fitness equipment we could not keep in stock.

Jon: Oh, I believe it.

Stephen: Whenever we got a shipment of treadmills, bang. They were out the door. So, people were ... I was saying to the buyer, I said, "We need a treadmill that turn into a closet right after the first three months where you don't use it anymore."

Jon: Classic. Yeah. I mean, home improvement, trying getting lumber? Impossible. Hot tubs and that kind of home recreation thing was ... I mean you're probably six to eight months out with some of the stuff, to actually ordering and getting it delivered, because there's no inventory. Everyone basically diverted their travel and vacation funds into home improvement and fitness stuff. It's amazing to see.

Stephen: Yeah. The other two things that we couldn't get in stock was basketball nets for kids, and trampolines. You couldn't get a trampoline in Canada I don't think.

Jon: Speaking of predictive demand planning, anyway, who knew?

Jon: Okay, we have just like a minute left, so I'm just going to ask you some random questions. Lightning round. Okay. These are questions that you have not been privy to, so let's see what happens. Okay. Stephen, vinyl, CD, or cassette?

Stephen: Vinyl.

Jon: Vinyl, nice. Do you have a favorite mode of transportation? And not necessarily one that you yourself control, but is there a type of transportation that you really like? Trains, planes, automobiles?

Stephen: I like ... I'm not a big train fan. I've been on trains, and in Scotland we use trains to commute. But a train's a train. I'd rather be on a fast airplane. Maybe a concord.

Jon: Nice. I was actually very disappointed when they shuttered concord, but are you going to do? Okay. Snack wise, cheese puffs or pork rinds?

Stephen: Cheese puffs.

Jon: Cheese puffs. Do you have a best working from home tip?

Stephen: Get out and go for a walk.

Jon: Yeah, it's scientifically proven to change your brain chemistry. Do you have a best technology hack?

Stephen: No. I'm a supply chain guy. I'm technology challenged.

Stephen: I was trying to print something the other day, and I said to my wife, "The printer's not working." And she said, "Why don't you restart your computer?" And lo and behold, the printer started working.

Jon: When in doubt ...

Stephen: So, the old IT hack, just shut it off and reboot.

Jon: And last question; did you pick up any hobbies during COVID?

Stephen: Walking. I actually was never a big fan of walking. I thought, "What's the point?" But I try and get out for a walk every day now, and I'm really enjoying it.

Jon: Thank you. Okay. All right, well, that wraps up another episode of Shift. It goes by so quickly, especially when we're talking about electronics, and supply chain, and fulfillment, and it's a very, very interesting space. So, Stephen, thank you so much for sharing your experience and what it was like at Best Buy this last year, and really gearing up for conquering the pandemic and serving customers.

Stephen: My pleasure. I really appreciated it.

Jon: And I just want to thank the listeners as well, because we know you have so many podcasts that you could be listening to instead, but we really appreciate you choosing ours and spending the time with us, PWC and Shift. So, until we meet again the next time, be well, and if you like the podcast, please share it with others. Thank you.

Twitter Canada: Trends, Tweets & 2020

Social media’s most unforgettable year.

For many Canadian’s, Twitter served as a daily utility to participate in a real-time public health conversation when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In the latest episode of the Shift podcast we are in conversation w/ Paul Burns, Twitter Canada’s Managing Director. Paul takes us behind the scenes of one of the world’s largest social media companies during a global pandemic.

He shares his top social media tips for organizations, the importance of adopting an agile mindset, and his key tips to successful leadership in a remote world.

Jon: Welcome to another episode of Shift. We're recording from our respective homes once again and we've got an amazing podcast for you today. I am with the managing director of Twitter Canada, Paul Burns. Man thank you so much for being here. 

Paul: Thanks for having me.

Jon: Hey, I'm really curious. Twitter's one of those companies when you tell people you work for them, what do people say to you? 

Paul: Yeah, it's a mix of responses… but I think people are intrigued by it and fascinated by it. It's sometimes good cocktail conversation. 

Jon: Amazing. Well, you've been there since 2018, I think, right? 

Paul: That's right. Yeah. 

Jon: I'm just really curious if you could just take a couple seconds and tell people a little bit about yourself. 

Paul: I have worked in tech, entertainment, media my whole life. I came from an agency that I ran here in Canada called Huge. We did digital product development, product design. Prior to that, I was leading the digital team at a telco called Shaw which the media division is now Course, but I lead the digital team there. Prior to that, I worked at a bunch of different digital companies like Sympatico, MSN, if you remember that site. Way back in the day I actually worked for Nokia mobile phones, one of the first mobile phone companies around the world. So that got my start in technology and mobile messaging, mobile content. So that's been my track record. I got a wife and two kids and I live in Toronto.

Jon: Awesome, thanks, man. 

Jon: Pre pandemic, what was occupying your mind and the mind of the organization in terms of big challenges. Things that you were thinking about. Things you needed to fix or overcome or improve?

Paul: Yeah, Twitter's in this perhaps unique place in that we're this real time news engine. One of my first actual days at Twitter was at an all company event. When Jack got up on stage and started talking about who we are and why we exist, Jack talked about our purpose. Our purpose is really this thing that I think we all try and live up to every day, and it's to serve the public conversation. 

If you were to ask other people within inside Twitter, what is Twitter? I mean, yes, it's a messaging platform, but it's this real time pulse check on what's happening in the world. And so pre COVID, I think a lot of the time I was spending is really trying to make sure that we were able to use that information in a way that helped citizens, helped Canadians, helped brands make decisions on what was going on in the world. Twitter is, I think, unique in that it is literally real time. Major news outlets use Twitter as a source for content. 

That's a beautiful thing. It's mountains and mountains of data, but you can really dip your toe into the stream of Twitter data and find out what do people care about, what matters to people? And so pre COVID, I think we were really trying to make sure that we understood how to best use that intelligence to service Canadians, to service the population, but also to service brands, to service businesses. To help make better decisions. 

It was very... It was super exciting, very fun. I think COVID... In many ways, COVID, not to shift to COVID, but it amplified that. Because everyone was seeking information, everyone wanted to know, what is happening right at this very minute about this pandemic that's unfolding. In many ways, our value proposition just got... The volume on our value prop just got turned up to the max over the years at COVID. 

Jon: Wow. I fancy myself as someone who does a fair amount of reading on different technologies and companies and stuff like that, I don't think I've ever heard that Jack shares his 360 degree view with the entire company. That's pretty daring. That's pretty interesting. I hope some of the sea level listeners take that to heart, because one of the things in my career that I've always really thrived on is wanting to have feedback from different people across your organization, not just people above or below but opening myself up to that. That's really, really interesting. It's in a way what Twitter's about too because it's very transparent. It's like, come as you are. 

Paul: Well, yeah. Just to build off what you just said, we often get compared to Instagram, Facebook, other social platforms. I think we are very different. One of the things that we are very different with is there is a rawness, there is an embracement of imperfection on Twitter. The fact that one out of every two people beg and ask for an edit button constantly and we never allow for that is partly because there's... Perfection is overrated. There's beauty and just your thoughts getting down on paper, even though that may in fact be a permanent thought. I think that's what we're trying to embrace. The real version of you not the facade of the color corrected, nicely polished, edited version.

Jon: Let’s talk about COVID for a second. I'm just curious, did you first hear about it on Twitter?

Paul: No, we heard about it from our Asia teams. When we heard about it, it felt like an isolated incident. We had started to hear some rumor mills about it, that there was this disease floating around, no one really knew what it was. Then we got a note that those offices had actually been shut down and they were working from home. We hadn't been affected by it yet and so we were, I think, assuming that it was just this localized thing.

Then in February, I guess the benefit of working for Twitter is that we get access to information and see how news spreads. We know when something's becoming bigger than just a localized thing. I think we had a real keen insight that this was going to be a much bigger thing than a purely localized Asia Pacific region event. Late February, we were asked to work from home. I think we were one of the first companies to do that. Like many people, when that was asked of us, I think we all anticipated, okay, this is going to be a couple weeks. This is going to be a short term thing. Then it became a real thing.

At the outset, that initial phase of work from home, there was... As weird and different as it was, there was an energy that existed there. Almost like that it was something new and exciting and okay, we're all in this together, we can handle this for a couple of weeks. And so there was this inertia and momentum of the initial phase of work from home. 

Then I think people realized, after four weeks of this that actually, this is a long term... This is not going to be a short term thing. Then the reality of the situation, I think, set in for a lot of people. I think recognizing that this is not just a short term thing, this is a big thing and this is going to go on for a longer time and it actually could really start to affect our business. We saw many brands... Other CEOs that I talked to just put the brakes on everything and really just take stock of okay, what are we dealing with here?

What is this situation? Is this going to affect our supply chain? Is this going to affect our business? How should we think about marketing and speaking to customers in this moment? 

We saw at that moment, our traffic just go through the roof. I think Canadians but also everyone else elsewhere in the world, just flocking to Twitter. These surges of users trying to understand more about this pandemic that's very unknown at the moment. That is typical. When you look back on the years of Twitter's existence, when you see a big, massive event that happens in the world, you'll see Twitter just go through the roof in terms of audience spikes and people wanting to get information and clarity. Being current on the conversation I think is what we're hearing through out moments like this. 

That's been our ride on this. One thing that we did announce to people, and maybe... It actually had nothing to do with COVID, but we did announce to our team and our staff that they're allowed to work from home permanently. That was a big staff announcement that we made. We declared that. It was funny because we have always been talking about this idea of decentralization. It's funny, if you work in tech, the vast majority of people who want to grow their career in technology, you have to move yourself to San Francisco Bay Area, or Silicon Valley in order to advance your career. I think Jack's philosophy that he's talked about for years has always been that we're a global company. We serve as a global population. You shouldn't have to work in San Francisco Bay Area in order to contribute to Twitter and grow your career.

This idea of, you should be able to live and work wherever you are in the world, wherever you happen to be the most creative and still grow your career at twitter. So a role, a job posting shouldn't necessarily have a defined location parameter. We should actually have this remote option always available to people. We declared this. What COVID did is just accelerate that plan and made us move into this place of work from home permanently right out of the gate. 

As soon as we started talking about this permanent ability to work from home, we had employees raise their hand and say, "Okay cool, I want to work in Maui." "I'm going to move to the south of France." It presented a whole bunch of logistical challenges in our people organization of how do we actually manage the movement of people and the movement of talent all across the organization? If your job function is focused on a geographic time zone, is this even possible in your day to day? The mandate of our people organization was get to yes. How do we help people live of this freedom of flexibility in their location, but also consider the actual work parameters that need to be put in place?

At the core of it all is just the trust. Trust in our people, trust that they're going to do what's right. Trust that we're putting them in a place where they can be the most creative. 

Jon: COVID is coming. You hear about it from overseas. Your organization is, as you say, it's global in nature. How did as an organization you guys decide to respond to this in terms of product or service levels or anything.

The reason I'm asking you is because you yourself said when COVID started to swell a little bit, people were hearing about it. They flocked to Twitter to learn about it, understand what's going on. I just can't even imagine what was going on behind the doors at Twitter, how do we prepare for something like that?

Paul: Our mission is to serve the public conversation. As a part of that, I would say one of the things that inside the walls of Twitter, we have a team called the health team. The health team is really focused on making sure that that conversation is healthy through a variety of different means. There's a series of metrics we use to determine whether or not we're actually making progress on that metric of is the conversation getting healthier? But I think as COVID-19 hit, what it really meant for us is, how do we actually make sure that the conversation around COVID-19,  how do we make sure that it is healthy? How do we make sure that we're surfacing credible reliable information about the virus? Especially as case counts started to increase?

We took a number of different steps from a product perspective to ensure that. One was we actually partnered with experts and officials. I would say this is something that existed globally, not just in Canada. In each country we actually have deep, deep relationships with health officials and making sure that the National Public Health Agency or the World Health Organization was plugged into how we were actually surfacing information in the organization. 

We had a massive influx of health officials actually and doctors coming to us asking to be verified on the platform. Surprisingly, many of them weren't. But Twitter, in many ways, was the best way and best mechanism to actually get the word out about what's happening, how to protect yourself, how to stay safe. If you recall at the beginning of this whole thing, we knew very little about what was going on. Twitter became this almost lifeline for people of the medical profession to actually communicate with citizens. 

We had a very, very boots on the ground team trying to verify and make sure that every single health official was up to speed. 

Those are a few of the things we put into play pretty early on to make sure that the information coming through was viable, was credible, was actually defensible and something that I think we wanted to make sure people have the right information. Because in many ways it was saving lives. 

Jon: As someone who worked in advertising for 27 years, it was really interesting to sit back and watch how brands were acknowledging being part of the conversation, however you want to talk about it. So how do brands work with Twitter to make sure that they are culturally relevant? I mean, the data and the trends and the predictions, that you can have amazing. And of course one only needs to do a quick search on Google to see whose brand campaigns are doing really well on Twitter and how people are reacting to it. Have you felt that change? Because before it was like… We make mayonnaise. We've got a hashtag. We're going to be participatory or whatever. Now, it's like... Is the world more serious? 

Paul: Yeah, I think the implications for brands are real. I think it started at the outset with brands really just trying to figure it out. I think what we learned early on was that the typical creative approach for brands, the way brands spoke to customers, the tonality. There was a very real check on is what I'm putting out there culturally sensitive to the moment? Is it... People are grieving, people are freaking out. People are high anxiety. I'm just talking to them. I'm trying to sell them [inaudible 00:44:29] with everyone having fun. 

Paul: There was a slap in the face for a lot of brands going, okay, I need to rethink my entire way I approach brand storytelling. Then we saw a phase of brands actually engage in what was the emotional COVID we're in it with you narrative and where every piece of creative and narrative felt the same. But what that gave birth to was this idea of brands actually playing a role to actually help solve the problem.

We saw a lot of different brands actually start to just think, "Okay, how can I help? How can I make this a little better for people and tell that story in an authentic way." One of the insights that came from, I think the last year is, people, even being on screens constantly, your kids running into your conference call as you're on them. This... I don't know, almost portrait into people's world of imperfection. Getting comfortable with you do not have to have this perfect portrayal of the world. And so brands, I think... Many brands, I think, embrace that. This level of we don't have to be perfect. We just have to be real. 

I think a lot of brands started to jump on that. We saw the need for small businesses, the small business conversation, which is a super interesting one actually. That was a massive, massive... Still is, massive conversation on platforms today. We see a lot of brands really asking that question. Okay, how do I... If I'm a big blue chip brand, how do I actually support small businesses in my messaging? But then we also saw really interesting aspects of brands trying to rethink big problems. 

We saw... It was called the hashtag other pandemic, the mental health challenges that emerged over this last year and brands starting to really, I think, think through. That's a real need and a real challenge that people are facing right now. How can we address that. I think, where Twitter starts to play a real role in the life of a brand is helping them navigate the conversations that exist but also helping them essentially plug in in a way that is relevant and authentic and real and not crass and opportunistic and commercial. 

Jon: It's an interesting crash course in being real, isn't it? Because we're all craving real. It's an interesting time for brands to sort of... And I've seen this in some of the later work, they're less concerned about just selling you their thing and trying to create a connection with you to figure out how as a brand or a product we can actually be, I don't know, an intrinsic part of making your life better. There just seems to be a greater connection between people and brands and having heart. That's how I feel about it. [inaudible 00:49:34].

Paul: Yeah. It's funny, we actually did an analysis, this is not a scientific analysis by any means. But we did an analysis of all the emojis used over the last year to try and I think, almost extract was, could we actually see if that was an indication of how Canada was doing. By emoji volume, would that give us some gleam as to we're doing happy or we're not doing happy. What was the... I think what is very true about the last year has been just this unbelievable roller coaster of emotions that we've seen across the platform, across from days to weeks to months. 

We've seen the highest highs, and sometimes the lowest lows. I think we saw some of the... what was interesting and this is an example of just where we fit with brands is, we saw some of these unbelievably joyous occasions of in the summer when the summer... the weather starts to shine and people getting outside for the first time. We also saw, during the racial injustice happening south of the border in the US and just some of the riots that occur, we saw some of the saddest days on Twitter.

We would tell clients, let's actually just pause right now. This may not be the right time for your brand to actually speak and have a conversation in this moment. For us, I think it's being culturally aware of the water we're swimming in and making sure that brands are approaching conversations that may be more delicate with the right level of care and that they will be received in the light that they want to be received in. I think the lesson in all of this is for a brand is just be human. 

So many brands are learning how to listen. Listen to the conversation and adapt the language that you're using and your tone to reflect the moment in time that we're in. I think the more brands do that, the better they're going to be. 

Jon: I think that's a really important bit of advice for leaders to be sensitive and contextual and human. Also, I think, realizing that because people are so fragile right now, they're extra sensitive to what they read and interpret. Whether they're adding story to it or not.

It's like, the wounds are open. And so every little thing it just becomes... You just pick at it and you pick at it. That's from things that make you really happy to things that make you frightened. I think being aware of that is really important. Are there any other pearls of wisdom or tips or whatever that you would say to some of these big companies who are in the midst of sorting their social out? 

Paul: Yeah, I think when you think about yourself or myself or just anyone, there's a version of ourselves that we strive to be and we portray it proudly to the world. But in reality, our real selves, along with maybe some of our ethical decisions, they're complex. Sometimes they are contradictory. I think what COVID has done is, it's exacerbated this contradictory behavior in all of this. We were all facing this problem for the first time. It's a new problem and it demanded our immediate and undivided attention in many ways.

It really forced, I think, a lot of us to just shift priorities against the expectations we had for ourselves, the institutions that we're a part of and our public figures and brands. 91% of Canadians support... Continuing to support and grow local businesses. They think that's the important and right thing to do right now. Yet, at the same time, we've seen a 30% increase in sales from Amazon. 

That's a very interesting contradictory construct that we find ourselves in in this moment. I think the takeaway for me, and I think for brands and for leaders is that you do not need to be perfect but you do need to hold yourself accountable in this moment. I think it's thinking through and what we saw a lot of brands do in this season is reevaluate their why. Re-evaluate their purpose. Why are we here? Why are we in this game? Why are we in this business that we're in? 

Trying to make that purpose more personal and close to home candidly is really, I think, what we're seeing a lot of brands do. 

Simple things like that, that are actually weaving your brand into culture in a way that is relevant, but not overt I think is what we're starting to see a lot. I think it's a tough moment for any marketer, for any executive leading through a crisis. But I would say we've probably... 2020 has prepared us all, I think, as leaders to be better leaders. I think it's prepared us to communicate differently with our customers than we ever had before. 

Sometimes you need that wake up call. You need chest paddles on your life and in your business to just go, okay, well we have to... A lot of that is driven out of survival but in many times that crisis produces something in us. Produces a DNA and a character trait in all of us that now that we're emerging out of it fingers crossed, hopefully, we look back and go, thank goodness that I went through that because now I'm so much more wise to the world. I know how to approach different challenging circumstances. 

I look at the last year as a season of preparation, a season of building resiliency and new muscles that we hadn't used before. I think for any brand executive business owner that is in this season, this is a season that we will all probably look back on and yes, it was hard but it planted a seed in all of us that is going to grow into a big redwood tree over the next couple years of growth and resiliency and strength. That would be my quick take. 

Jon: All right lightning round. Here we go. I'm going to ask you some never seen before questions and it just gives us a chance for people to get to know you, Paul, a little bit better. Okay, where's the best place that you can't wait to travel to right now?

Paul: Any place warm?

Jon: COVID hobbies, do you have any?

Paul: COVID hobbies. I typically get up crazy early before my entire family gets up and I write. I never used to be a writer and I don't even know what I'm doing but I get up in the morning and I write. That's a COVID hobby that I think has been wildly therapeutic interestingly enough. 

Jon: I'll come back to that, if we can. Besides Twitter, what's the most frequently used app that you have on your phone? 

Paul: I think it's my Notes app or my camera app. Both of those apps. I love photography. I'm obsessed with taking photos. I am constantly snapping. But I also make notes. One weird thing that I do that I've just started doing actually over the last year has been when I see something or observe something or trying to be perceptive of the world around me, I will literally just take a note about it. I literally make 50 notes a day in my notes app. One day I'll look back on those and try and figure out what to do with them. 

Jon: Yeah, archives. Who's your favorite Twitter account? Who has your favorite Twitter account? 

Paul: My favorite Twitter account? Boy, that's a tough one because there are so many good ones.

Paul: My friend of mine, his name is Bob Goff, he's one of my... He's one of my go to's. I love reading his stuff. He's just got great takes on what's happening in the world right now. He's probably up there. 

Jon: Okay. Well, that wraps up another episode of Shift. Paul, thanks so much man for spending the time with us to tell us about what's going on at Twitter, how you've handled COVID, where you see some opportunities, and I think there's some really great advice for leaders to take to heart especially in this new environment that we find ourselves living in. 

I also want to take a chance to thank the listeners for listening. There are so many podcasts out there that you can be listening to instead. We really appreciate you for tuning in and listening to ours. So thanks very much and hope to see you or hear you. Sorry, it doesn't work. I hope to see... Thanks for listening and hope you'll be back again.

ATB Financial: Adaptation and resilience

ATB Financial's successful leadership and transformation during the pandemic.

Leading an organization during a global pandemic is no easy task. It takes foresight, resilience, and a strong vision. In the latest episode of Shift we are in conversation with Curtis Stange, ATB Financial, President & CEO. Curtis shares his lessons learned from ATB’s COVID-19 response plan and the importance of investing in your people and creating a culture of resilience - all while maintaining an innovation agenda. He talks about instilling a growth mindset to plan for change and tools that ATB implemented to do that, with tips for other organizations to consider when thinking about their impact and purpose.

Jon: Hi, welcome to Shift, PWC Canada's podcast series, and we're digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I'm your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I'm also the Creative Director of PWC Canada. Welcome to another episode of Shift. Super excited today. We're still in lockdown and we're going to be listening back to this from lockdown probably, but that's cool because today we have Curtis Stange, who is the CEO and President of ATB, coming to us probably right from your home in Alberta.

Curtis: Yes, I am. Yes, I am. Great to be with you, Jon.

Jon: Thank you so much for being here. We're going to talk about all kinds of really interesting stuff today that I think Alberta is probably quite unique in Canada in terms of the different things that are going on there from COVID to oil to market dynamics, which is really interesting. So before we get into that, maybe you could just take two seconds and let our listeners know a little bit about you and what you're doing as President and CEO of ATB.

Curtis: Well, it's great to be with you. And again, thanks. Thanks for that, Jon. Thanks for that opening. And you're right. Look forward to getting into all sorts of different topics this afternoon with you. Born and raised on the Prairies. Had an opportunity to both live and work in five different provinces across the country, including eight years in Ontario, which was very exciting, four in Toronto and four in Ottawa. Two adult sons, two grandkids, a third on the way, a third grandson on the way, which is really exciting unto itself. There's a whole podcast there actually of grandkid stories, for sure.

And as you mentioned, humbled to be the President and CEO of ATB Financial. Voted the number one best place to work in Canada last year. There's a lot of great companies across this country, but proud for last year to be voted the number one place to work in Canada. 5,000 team members described as innovative, disruptive, growth mindsets, customer obsessed, and all aligned towards our purpose of we exist to make it possible and we exist to make it possible for Albertans, for Alberta businesses and beyond. And that's ultimately our purpose at ATB. So really proud to lead this company now, just wrapping up almost three years in the helm.

Jon: Amazing. I love the accolades about being the best place to work, but I was really knocked out to see not only great place to work, but also best place for inclusion and best place for women as well. And I think that really speaks volumes to the ethos that you have. It's just really about people first, art of the possible. I have to ask though, now that we're basically a year into the COVID pandemic, how has that affected your people first and innovation strategy? Did you guys put the brakes on? What happened?

Curtis: No. In fact, there is no doubt that this pandemic has accelerated the team member value proposition for us and had us focus on flexibility, understanding that behind every team member is a unique story and their unique story of how they're trying to show up to be their best selves and yet be in and amongst their family members and friends, all working from home has been quite a remarkable journey.

Jon: Was that a difficult transition, do you think, for your staff to suddenly go from going to the office and serving people and being face-to-face probably a lot more than they are now?

Curtis: It was. What's important to remember for us is we had 50% of our team members that work from home at least one day a week pre COVID. So there's no doubt it was a gargantuan effort though, like other organizations. Trying to get a call center, which was predominantly at the office in our campus in Calgary, trying to get those 400 team members to work from home very quickly took a ton of effort and collaboration right across the company. Getting the corporate bankers to work from home, where they typically love to be in the office at six o'clock with their ties on and pinstripe suits. Getting them to work from home was an interesting journey.

I will tell you, I've talked to dozens and dozens of them. And to be honest with you, they will absolutely change the way they work going forward. There will be much more integration and flexibility of working from the office and working from home. I don't think that we're not going to go back to any normalcy of a physical workplace 100% of the time, no matter the role that you have. So flexibility for us has been key.

Jon: PWC is a very large organization of course, on its own as well. We spend a fair amount of time from our leadership down communicating and really being transparent with what was happening organizationally within the country itself and how we were approaching our staff. But one of the things that really impressed me was our C-Suite's humanness, if you will. Tell me a little bit about how that worked for you at ATB, as the world basically went through this crazy time.

Curtis: I think you're describing, Jon, what really differentiated leadership over this past 10 or 11 months. And it sounds like PWC, who we admire greatly as a great partner of ATB, sounds like they implemented a lot of the things that we did as well, which was communication often, transparently, with empathy and with compassion. As an example of that is I connect with the company for 30 minutes every Friday. So, once a week I get to share what's on my mind with the team. And I leave 50% of the time to answer questions directly from team members. And early on in the pandemic, it was about operational information. It was about how we're sanitizing the branches as an essential service, how we're putting in plexiglass, how we're enabling team members to work from home, how we're setting them up with computers and desks and printers, and very operational, tangible questions.

And now it's still about empathy and compassion because there's still economic challenges and the team members are wanting some inspiration. They're wanting to know what the future might look like, and continue to paint that picture of how we're going to exist and why we exist to make it possible for Albertans and Alberta businesses. So there's no doubt that inspirational leadership has had to play a key role, especially in the last three or four months as team members are getting a bit tired of constantly just hearing about the pandemic.

I think secondly for me is, and this was one of the biggest aha moments for us and for me personally as a leader, was the combination of team members living their lives while working from home. You get to know your teams better than you ever would have known them. You get to know that 40% of your team members have kids under 12. And what are they going through when they're schooling from home? You get to know how many team members actually have their elderly parents living at home with them. You get to know how many have extended families that live with them and multiple families under one roof, because their ability to focus and be the best they can be and show up and live the purpose every day required us to understand what might've been getting in their way.

So the different programs that we were putting in place, the communication, the focus on a psychologically safe workplace, the mental health focus that we had, all of these items were colliding. So it got us to know. We were doing sentiment surveys every five or six weeks early on just to get a sense of how team members were feeling, how they were coping, what was getting in their way, what did they want from us as leaders. We got actually really good indicators of how the emotions and how people were showing up. Because quite honestly as leaders, we believe people show up and do things based on their ability to focus, their capability and their willingness to show up. And so how do we make sure that we can enable and address all three of those areas so our team members can show up the best for Albertans and Alberta businesses?

Jon: I'm wondering, the mental health thing I know is very important to you as an individual, but also to the organization ATB. That has to have become even more focused and more needed, I suspect, in the last, probably three to six months. Can you describe to me a little bit about some of the programs and some of the supports that you guys have put in place to really make sure that your team members are living up to best potential at this time?

Curtis: 100% Jon. I think it starts with the essential service that we provide as a financial institution. There's no doubt that our 2000 team members, that physical safety early on, and especially as we've gone through this second wave, and more specifically the psychological safety for those team members to show up every day and be in front of customers and helping communicate and connect with customers that are emotional themselves because they're experiencing the economic challenges, the illnesses all around them. So that whole emotion with our customers has been one that we've proudly been able to connect with and help them through some really difficult conversations.

Jon: I have to believe that the empathy that your team members feel from the organization is also translated to how they interact with their customers, because we're all living and feeling the same thing.

Curtis: Exactly.

Jon: That must have had a pretty interesting impact in terms of the appreciation Albertans feel toward the ATB brand. No?

Curtis: Exactly, Jon. There's no doubt that that brand and that connectedness and that trust for us has absolutely increased through the pandemic. I do want to go back though and touch on the mental health side, because we proudly ... To your point, I am personally a huge advocate for a focus on mental health, partly because I lead a company with 5,000 team members and want to make sure that the wellness, and we have four quadrants of wellness, one of them being mental health, which is certainly a focus of a lot of companies, including ATB. So we did a couple of things. We changed our employee family assistance program, which is not a small thing to do. We had this work that was started, but during the pandemic, we actually pivoted to an Ontario based company that is really great at not only employee and family assistance, but more specifically in the mental health side because they're a digital offering.

We're a diverse country. We're a diverse province. We have a lot of team members that aren't in our major cities of Calgary and Edmonton that can't come into the city for an appointment between 10:00 and 5:00. That just doesn't work. So the fact that it's a digital offer was really important to us. And again, their support mechanisms to support the conversations that they have to have with our teams, to your point, translated into better conversations with our customers. There's no doubt about it. We also partnered with and provided an app called headversity, run by a psychiatrist out of Alberta. And it focuses all in on resiliency because resiliency is what we need to build. There's one thing about having programs in place to support the mental illness of team members. There's another thing in providing them with the tools that when challenge comes or adversity hits you, you're resilient enough and you have the tools in your toolkit to be able to manage through it.

We also have invested, like other organizations, in diversity and inclusion and belonging. There was a real awakening for us as an organization, even though we're the number one place to work in Canada. So we recruited one of the top diversity and inclusion experts in the country, and is already having an impact in terms of some of the processes that we're undertaking. This will be a journey for us, but I think again, belonging, psychological safety, providing the tools for team members when they are feeling mentally ill, as well as building their resiliency, all come together into a team member value proposition that again, to your point. Just translates into a healthier team member who's better in front of the customer.

Jon: That's amazing. I love the fact that you're really focused on mental health and diversity. I'd love to know, I mean, they always say hindsight is 2020. Looking back almost a year since the pandemic started, is there anything that you wish that you did differently?

Curtis: I think if I would've known and if I would've had a little crystal ball or this deep futurist talk to me about the fact that this was going to demonstrably and permanently change the way your customers interact with you and demonstrably and permanently change the way your team members work and engage where, when and how, I would have shook my head and said, "Get out of here. Let me focus on providing payment relief for Albertans businesses, because they really need that right now, and let me support our team members to get them working from home in a comfortable way." There's no doubt about it that under times of crisis, leaders show up in different ways. I think one of the ways that leaders will show up is definitely begin to focus in on the short-term because there is this defense mechanism that goes up that says, okay, how do we defend the strength of the organization, protect our team members and continue to provide the products and services to our customers like we need to?

Thankfully we were able to pivot and begin to look at the long-term relatively quickly. However, early on, we were worried about, like other banks, capital preservation, liquidity, is there going to be a run on deposits? How are we going to support these businesses that are being shut down? This was incredibly important for us and I'm proud of the team and how we reacted really quickly. But again, I think if I could do something differently, it would have been playing for the long game a little bit earlier on. And quite openly, even though we quickly moved to get our team members working from home, there was a point in time where, and especially in our call center, where team members were feeling a bit uncomfortable. Cases were rising relatively quickly. And I think again, there was about 24 to 48 hours that our team members were left to be too uncomfortable and we didn't get them home quick enough. And a matter of hours can make all the difference in the world.

There's no doubt the evolution of the digitization of our mass market business, we refer to it as our everyday financial services. So the customers that talk to us about loans and mortgages and investments and digital investments, we were moving towards the digitization of that offer. This pandemic quite simply accelerated that by at least a couple of years for us. There were many organizations that we would fondly keep abreast of, and PWC was one of them in terms of your experts in the digital side talking about this advancing it almost by a decade.

Jon: Yeah. There's quite often a lot of latency or resistance to change. We see this across large organizations all the time. I wonder whether or not, has this proved to you at least, that really impactful change can happen in the blink of an eye?

Curtis: We've spent the last several years preparing our team members for the change that's coming, and the change is here, and the preparation partly was instilling a growth mindset in knowing that you could look at a problem and solve it one way and you could look at that problem a little bit differently and think of five different ways of solving it. And in addition, instilling this intellectual curiosity and this hunger to learn and hunger to do some things differently. That resiliency and that adaptability paid off in spades when it came to the rapid adjustments and the changes that our workforce had to go through over the last 10 months. And the balance to it is change capacity and change fatigue. There's no doubt that organizations like ATB are feeling that. This pace of change and this disruption that is upon us, not only did we have to accelerate the digitization of our experience for our customers, we had to rapidly accelerate the re-skilling of our workforce.

You think about the skills of the future and you think, okay, I'll have some time to get there and I can focus on what I'm doing and over time. Well all of a sudden, wham, your customers want to talk to you about onboarding a new deposit account or a new loan online or through their mobile phone. And I want to talk to you about it in the branch because I want to get comfortable with it. So all of a sudden, your branch and your physical team members that show up every day face-to-face have to become digital experts and have to become troubleshooters for our customers. It's no longer limited to call centers and a select few percentage of your customers. So there were many different parts of the system that actually rapidly had to change. And I think the preparedness of organizations to adapt, to pivot, and we saw it in small businesses.

Small businesses that had growth mindsets that were able to change their business models, get online up, if you're a restaurant, really, really quickly, go to this delivery or pickup, put safety protocols in place. We had refrigerator trucks that were created from oil field services, water trucks, where we had small businesses that again, would be water hauling for oil fields support that were pivoted to refrigerator trucks, like literally within a week. The pace at which this change happened was quite frankly astonishing. One cool example for us is we were one of the first of eight banks in the country to distribute federal stimulus. And we had to create, like other banks, the Canadian Emergency Business Account, which was the $40,000 loan for small businesses. We literally have been, like other banks, trying to digitize our lending for years. We stood up a fully automated, digitized front end, fully automated backend in about a week, which was quite remarkable. We're still sitting back and we hold that up as I can't believe we actually did that.

Jon: Isn't it amazing what we're capable of doing when we just decide we want to do it?

Curtis: Right.

Jon: I mean, a week. People were probably telling you, "Oh geez, Curtis, we're years from that." And then suddenly it's like, we have to do this in order to serve Albertans. We need to be there for them. Congratulations on that. That's amazing.

Curtis: Yeah, thank you.

Jon: Well, that begs the question a little bit for me about crisis and innovation. A lot of organizations shirk from change a little bit when tough times happen, almost like the innovation recedes a little bit, but that's not so with ATB, is it?

Curtis: Correct. Yeah. In fact, we would continue to double down and we are extremely proud of what we call ATB Ventures, our innovation arm, and what we refer to as the Horizon 3 products that we are focused in on at ATB. Most notably, some of the partnerships that we formed, Radical Ventures is an AI fund that we've invested in to get closer to some of the global leading edge AI in development. We also are doing incredible investments in digital ID. I think for us as an organization, we do play a role in helping enable the province to be successful, much like other big organizations in provinces where clearly your success, there's an extension into the success of the province. So diversification for the province is incredibly important, as is the digitization of a province. I think Alberta is driving towards wanting to become known as this jurisdiction that helps solve the problems of the future.

And how does it transition from proudly an energy centric jurisdiction to one of that traditional energy on top of it with renewables? And we are quickly becoming the leading province in the country when it comes to wind and solar investment. Rystad Energy would have talked about that and quoted that 83% of wind and solar projects in the country of Canada will be done in Alberta over the next five years. So we will be the number one province in that space. And then I think innovatively building on top of that, about how do you digitize the economy. And behind and underneath digitizing the economy is this digital ID. We are working with the provincial government, the federal government, and many other partners, post-secondary institutions, other industry partners, in making sure that we can come up with what we think is the right platform and framework for a digital identification, which is super exciting work for us.

Jon: Digital ID is really where it's at. I mean, I can't wait for that to actually start to be propagated across the country because there's so much power in it, not only financially and medically, all this stuff, it's such an interesting, but also extremely difficult to do. Speaking of Alberta, I just wanted to ask you, you kind of in this moment of this crazy trifecta of, I'm going to say it's bad news. How do you as a leader continue to motivate, continue to be honest, continue to be optimistic with an organization of 5,000 team members? I have to believe that that's got to be a lot of pressure. Tell me a little bit about that one.

Curtis: Pressure and yet optimism and excitement. I think again, Albertans and Alberta businesses are defined as resilient, adaptable, and entrepreneurial in the fabric of who we are. And I think that goes for Canadians, even though there's an abundance of change that's impacting the energy business. You look at some of the major industry players that have already quoted. Synovus, for example, which will be net carbon neutral over the next couple of decades. And you look at organizations that have really dramatically reduced their carbon emissions and are investing in new technologies to capture that carbon, which is just remarkable. So I think when you get to know us and you get to know the advancements that our energy business is making, not only wind and solar and quickly becoming the number one province in the country when it comes to renewable energy, but there is this resiliency.

So that gives a lot of wind in my sails to show up as a business leader like we do, because we also are that organization that faces the prospects of disruption. Financial institutions are being disrupted. It's not about whether it's coming. It's here. And the disruptions that have been caused by the pandemic and the oil price war, and the knock on impact of the economy for us are felt. Having said that, when you peel that away, the trends were undeniable even before the pandemic hit us.

The massive advancements in processing power of computers, the massive data sets that are available for organizations. And we had built a ten-year strategy over a year ago now that put us on this journey to 2030. So again, it was this culture that we had built around a growth mindset, around this resiliency, this adaptability, combined with acknowledging these trends that are impacting us. And the creation of a 10-year journey has put us on a path that you know what, you can face anything that comes at you because you know you have the fabric and in place and the history in place to be able to face it.

And then one of the things I do believe that, the regulatory changes that are implemented in Canada over the next five years will have even a more dramatic impact than technology and data themselves. And if you look at the two prominent ones with open banking that is coming to Canada, and the feds have reopened that file. I hope they expand it beyond open banking to open data like other global jurisdictions have, but that's a big one for banks, and it will democratize data. It puts the power of data in the hands of small businesses and consumers. It will level the playing field of the oligopoly and regional banks and credit unions and other fintechs, which we're really excited about.

And then payment modernization is a second regulatory change that's happening in Canada that is quite remarkable. I think for too long Canadian businesses have put up with while I would say safe and sound and secure payment systems, they haven't been really fast and inexpensive and accessible, which is what businesses need and want. So I think those two regulatory changes combined will dramatically shift how financial services show up for consumers and businesses into the future.

Jon: Thinking five years ahead, what does success look like for ATB? And is there any specific trends or technology or anything that you have your eye on that you think is going to be really important in the future?

Curtis: For us, we will have really matured two of the journeys that we are defining for our customers. And we're building out this digitization journey for our customers and we're building out this advisory journey powered by AI. So five years from now, these journeys will be matured and we will be providing remarkable experiences for our customers. You could envision where an Albertan wakes up and first thing they do is they sign on to the ATB marketplace. And they don't sign on to do banking, they sign on because they want to register their kids in hockey or in soccer or football. They sign on to the ATB marketplace because they want to register in a post-secondary course. They sign on to the ATB marketplace because they want to book a holiday. And in behind it, banking is inferred and just happens.

You could imagine an ecosystem around our business customers, where right now banks give really good advice based on a loan or a deposit. You can imagine us being so integrated and such an important component of the success of the business that we know and we help them with their payroll services, with their human resource management, with their payables, with their receivables, because we do really believe that advice will be the new product into the future. Predominantly traditional services and products of banks will be commoditized and will be repeatable. We're already seeing that in the consumer side. We think that will happen in the business side. So advice will truly be in the wealth management space and the business space, truly be the product of differentiation into the future.

So the regulatory changes that are impacting financial services in Canada will demonstrably change how you interact with your customers moving forward, whether that's open banking or payment modernization, making sure that we can have real time exchange, real time settlement, which will improve how businesses interact. It will improve how businesses manage their cost of funds and their working capital in ways that we can only imagine right now. That's what we envision five years from now about how customers will engage with us.

And in addition, on top of that, the changing consumer sentiment, where consumers want to deal with and businesses want to deal with organizations that not only have a great core value proposition, but have a purpose, and have a purpose of giving back to the jurisdiction and the communities that they serve. We absolutely believe in providing a great financial return to our investors, but we also understand that it's more than just the bottom line. It's how you show up for your team members. It's how you show up for your customers. It's how you show up in the communities that you serve. How do we raise the wellbeing, the quality of life for Albertans we believe we can have a pretty meaningful impact on? So the trends are remarkable, but again, we probably have a box that we don't know what we don't know. Everybody does. However, we try and shrink that as small as possible and pay attention to the trends and how people are wanting to interact with us as a financial services institute.

Jon: Such an amazing story. I love how everything that you're talking about is really about uplifting the legacies and livelihoods of Albertans. I think that's just a lovely sentiment to have all this grounded in because it makes everything make sense in terms of what it is you're doing from looking after your team members, mental health, looking after Albertans, coming up with new products, envisioning the future to really enable people to live their best lives. It's amazing. I love it.

Curtis: Well, thank you.

Jon: Okay. This is the time in the interview where we get to ask you really non-sequitur questions, just to round out who Curtis Strange is. I'm really curious. Okay, here we go. Question one, smooth or crunchy peanut butter?

Curtis: Crunchy.

Jon: Crunchy, nice. Do you cut your sandwich straight or on a diagonal?

Curtis: Diagonal.

Jon: Nice. What was your first job?

Curtis: My first job was delivering papers at 12 years old in the city of Winnipeg. One bag around my forehead, around my back, and another one around my neck off my front, as I always wanted to take on a bigger route. I think I was up to probably 100 papers, and the Saturdays were the worst because you had all the inserts and the flyers. I think those two bags definitely weighed more than I did.

Jon: I delivered papers too. I think we're probably a very similar age. And then lastly, you are the President and CEO of ATB Financial. When you tell people that, what do they say?

Curtis: Yeah. Well, I will tell you, the immediate reaction is A, do you know someone at ATB, and B, I love ATB. Those would be the two most popular. Either, hey, do you know Bob or Sally or Sue or Brenda, number one. And then number two is, boy I love ATB and my relationship manager is, my advisor is, my branch is. It's incredibly humbling whenever I go on my listening tours to hear from our customers and team members. The amount of feedback we get is, it's a pretty cool gig. Let me put it that way.

Jon: Amazing. Well, that wraps up yet another edition of Shift. It went by really fast for me. Curtis, hopefully it did for you too. I really want to thank you for taking the time out of your day. I know you've got to be busy. So thank you very much for agreeing to be a guest on the podcast.

Curtis: It was my pleasure. Thanks, Jon. I really enjoyed it. And thanks to PWC for their partnership and their support for you to talk to many different business and industry leaders. Really proud to be a part of this.

Jon: Thank you. And to our listeners, thank you so much for sticking with us and listening as well. I know there's tons of other podcasts you could be listening to, and thank you so much for choosing ours. And if you feel like it, I'd love it if you could share it and tell your friends about it and come back again for the next episode. Until then, I'm Jon and that's Curtis, and I'll see you or hear you or be here the next time. Thanks a lot.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play, or your preferred podcast platform. 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.

TELUS Canada: Connecting Canada

How TELUS helped Canadians stay connected amid a pandemic.

Canadian telecommunications providers were at the forefront of the pandemic. Having to deal with record-breaking demands for network capacity across the nation; COVID-19 truly put our wireless and fixed networks to the ultimate test.

On the latest episode of Shift we sit down with Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO at TELUS to get a behind-the-scenes look of what was going on when the pandemic hit. TELUS shares their compelling story on the importance of culture and leadership during unprecedented times; the art of the possible when it comes to project delivery during a time of crisis, and what the future of Canadian telecommunications looks like in a post-pandemic environment.

Jon: Hi, welcome to Shift. It's PwC Canada's podcast series and we're digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I'm your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I'm also the creative director of PwC Canada. All right. Welcome to another episode of the Shift podcast. This is actually the fourth one we've done in quarantine or as part of COVID-19, so I'm at my house. Ibrahim Gedeon, who is the CTO of TELUS is that his home and here we are connecting through the wonders of the internet to bring you what I think is going to be an amazing podcast and that's network and internet and leadership. Ibrahim, welcome to Shift.

Ibrahim: I appreciate it, Jon. I'm really excited about it. I've watched two out of the three previous ones, had lots of insight and I hope we mimic the same level of openness and hopefully, the people will enjoy listening to what we're talking about.

Jon: Absolutely, of course. It's a really interesting time, too, because you're at the leading edge of what's going on as far as networking and IoT and 5G and all this really cool stuff. But before we start off, maybe you could just take a second and tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what you've been up to and ...

Ibrahim: My name is Ibrahim. I'm an engineer, a proud geek. So I know before Bill Gates, that was a term of shame, but now we're pretty proud of ourselves. I've been the CTO of TELUS for almost 17 years, which is probably a world's record, I think.

Jon: Seventeen years is remarkable because when I think about technology and what 17 years ago, technology was like, every day it must be like a new day and it just keeps ramping up. How do you even stay on top of that?

Ibrahim: I think the key is to have a team that articulates enough of staying on top of it that you can understand how to help support them. I think I'm pretty blessed and it was something in our DNA and I can't take credit for it. But every time there's a technology disruption, there's one every year or two, if you think of it transformationally, that's a brand new event because you're touching every angle, client experience, operations, deployment, the technology itself, or you can just relax and say, "Oh yeah, that's coming. I'll just deploy it." So being able to look it an end to end, I don't think, Jon, honestly, I've had two years that are the same.

Jon: I love it.

Ibrahim: This is one of my rants with 5G. I find all my peers are not fumbling. They're deploying, but we're not taking advantage of this great opportunity. COVID is disastrous for the world, for the economy, but shame on us, not to frigging jump up and say, "What an opportunity to be able to leverage it. What an opportunity to get some regulations faster. What an opportunity to try some new stuff." If you remember Uber, when they launched, you were just happy to see when the hell the car is coming. Now you can refund, you can tip. I think we have this notion, I don't know if it's conservative, but it's more risk averse or adventurous averse is the word I'd like to use. I can't get the basic functionality going as a user and then I keep refining and adding as long as I'm giving you a service you like.

Jon: It's a very interesting time, Ibrahim, because I just know from the work that I do at PwC and I had the good fortune of working with our executive team and our back to the office and what the future of work looks like. It's really interesting how top organizations are really looking at this as a time, not just to reset, but to think about, "Okay, we have this moment in time where the car is stopped at the side of the road," or whatever the analogy is. "What can we do to actually use it as an opportunity?" So I love to hear you say that because I guess the most adventurous, the most brave, the ones who can really see it as an opportunity are the ones who are going to come up the other side going, "Look what we did." Not, "Look what we could have done." Ibrahim, I just imagine what it must've been like when this whole thing went down and it's like this big tsunami of health is coming towards us. Was that what it was like or was it just a little bit less dramatic?

Ibrahim: One thing about TELUS, the part that didn't hit us as much as a lot of other people, we already had a work-from-home policy, Jon, right? The reality is younger people today, both parents are working or both partners are working. They need that flexibility, so it was one of the value adds of TELUS that you could work from home. We just moved it from almost 75, 80% to 90 plus, but some people live to stay. So that team dealt with these issues down to PPE, to the Lysol wipes, to making sure when employees come in and we check their temperature and whatever was known at that time.

Ibrahim: As you know, you got to love science or hate it. I love it, but every week or every couple of weeks, there was something new or procedure or they dropped the requirements. So things were evolved and fluid and you have to be, so we'd meet every day. Then we'd talk about the network, the internet, the subscribers, everything from health. We had our own internal COVID app in terms of tracing. We'd double check-in with manual augmentation.

Jon: I'm curious also whether or not you were working with your competitors to get ready and to really bolster the networks. Was that the first time that you guys have had to work across competitors?

Ibrahim: We always get together, but we have established channels of communications that if I have an issue, I talk to John, John talks to George, John talks to Ana. Ana then says, "Oh, we have our monthly meeting. We'll wait for them and we have our quarterly meeting ... " but what moved is I'd pick up the phone to my peers, it's like, "Geez, I'm having issues," or like for a certain hospital in BC, our team and Shaw got together and redesigned the whole access because it's a hospital, in two days. It's not that we're not collaborative. It's just, you have a chain level of command and COVID, the opportunity has told us we don't need a stupid process to do certain things. Processes are there of great rigor but we, as a nation, have not dusted what worked in 10 years, in some cases. I don't want to go back to the old days. Why don't we get together and do it in a week instead of six months?

Jon: Let's talk innovation for a second because I know you have a bee in your bonnet about 5G. I might say that you're disappointed in 5G, at least in the adoption and how people are using it.

Ibrahim Gedeon: So I want to start off by saying 5G was coined in Vancouver in 2014 at a Next Generation Global Networks meeting that we hosted, that's TELUS. In Vancouver, when the 34 CTOs from around the world who were meeting in Vancouver said, "Are we done with 4G?" Then I think it's our colleague from Telecom [inaudible 00:06:21] says, "Well, hell we should think of 5G and it's got to be customer-centric." That was when it started. I saw the birth. It was meant to be transformative, client-centric, but we fall down the trick of, "Oh well, I got 5G." Not that, "I got 5G that would make your life better this way. Oh, and it's faster." So I will tell you, and so TELUS won.

Ibrahim: They are the fastest 4G network in the world, right? Proud of it. Proud of my engineering team, proud of our partners. If you can't see it as a user that I've done not much. So that's my issue with 5G. Everybody is airing, so you can take your frigging phone and they're on a 5G logo. You know we have to rewrite applications for 5G. "Oh, but it's faster, moving you faster from where you are to the base station." It's irrelevant if your end-to-end chain is 4G. You have to rethink that. That's what I need. I'm not anti-5G. I love the progress. TELUS, I think, nailed the record globally for the fastest standards-based 5G in 2018. That's 30 gigabits per second. I could brag about stupid things. What do you care as a user?

Jon: I love the fact that you're always coming back to, "What does the customer need? What does the customer want? How can we enhance their experience?"

Ibrahim: I was so excited when it does three things fundamentally. So yes, you have a lot of speed, but you can get up to a gig with TELUS 4G, right? So yes, it would be more ubiquitous across many territories and urban and rural areas. The last point on 5G is speaking as an individual who is empowered by his corporation to give services to Canadian, we cannot forget security and privacy.

Jon: Right.

Ibrahim: I am not a frigging lawyer. I am not a crypto analyst. I am an engineer, but it would be a miss for us as a part of our responsibility to work with our subscribers and our enterprises not to see, because your surface area for threats and attacks has increased. That's what people don't get. The more apps you have, the more areas you have exposed, the more places where Jon exists in terms of authentication and new apps, the more Jons that are can be compromised, right? So we need to work with the major providers, with the major vendors like the Googles and the Amazons and the Microsofts and with ourselves to build that in. I can't expect every person to say, "Oh yeah, you downloaded that app and it's your fault." So I'm religious about this because if we're going to move Canada forward, if we're going to take advantage of COVID, I think we need to look at the realities, the usage patterns, one using 5G, but also, forecasting for what issues people will have, right?

Jon: Yeah.

Ibrahim: If you remember 10 years ago, you might know someone who knows someone who knows someone whose identity was stolen. Now, each and every one of us know someone was identity was stolen. People don't think. You had degrees of separation. You are one degree of separation now. This is the other pandemic. This is the cyber pandemic.

Jon: It's amazingly interesting because the ramifications of 5G from a security side of things, I think, is on a lot of people's mind. Hey, Ibrahim, to kind of go back to the thing that you talked about, the value of 5G coming from the edge, do you mean the edge more of like the periphery in terms of organizational edge where innovation typically comes from, and then it comes into the center?

Ibrahim: One thing, my boss, my CEO is great. He always says, "I need somebody to translate Ibrahim him to English," because he says I speak Klingon sometimes because the edge for us, I know what it is, but I realized if I may just take two milliseconds and explain it.

Jon: Please.

Ibrahim: Today, when you have an app, let's say you play Candy Crush, right? You're playing Candy Crush and the actual server is not located in your town or your city. Sometimes it's in a different country. So with 5G, we were able to inexpensively, that whole motion of it has to go to a central location, distributed everywhere. So for example, in Canada, the nation is four cities. All Telecom operators designed Montreal, Toronto and they back each other up and Calgary and Vancouver and they back each other up technically. So what you have now is, because it was very expensive, a lot of gear, a lot of people, a lot of operations. But now you can take that and blow it up and have the top 38 Canadian cities be self-sustained from a switching point of view, from a logic.

Ibrahim: So if a lot of people in the Halifax are watching Candy Crush, great. We'll put a Candy Crush server there so they don't have to go to Toronto or to Dallas. It's a stupid example, but think of medical files, think of diagnostics. People would say, "Oh, what about my privacy on the pandemic?" "There's a fine line between your privacy and then you can't see your doctor for six weeks. Would you like to have a video call?" You made that call. Which one of us who has children, or has an issue would say, "Oh no, no. No video calling. I'm focused on my ... "

Ibrahim: We all have to give in, so there's a bit of responsibility, but the edge was 5G, it is what it's able to have every factory to have their own resources that they need as they consume the internet locally; speed, security, authentication and that's what 5G is supposed to do. So what is 4 core should be 30, 40, 50 switching centers. A stadium should have its own edge. Why not interact with the stadium? So today, the most avant-garde arena would let you see what other people are posting. It would have a mosaic. But have you ever thought of being able to pick, at home, which camera you want to look at? It is there, but it's very sluggish, but with 5G, the cameras don't need to be connected. Using over 100 cameras is you can't wire the whole thing, but when you're allowed to get hundreds of megabits per second at a very low latency, you can switch all of that every time.

Jon: That begs the question, we're talking about 5G and nearly zero latency and what that means for industries such as healthcare is a big one in terms of bringing people together and being able to perform things greater, surgeries or whatever, longer distances or what's happening in agriculture. But I want to ask you about Smart Cities and I'm just wondering, just anecdotally, do you think that COVID has put any kind of delay or wrench into people's comfort with cities in general? We want to live in these utopian, futuristic, connected cities, but at the same time, it's like right now, I haven't been out of my house in weeks. So tell me how that reconciles.

Ibrahim: I think COVID is a chance for them to revisit because people think of a Smart City as something new. It's the same frigging city. We need to see how we make it smart and what we make smart. So I think what's important is, and I think it's a fantastic opportunity, that the traditional stand on Smart City has taken a bit of a delay. I hope that cities woke up after COVID and says, "I don't have a street department. I don't have a garbage department. I have a going digital department," thinking of the actual citizen as a customer [crosstalk 00:13:39] This is what the opportunity is, so yes, there's a uptake on traditional Smart Cities not there, but I'm hoping, and I'm seeing it then.

Ibrahim: But there's a bunch of cities that are revisiting what they're doing and saying, "My God, what a great opportunity. Let's think of the platform. Let's think about how they all integrate and how do we actually make you, as a citizen of that city, part of the ecosystem? I'm from Montreal. We get two meters plus a snow year, we're screwed, like Montreal, Ottawa. Have you ever cleared the snow and then the frigging city truck who you were waiting for comes by and now your soft snow is frigging condensed? You need that pickax or the shovel?

Ibrahim: So I'd love to know, you know what? When are they coming? You know what? I might be able to wait. I'm going to clear the snow five minutes after they come by my street because that two foot or that half a meter immediate, which is like this high, like half-a-meter high, half a meter. It's so compressed of snow, when the plows come in, please let me clear mine after you clear yours, because the soft snows had to be. This is basic stuff on Smart Cities. I'm in love with Smart Cities when they've done right through moving things forward holistically rather than one at a time.

Jon: So one of the things that I think is probably the envy of many organizations is how amazing TELUS is in terms of its culture and leadership. In fact, Forbes recognized TELUS as Canada's leading global workplace in their World's Best Employees 2020 report. That's absolutely incredible. I'd love to know more about how that culture was created at TELUS. Obviously, orchestrated to be that way, maybe a little bit of a inside scoop on that

Ibrahim: Before I came, TELUS was the merger of a number of companies. One thing that our current CEO did in 2000, he said, "These are our core values," and we build programs around them. Like somebody says, "Oh, well you give so much to charity." I said, "We do it for us. We don't do it for our customers." Nobody buys TELUS because we're the most charitable organization in the world, which we are for our size, but we do because our employees love working for us. So you create a culture where they love the values. We talk about the courage to innovate. I'm not bragging and it's not a marketing commercial, but we've had less than 1% churn for the last so many years, which is unheard of in the world of mobility. It's because we love what we do and it's a cultural shift, like one of our engagement results is whereas 90% employees engaged in their job, whether it's true or not, but that's like we're leading again.

Ibrahim: But it's because you create the right environment. Like we said, "We're not going to fire anybody in the pandemic, unless you screw up on something relevant." But we, as a company, are bearing the brunt that making sure people are not out of a job. We're not waiting for handout, but that's a commitment. It's so easy to say, "Oh, revenue stream is not coming in, even though some customers are now paying." So you look at that culture, the culture that believes in you as an employee; the culture that gives you a sandbox so you can actually let your brain go and innovate; the culture that actually lets you take the stuff that you might've not done right and try it out. To learn, I think that's invaluable, right? I don't know, Jon, how you would compete with that.

Jon: Very hard to compete and I think that kind of leadership, when it comes from the top as well, it sets the tone for an organization like no other. I love the fact that you're empowering people and you're giving them a safe space to innovate and to be in the sandbox and to contribute in a way that doesn't come with potentially negative consequence.

Ibrahim: There's one word to capture our culture, it's empathy with our employees and empathy with our clients. Yes. Great dividends, great love of shareholders, but it is that feeling like you've got to put yourself in people's shoes. If I put myself in your shoes, Jon, it should be very simple to know what makes you happy. Then I have a decision. Do I care or not? If I care, you're happy, you're engaged, you produce. Well, the happiest people produce the happiest customers. It's common sense.

Jon: It is common sense. Not that I speak to CTOs all the time, but it's so refreshing to hear someone who has chief technology officer and their title be so concerned and so aware and empathetic of people's needs, both employee and customer. It's so great. I just have to point that out and I think [crosstalk 00:18:01] yes. Well, I think that listeners should really take that to heart because there's a lot of organizations out there that are maybe tech-focused or not, that just focus on the product, just focus on that and then everything follows from that. But there's so much choice and there's so much humanity going on now that to miss it is, I think, is a big mistake. Hey, do you have any advice for leaders who are really trying to make an impact within this remote world where we're just not together anymore? As someone in your position, is there anything that you've done differently?

Ibrahim: I've done three things. When I go out with younger people, like my nieces and nephews, they'd sit at the same table and text each other. The assumption is they're the best people to handle isolation. But what I found out it was very difficult for the younger people to actually handle isolation way more than the old dogs like myself, because I could pick up a magazine or pick up a book or clean up something. So one of the first things I did, I started sharing food recipes with the young engineers at TELUS. It's amazing when I put a recipe and I put a picture of the food dish, it's amazing how collaborative they are. But it was amazing how everybody stepped up, "Oh, I want to impress my girlfriend. I want to impress my boyfriend."

Ibrahim: What started off as, "Ibrahim putting something in, so we might have to look at it. He's our boss's boss's boss," kind of thing, to, "They're all contributing." So we actually produced the COVID relief book done by the GCLP and all the money goes to TELUS Foundation and a few other areas for COVID relief. But the one thing I did that I never thought, but you have to communicate. I went on Slack. I'm not a Slack guy. It's a great tool that's used for sharing code and processes, but they're all on Slack and I started looking, "Oh, these are cool novels." I said, "Oh, I read this novel. Have you guys read it?"

Ibrahim: Then I started posting the food and then they would react and they'd post it and we'd try each others' recipes. That's one thing I did. The other one, which is, it's time consuming, but it's very important, Jon, that people don't do a good job with this. I went a couple of layers down in [inaudible 00:20:08] and I nailed every two to three weeks, a half hour with each and every person, so there was around 70 of them. I was shocked how much more I got to know them, so that was a great opportunity for me. After seven or eight months, they said, "Ibrahim, we're tired of you." But it was really good. Then I did with all my employees, you book a slot to have coffee with Ibrahim in the morning or a glass of wine.

Ibrahim: So it'll be a couple of slots on the morning, once a week and a couple of slots in the afternoon, once a week. Then you'd would just book it and then I'd make sure it was no more than five, because you want to be able to communicate, to talk. So those are the things I did. But I have to admit, productivity on launching innovation is not working so well in this remote area where you would sit on a whiteboard, you would not leave till you have an answer because now you're at home, like your partner, your kids, the dog needs walking, the frigging FedEx guy came on your door. You can't dedicate a day when you're at home to anything.

Jon: I know. At PwC, we've been doing a lot of work thinking about taking the best of all worlds as opposed to the worst from all worlds and sticking them together in a hybrid environment. But it's tough. As someone who's in the creative field, I spent the majority of my career in advertising and working on big campaigns for the likes of yourselves and others and you need that close proximity with people to come up with stuff that you just can't do like this. It's just not the same. All right. This is the time for the lightning round, ding, ding, ding, where I get to ask you some rapid fire questions that you haven't seen before, so that we get a real sense of what Ibrahim's all about. So what's your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Ibrahim: I do a cheese yogurt and with bread, olives and tomatoes, very Mediterranean.

Jon: I love it. What's your favorite recipe from your cookbook?

Ibrahim: I love the simple dishes, so there's a casta dish, which every nation has some version of meatballs, so it's the Mediterranean-Arabic version of it, with parsley onions. You can cook it, grill it, make it into a stew, bake it with tomato sauce, very versatile and got proteins and vegetables.

Jon: What is your favorite mobile phone that you've ever owned?

Ibrahim: My favorite revolutionary phone was the BlackBerry Slider. I still have it. I play with it. I still do it for nostalgic purposes, not just because it's Canadian, but it gave me, at that time, the best of both worlds, the keyboard and the screen, because everybody was going to screen or keyboard. It was the only one that gave me both and it saved me with Nokia Slider from a different era, right? That was my favorite transformative phone.

Jon: So cool. Last question, are you an early bird or a night owl?

Ibrahim: I think with COVID we're doing both. So I usually I'm up at 4:00 in the morning, I like it. But I work in naps, as everybody in my team will tell you, who works with me. I work in one or two cat naps, 10, 20, half an hour, but I wake up at 4:00 and usually to go to bed around midnight.

Jon: That's a good day. That's a productive day. Well, that wraps up another episode of Shift. Ibrahim, that was really interesting. I thank you so much for spending the time with us to really open the hood on what TELUS has been up to and 5G and Smart Cities and cookbooks, so thank you.

Ibrahim: My pleasure.

Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play or your preferred podcast platform. 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.

National Bank: Unprecedented growth in unprecedented times

Preparing for an IPO in a pandemic.

For certain sectors like tech, digital health, e-commerce - the last few months have been a time of unprecedented growth with many of these companies now considering an IPO as part of their growth strategy.

On the latest episode of the Shift podcast we sit down with Asha Bakshani, SVP of Finance at Lightspeed and Colin Ryan, Managing Director of Investment Banking at National Bank to discuss the IPO marketscape amid a pandemic.

Lightspeed shares their successful IPO journey and lessons learned, while Colin adds key trends and insights on what organizations who want to IPO need to be considering.

Jon Finkelstein: Hi. Welcome to Shift, PwC Canada's podcast series, and we're digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I'm your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I'm also the creative director of PwC Canada.

Welcome to another episode of Shift. We're still in COVID lockdown here in Toronto. That gives you a little sense of how things are going. But we're committed to bringing you amazing guests and amazing content. But I do want to say, just before we start, that I hope all of our listeners are safe and doing as best they can. We have an excellent distraction for you today, and that is our topic today, which is really about unprecedented growth in unprecedented times.

On the show today, we have Asha Bakshani, who is the SVP finance at Lightspeed, and Colin Ryan, who is managing director at National Bank. And we're really going to be talking today about how organizations have been changing their business, their offerings, how they're going to market, and ultimately, how their IPO-ing, given the fact that we're in the middle, I hope it's the middle or close to the end, of a pandemic. Welcome to the show.

Asha Bakshani: Thanks, it's great to be here.

Colin Ryan: Thanks, Jon. Great to be here.

Jon Finkelstein: So maybe we'll just start off slowly, if you don't mind filling us in a little bit about who you are and what your background is. Asha, why don't we start with you?

Asha Bakshani: Sure, sure. My name is Asha Bakshani, and as you mentioned already, I'm the senior vice president of finance at Lightspeed. Lightspeed's a cloud-based commerce-enabling solution, and our company really builds software tools for small and medium-sized businesses. So essentially, we give merchants the tools that they need to run their business, whether it be retail, hospitality, and we even go deeper into verticals, such as bike and golf.

When I started at Lightspeed, there were about two people in the finance team. And so I really worked to build the entire financial reporting accounting infrastructure really necessary to get us to the point where we had the financial discipline to be a dualist, a public company today.

Jon Finkelstein: Over to you, Colin.

Colin Ryan: Thanks, Jon. My name is Colin Ryan. And as you mentioned, I'm a managing director at National Bank. Specifically, I co-head the technology media telecom and healthcare investment banking team at the bank. And what I specifically am focused on is providing financial advisory and financing services to Canadian companies within those verticals I mentioned earlier.

On a sort of personal note, we were very proud to be one of the leads on Lightspeed's IPO back in early 2019. So had the chance to work with Asha and her team in the past.

Jon Finkelstein: Yeah, you both have such interesting backgrounds, but Asha, I'm really interested to sort of talk about Lightspeed for a second because when I think about what's been going on in sort of the universe of commerce right now, the notion of online has been supercharged in a way that I don't think anybody could have predicted. We all knew that e-commerce and online and digital POS and integration systems with supply chain and inventory needed to happen. But tell me a little bit about how you guys have been able to pivot and manage success and all the good things that you've been doing since COVID hit.

Asha Bakshani: Yeah, for sure. So I think at Lightspeed, we really hold employees and customers at the heart of everything we do. When I think about our customers, we did whatever we could to help our customers pivot. We really feel that loyalty is something that's earned and when we're helping our customers at a time like this, it was real opportunity for us to build loyalty of our customer base and to help our customers pivot to this new normal.

So we offered three months of free Lightspeed delivery, free e-commerce, free loyalty because we wanted them to be able to meet the needs of changing customer demands during this pandemic. To help our customers, we even launched a COVID-19 retail and restaurant guide, which was helpful to our merchants. It was online early April, and it really helped our merchants across the world to understand the government incentives that were available to them in each region.

So Lightspeed really pushed that to all our merchants and enabled them to look not only at the government help that was available to them, but just tips for operational tasks, tools for new revenue streams, to try to help restaurateurs think innovatively on what can I do if my doors are closed.

In bringing our customers and our employees together, we also rolled out what we call Lightspeed Local. It was really an initiative. It was $500 that we gave to each Lightspeed employee to spend at any Lightspeed merchant. And so that was sort of a way to support our employees because they may have needed a desk or a chair, or they may have wanted to order lunch once in a while. And at the same time, we were supporting our customers.

It went super well. I mean, we got a flood of pictures and comments from both our employees and our merchants. It was so successful that we decided to launch it again during Christmas time.

Jon Finkelstein: I think that's really spectacular, honestly. Question for you though. How did you think about your sort of product and offering pipeline? How did it change, in response to the pandemic? Talk to me a little bit about how you guys underwent product planning and the rollout and how you re-prioritized.

Asha Bakshani: So at the beginning of the pandemic, we sat together in a room and we figured out, okay, what is it that we need to do, from every front? So we looked at sales and marketing. We looked at back office, where we needed to cut spend, etcetera. And then we looked at product and we said, here's the product roadmap. What is it that we need to accelerate?

So we looked at all the things that were going to be important in a world where we were hit by this pandemic. For example, online was super important. So we insured the online experience and our e-commerce product was easy to navigate and the sites were quick to put up. We ensured that there was speedy shipping integrated, contact less experience, curbside pickup, delivery. Like all the things that were going to be important now, when people's doors were closed, is what we accelerated on the roadmap.

We didn't know how long the pandemic was going to last, but we really executed on the plan. And the plan had three main priorities. One was to protect our customers, two was to protect our employees, and third was to protect the strength of our balance sheet. And we executed on that.

Jon Finkelstein: Amazing. One of the things that really has knocked me out personally, during the pandemic, as an employee of PwC is how open and transparent our leadership has been and how they've really taken the employee wellbeing to heart, if you will. So it sounds to me like Lightspeed, as part of its core principles or ethos or foundation, has really kind of looked at human needs and making sure that what you're delivering has purpose and value for people.

Asha Bakshani: Yeah. 100%. And we've always been that way, even pre pandemic. Dax, our CEO, is very much connected to his people, his employees and his customers. And he really sets the right tone at the top. And so every person we hire that comes through the Lightspeed doors sees that and sort of adopts that behavior and it's worked super well for us. I mean, during the pandemic, Dax writes a CEO email update every Friday to the whole company. We have quarterly town halls where he stands up on a Zoom in front of 1,200 Lightspeeder's around the world and just gives everyone an update about what happened in the quarter, where we're going in the next quarter. Just very, very transparent with our employees for sure.

Jon Finkelstein: Colin, I'm just curious, what have you seen internally and how has the bank, and this may be completely off topic, mind you, how the bank is kind of working with its employees and its customers to provide value. Is that something that you can comment on?

Colin Ryan: Yeah, sure. I mean, it has been really interesting to see. Prior to COVID, I would be traveling once or twice a week to go out and physically meet clients. And so I'd say that that's been probably the most significant change we've had in our side of the business, not being able to go out and meet clients in person. Our business, I think, because it's a service business and the types of transactions that we work on with clients, like an IPO of Lightspeed as an example there, very important transactions for our clients. We Spend a lot of time with our clients. And so having that sort of relationship and trust is important, which is why you have developing those connections in person has been helpful. So the bank's been extremely supportive and helpful really the beginning and allowing us all to adjust and work efficiently from home.

Jon Finkelstein: I'm a little curious, we're going to kind of start to talk a little bit now about how do companies think about or take their companies public in the middle of a pandemic. When this whole thing started, and this is to Colin, what did you think? I mean, it's like, Oh my goodness, we're shutting everything down. Your initial reaction to sort of the IPO market and how things would move forward, where you kind of going like this is going to be really bad or did you think that there would be some really interesting new opportunity as a result of that?

Colin Ryan: So I think the initial reaction, if I'm being honest, was this is not going to be good. Jon, and your point, and part of that was because the reaction, the short-term reaction in the stock market, including companies within the technology sector that have since and we're up to the pandemic and sort of since performed extremely well.

But the short-term reaction was pretty severe for a lot of companies, and so that sort of led to my, and I think a lot of my colleagues reaction to this could be trouble on sort of the financing side of the business. To your question, how are companies going to be able to go public again? With share prices depressed, that's challenging to do.

Now, in our business, the financing is certainly one side of it. Mergers and acquisitions and financial advisory, as I mentioned earlier, another part of it. And oftentimes when you have market downturns, that can lead to M and A activity. Perhaps you'd have companies that are in distress situations that need a solution, whether it's a financing solution or an M and A solution.

So we knew there would be opportunities, but I would say it's been really great to see the shift, the quick shift in the market, and specifically the technology sector has bounced back at an incredible rate, really historic rate since March and April. And because of that, we've actually seen an uptick in the level of IPO activity over the last few months.

Jon Finkelstein: You know what, in a way I'm kind of not surprised, but also surprised, because when I asked you that question, my mind kind of went to has there been different types of IPO's coming to fruition or coming out?

Colin Ryan: Yeah, for sure. In terms of some of the clients that we're seeing, I would say that when I look at the technology sector and the types of companies that are performing well, and therefore the types of companies that are coming to market, there are a few sort of themes that I think are getting at the question that you're asking Jon, and that would be companies serving small and medium sized businesses, like Lightspeed, like Shopify, that have an e-commerce angle to their business, companies that are in the health technology sector, companies that are in the educational technology sector, companies that are helping us work from home, remote working infrastructure.

I mean, all of those sort of sub sectors within technology are the areas where we're seeing really strong performance in the market and are making up a lot of the new issue activity, whether it's on the IPO, front or follow on activity.

Jon Finkelstein: So Asha, when you guys decided to go public, basically, did you have a moments pause, did the company have a moments pause about timing? I mean, you listed in September, so not that long ago and like that's pretty daring stuff. So did you guys go, this is like the perfect storm, guys. This is the right time. Or was it more like, let's see what happens. I'm just really curious if you could kind of let us into the back room a little bit on that way.

Asha Bakshani: Yeah, for sure. So we were planning a US IPO at some point this year, and then when the pandemic hit, we were all, like Colin said, thinking, okay, this can't be good. We're just going to postpone that a little bit. And so then that was in March. And then as the months went by, we recognize that, you know what, I mean, the fundamentals of our company didn't change. Our employees are actually able to pivot to work from home, more efficient than ever, things like my team, for example. We closed the audit in 45 days or less. And before that, that was a record for us, and we were all working from home because it was in April and early May.

And then because of, again, what Colin referred to about digital first, companies like Lightspeed ended up fairing even better than their peers. And so our numbers were amazing and so summer came by and we said, okay, look, our numbers are great. The company is doing well. The trajectory is amazing. We look forward to what's coming down the pipeline. There was so much out there for us to go take. There's so many different opportunities, from an M and A perspective, that we could take advantage of for the peers of ours that maybe were not fairing as well as we were.

And so we said, the timing is right, the timing is now. Yes, there's a pandemic, which means logistically it's going to be a bit more challenging, but the team was there. The team was ready to do it. We were excited to do it and we said, let's go for it.

Jon Finkelstein: That is so unnerving. But I'm curious if you, from your experience, Asha, if you have any advice for organizations who are themselves thinking about going public right now. Yours was very successful and based on the products and services that you offer, perfectly timed. What would you say to someone who's considering doing same?

Asha Bakshani: Yeah. I mean, I think if we ignore the noise in the market for a minute, it really comes down to the fundamentals of the business, because I mean, you can win in a bull market in the short term, but if your fundamentals aren't there or aren't strong, you won't last very long. So I really think it comes down to what is fundamentally your business about. I think you need to ensure you're creating products that answer a true need.

So I think at Lightspeed, we've done that because there's a true need from an SMB merchant perspective, for tools that we provide, for the commerce solutions we provide, for the e-commerce fully integrated payments to the POS that we provide. So I think that's what I would keep in mind. And never lose that insightful dialogue with your customers, like I mentioned earlier. It's really critical, no matter what it is that you're selling, to have a constant dialogue with your customers to ensure that you continue to meet that true need of someone.

And then lastly, I would say financial discipline. At Lightspeed, we've always embraced growth, which is quite obvious, but never growth at all costs. We've always been super disciplined about doing what we say we're going to do. Like I mentioned, at the beginning of the pandemic, we created a plan, a budget, an outlook of here's what we're going to do in every single area and we executed on that plan.

And so we created the plan and we stuck to it on all fronts. And I think that financial discipline part is super important. And this is how we were able to navigate the early days of COVID. And this is how we were able to achieve the success we've achieved today.

Jon Finkelstein: Colin, so we're talking about financial discipline and staying true to your core offering and these things. When you're considering and looking at different organizations to either, for an MNA or for an IPO, what kind of things were you looking for before and has the criteria changed at all in terms of what you're looking for now that COVID-19 is here?

Colin Ryan: Yeah, sure. And Jon, if I can quickly go back to what Asha just mentioned, because I think I couldn't agree with her more in terms of company readiness for an IPO. This is the market where it is just so strong, especially for technology companies where it widens and sort of net for the types of companies that are able to go public and could get a deal done.

But I think the most important thing for companies to consider when evaluating an IPO, again, is what Asha said, is making sure that the company is ready. And what I mean by that is that internally, financials, management, key management folks, board, the vision, so there aren't going to be significant changes in the product or the business. You know that once the company is public, they will be able to perform and meet or exceed market expectations because that's the way to continue having a positive experience in the public markets and seeing your share price go in the right direction and continuing to grow your company.

The worst thing that you can do as a public company is come out of the Gates and the first couple of quarters have choppy results or choppy quarters that don't meet the expectations that you set out at the time of the IPO. And I think, quite frankly, that's one of the reasons why the demand for tech is so strong in Canada right now because companies like Lightspeed have done it the right way. They've come out of the gates and they've outperformed expectations and investors have had a very positive experience.

So I think that's a really critical point. And then the last comment I would make around that is an IPO isn't an end transaction. It's really the continuation of a company's journey. It's not selling your company. Oftentimes management or venture capital investors, existing investors, retain a big stake in the company so they may get some liquidity on the IPO, but for the most part, their interest in the company is going to continue on as a public company. So it's more a next step for a company than is sort of a final event. So just wanted to pick up on that.

Jon Finkelstein: Okay. So this question is directed to both of you guys. The notion of IPO, going on an IPO and the notion of roadshow seem to go hand in hand to me. Now that we live in even a more virtual world, I'm curious how you've seen the IPO process change. Let's start with you, Asha, how did you take it out?

Asha Bakshani: Yeah. So, for me, it was very different because I was not part of the roadshow when we went public in Canada, because that was not virtual. And I was a part of the roadshow when we went public in New York, because it was virtual. So it was very, very different.

So when we went public in Canada, in March of 2019, the executives that were on the roadshow would give us daily updates on what was happening. And so our CFO, Brandon, would send emails every night about what happened, where we are on the book, et cetera. But it was completely different this time around because it was fully virtual. So I attended the entire roadshow with Brandon and I was able to see firsthand exactly what it's about and the type of questions that the shareholders ask and I even participated in answering some of them.

So that was extremely interesting for me. And then from Brandon, JP, and Dax's perspective, who are the guys that went on the roadshow the first time around, they couldn't help but express how amazing this time around was, because although there was a lot of benefit in seeing the shareholders and the investors face to face, there was also a lot of flying. I mean, I think they got on like 20 something flights in two weeks. It sounded a bit nightmarish in terms of the logistics. So I think, yes, there were definitely benefits seeing everyone in person, but it didn't change anything in how successful we were when we did the virtual roadshow.

Jon Finkelstein: What do you think, Colin?

Asha Bakshani: Yeah, look, I don't think anything's changed in terms of an investor appetite or interest moving from physical to virtual because then everyone understands we can't meet in person. I think it'll be interesting to see, once we're through all of this, if things ever go back to normal. Because I think as Asha said, IPO roadshow is, in a way, it's a pretty inefficient process. It can be a very stressful experience, I think, for everyone involved and so eliminating all of that and not to mention the flights that Asha mentioned. I think it's been really eye-opening to see how much time we can save.

Jon Finkelstein: Maybe one final question before we get into our lightning round. How or why do you think that the valuations of companies are so high right now when it seems to be counter-intuitive in a way, that we're in this interesting economic time and yet companies have these incredible valuations.

Colin Ryan: Yeah. So I think, Jon, I would say just coming back to sort of fundamentals, I would say think about asset allocation and where interest rates are and have been over a very long period of time. It's sort of record lows, as investors, broadly speaking, look for value. I think, again, with yields as low as they are, equities are attractive. And so if you agree with that as a premise, and when you sort of dig in to the universe of equities that are available to buy, I think the technology sector is one that has been gaining tremendous momentum. Not just over the last six or eight months, but really over the last several years, driven by things like e-commerce adoption. And that sort of divergence, I think, within equities of technology are performing, we've seen over the last couple of years and it's only widened and accelerated during COVID.

So I think, to me, it's sort of a relative value question first, equities versus other places you can park your money. And then within equities, technology has been the most attractive sector, just given how fast it's growing, and the data supports that. If you look at the sub sectors of the S & P 500, the two best performing sub sectors over the last year have been technology and then consumer discretionary and consumer discretionary includes Amazon, which is essentially a technology company.

So technology is really leading the way in the market. And again, I think it all comes back to just growth expectations. I think the growth in the technology sector is out performing virtually every other sector in our economy right now.

Jon Finkelstein: Well, I mean, the success that you both had in this time is nothing short of spectacular. So congrats on that. And now in our last couple of minutes, we want to know a little bit about you, not just your company. And so let's start with you, Asha. What's your best working from home tip?

Asha Bakshani: My best Working from home tip is to get a standing desk or one of those ones that go up and down because it's been a lifesaver for me. I waited three months to get it and I regret it. I should have done it in the beginning.

Jon Finkelstein: Colin, what's your favorite movie or binge worthy TV series right now? People want to binge.

Colin Ryan: I'm going to have to go with Succession. I really enjoyed that. My wife and I have enjoyed that over the last few months. It's about a media empire family and sort of the succession from the patriarch of the family and down to his children. There's a lot of parallels to what's going on in, in the world and specifically the US today in the media industry. So it's relevant and also extremely entertaining.

Jon Finkelstein: How about you, Asha? Are you watching anything good?

Asha Bakshani: Yeah, actually, my husband and I really enjoyed Money Heist. It's a Spanish show. It's called Casa de Popel and it's subtitled, just about these bank robbers and a lot less philosophical than Colin's, but definitely binge worthy.

Jon Finkelstein: Okay. How about you, Asha? What's your most used phone app, smart phone app, these days?

Asha Bakshani: I have a geeky one. It's LinkedIn, because I've looking for talent. We're looking for a lot of people at Lightspeed and in my department as well. So I've been really ... When I'm done my work day and I'm on my phone at night I'm browsing LinkedIn trying to see who I can go steal from a firm. [inaudible 00:24:17].

Jon Finkelstein: What about you, Colin? What's your favorite app right now?

Colin Ryan: Ooh, favorite? Probably most used is Teams. Probably favorite would be, I'm going to go with Uber Eats. I live downtown Toronto. So there's a lot of ordering on Uber eats for me these days.

Jon Finkelstein: Classic. Last question. Do you have a new COVID hobby?

Asha Bakshani: I mean, I don't know if I'd call it a hobby, but I do it very, very often. I play football with my kids because they can't see their friends on the weekend. We're in lockdown. So my husband and I go out on the field with our two boys and apparently I'm a really good receiver. I do it all the time and it's actually quite fun and I don't know if I'm going to make a habit of it, but it is fun and I've been doing it a lot. Never did it before.

Jon Finkelstein: Amazing. What about you, Colin?

Colin Ryan: I'd say getting out and doing walking, like whether it's during the day, if I need a break or at night after the kids go to bed, just go out for sort of a 45 minute or hour walk around the city has been nice.

Jon Finkelstein: Amazing. But there we go. That wraps up another edition of Shift. This has been a great one and certainly very timely when we think about what organizations are doing right now to make the most of COVID, to continue about their business, to take their companies public as a strategy for growth, etcetera, etcetera. And I want to thank both Colin and Asha, Asha and Colin, for being on this Shift. It's been great. It was lovely to meet you guys. Thank you so much for spending your time with us to give your perspectives.

Asha Bakshani: Sure. It was my pleasure. Thank you, guys.

Colin Ryan: Yeah. Thanks, Jon. Thanks, Asha.

Jon Finkelstein: Okay. Until the next time and hope the listeners enjoyed it and we'll be back with another episode of Shift very soon.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast series. You can find us on iTunes, Google Play, or your preferred podcast platform. Just so you know, this podcast has been prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership for general guidance on matters of interest only, and does not constitute professional advice. Until next time.

Porsche Canada: In the driver's seat

In conversation with Marc Ouayoun, President & CEO of Porsche Canada about driving toward the future in a digital and ever changing world.

Jon Finkelstein:
Hi, welcome to Shift. It's PwC Canada's podcast series, and we're digging into key digital trends and topics that can make your business transformation a reality. I'm your host, Jon Finkelstein, and I'm also the Creative Director of PwC Canada. This is our third COVID podcast, and we're coming to you from our respective homes, which is very cool. For those of you listening, we have an amazing guest today. I'm super pumped to be talking to Marc Ouayoun, who's the President and CEO of Porsche Canada. Marc, welcome to Shift.

Marc Ouayoun:
Hello, Jon.

Jon Finkelstein:
Thanks for joining. Here we are. I know you told us before we started rolling that you've been in quarantine for the last couple of weeks because you've recently come back from your home in France. And so you're probably itching to get out and drive?

Marc Ouayoun:
Oh, yes, of course. And the funny thing is that I'm just sitting at my desk and I just see, all day long my Taycan Turbo S just waiting for me in front of my driveway. So this is really something.

Jon Finkelstein:
Well, I think like the majority of car enthusiasts, Porsche is one of those hallmark brands that as kids, we used to put posters up in our room. So it's one of those brands that we dream about and want to own and really understand. So thanks for so much for spending the time and chatting with us about it. Because actually as a company, Porsche has gone through some pretty amazing transformations of its product offering and how it goes to market and stuff which we're going to talk about soon, but just for the purposes of our listeners, it'd be great if you could just take a second and just tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the auto industry and what your sort of career path has been like.

Marc Ouayoun:
It's a long journey. I think many at that age, I would say around 13, 14 years old, I was really so passionate, not only about the cars, but especially about Porsche. Porsche for me at that time was already standing for its puristic design, also performance, innovation. It was a time of the 959. If you remember, I visited the Paris Auto Show in 1994 and there was this 959 concept.

Jon Finkelstein:
I remember the 959.

Marc Ouayoun:
And the funny thing is that at that time I contacted a few Porsche executives that were on the Porsche stand in Paris Auto Show. And I just tried to get a Porsche, the 911 I think it was my first Porsche was 911, 3.2 kilowatts. And I told them, how can I work for this company? Because if I cannot afford one, I want to work for Porsche.

Marc Ouayoun:
And in fact it happened and it was not only by chance, I would say. I had to change to be a head hunted after 10 years at NASAs advance, I worked in different positions from SLS in France, in Germany, in Great Britain, in marketing and sales area. And then in 2005, I had this huge opportunity to be contacted by Porsche France, to become head of sales. It was a good story for me because it went really well with Porsche France at that time, then I became director of sales and network development. And then my managing director left back to Germany and he told me, "Mark would you like to apply for my position?" And he said, "You will not be the only one. And I can tell you I did fight like a dog to get this job and I get it." So, yeah, and then my career continued with an opportunity to go to Canada, the board member in charge of sales and marketing.

Marc Ouayoun:
The one who hired me in France contacted me in 2018 to ask me, "Do you want to have a new career step? And you want to see something different?" Then I say yes, of course. And then he said, "I have the best country for you." And it was Canada. So I decided and it's not easy because leaving your home country and basically arriving in a new country its not that easy. But honestly this was great fun to be here and such an interesting market, such passionate customers. Yeah, and also a great team. I must say, it's my team is also one of the reasons why I wake up every morning and the smile.

Jon Finkelstein:
I love that. So let me ask you, you know, you talk a little bit about the people and, and you know, the staff that you have and the enthusiastic customers in Canada. I'd love to hear a little bit about the focus that you have on people, the passion that you have about people, which is a really interesting thing to think about in your position in a way, because you think it'd be all about the sheet metal, all about the cars, all about the motor, all about the driving experience, but there's something about your approach that really focuses on people. And so tell me a little bit more about that?

Marc Ouayoun:
As a manager, you need to deliver first. Deliver results, exceed expectations of your customers, and also shape a little bit the culture of your company. What I learned in my different experiences is that the most successful managers are the ones who focus on culture and people. And I really believe that by empowering people and by trusting people, you obtain collective intelligence that not a single manager can have. Some managers are just leading and commanding, controlling people, asking them exactly what to do. I would say maybe that's a little bit old fashioned now. To get results and really achieve your goals, achieve your vision you really need to empower your people and you need to have a great culture. And a great culture is not something you can just dictate. You need to build it. And, of course, then comes to the passion, but the passion for sports. My job it's not something that I'm thinking about every day. I'm enthusiastic about cars, of course, I'm a car guy, but the most important in a company like Porsche is to have the right vision for your company now and for the future.

Jon Finkelstein:
I love it. It's interesting that you talk about the sort of collective intelligence and by the way, I'm probably going to steal that, okay? Because I think that's a really great term. At PwC in the work that we do, we talk a lot about sort of human centered design and really designing and including all the different users and people who will be affected by a solution, a piece of technology, a new product, whatever the case may be. So it makes me think a little bit about sort of the Porsche story in terms of, if you think about how cars are built, if you think about how racing is done, it's not one person, it's very much a team dynamic. And it sounds to me in a way you're kind of employing that a little bit in terms of how you're approaching sort of the organization. So we just said that's right?

Marc Ouayoun:
Yeah, absolutely. And when you listen to Ferid Pasha, he said so many things that are for me a visionary. The first of all is this family spirit is very vivid at Porsche. We have so family spirit. It's a big family, of course, it's now a company with such 5,000 people. There is a family spirit there. Ferid Pasha used to visit the factory in Stuttgart. And he was just saying to his guys that he doesn't need to build sports cars. He needs to take care of the workers that build sports cars so that they build the best sports cars. This is what he said. And I think it's a great assumption.

Jon Finkelstein:
Take care of the Workers will take care of the product. I'm really interested in what's been happening with COVID. We talk about people are important and listening to people and making sure the customers. And it's really kind of like before COVID it was very face-to-face and it was really about sitting and experiencing and talking. And now it's like COVID has kind of people late. Where are the people gone? They're sort of scattered to the wind a little bit. But even still you guys have done amazingly well from sales. Tell me a little bit about the whole COVID thing and how you guys have managed to really do well?

Marc Ouayoun:
COVID was something that nobody was really trained for. I think that the whole thing about COVID is that it's not having a better answer than the others. It's more about learning and acting quickly. Because nobody has the answer, that everybody's in uncertainty. But I think that what makes the difference is really to be nimble, to be fast and again, to be distinct a lot. And in the case of PCL, if of my organization, I think we have been doing great because we really try to be ahead of the pandemic and not behind. We had also some intuition, some good feeling that we need to change completely the way we worked. And the fact that we had already a culture that was really different. Because in Canada, I can tell you my main target when I arrived here is really to bring this culture up to speed with more collaboration, with listening to the customers, working more together, empowering people and so on.

Marc Ouayoun:
And I think that if you have this setting in your company, you can respond much better to this situation. So I think that COVID has completely flattened the organization and increased the intensity of communication. And it was all about anticipation, being agile. I mean, when I look at my figures in March, what would have been the focus for the year? And I can tell you between the 5th of March, we decided to create our COVID-19 task force. There was one person that died from COVID in Canada at that time, one person. But I thought, okay, having a look around what happened in China starting to happen in Europe, I thought we need to organize ourselves completely differently. So we shifted from a traditional, let's say agenda for the management to COVID driven organization. We have created a COVID task force that included all the expertise within PCR.

Marc Ouayoun:
Of course, all the directors and we have created a structure with a set of COVID KPIs that we are following up every week. I asked my PR manager to every week present to the whole COVID management team what is happening in Canada, what is happening in the world, what is happening in the automotive industry. Just to get a glimpse feeling of the environment with what we need to focus on, what would be the main changes. So it's really about pivoting the organization being very efficient and quick in deciding, analyzing, and implementing. And then I think it's a lot about communication. Towards customers, of course, that was the really main focus we really pivoted online to engage with our community. It's communicating also with our dealers, because for our dealers that was a shock. The closing the doors of the dealerships during two months, three months, no traffic, or no after sale no revenue.

Marc Ouayoun:
The last but not least, communication with our employees was also very important. Every two weeks we have a town hall meeting, virtual town hall meetings. We are trying also to do price check with our employees because not everyone is in the same situation. So, I mean, it was very important to really check on the team, communicate regularly on what we were doing. Also, asking the team to present their initiatives, what they were also trying to think as a good solutions for during COVID. So, for example, we have a project team that presented the iRasing activities. We were doing the Cup Challenge Canada every year on the racetrack, and certainly no possibility to do it. So what can we do? We did it immediately. And we were the first, among the first to lead iRacing in the Porsche world, to start new racing championship and to lead that successfully in Canada. And by the way, we continue it.

Jon Finkelstein:
I love how there's been a lot of new initiatives and new ways of doing things, which leads to kind of my next topic, if you don't mind, which is really about that interplay between digital and physical. There's, especially in sort of the automotive category or sector industry, the interplay between iPhones and our computers and our tablets and the showroom floor and build and price. And I mean, this was like it's this crazy web of information and experiences and the smart brands, I think, are the ones who are treating it as holistic as kind of like the same side or both sides of the same coin, if you will. And I'm pretty sure that that's kind of where your head is, that that's where your philosophy is. They're not separate entities, they should work together. If you could maybe tell us a little bit about your philosophy on the digital and physical experience.

Marc Ouayoun:
Yeah. There is a lot to say about that because as you can imagine. Porsche is about emotions, fulfilling your dreams, having these incredible, these goosebumps when you start the engine of the car. And this is all about a physical, emotional connection with the car and nothing can replace that. But during COVID, we just realized what is the value of this physical experience? And we need not to work on these physical experiences so that it becomes extraordinary. We integrated to join more and more steps in the customer journey that can be digital. I'm not saying that everything has to be digital because now industry, it doesn't make sense, but the seamlessness between digital and physical experience is the key. When you look at what we are offering on my Porsche, on our website, it starts to be good. You can really do a lot online, and we have really accelerated that during COVID and you can take a service appointment online.

Marc Ouayoun:
You can pay online, you can, of course, configure with your car and then send the configuration to your dealer and then visit your dealer in the best safety conditions, just to look at the material. And then we also introduce new services, like less delivery, every dealer in Canada, every Porsche dealer are starting to do, because we were not able to deliver in the dealerships. It's a combination of an existing plan that we had to really move more and more functions in the customer journey online, but also new initiatives like, like this contactless service or contactless delivery. And, of course, the physical experience needs to remain as I said, extraordinary. That's why we invest so much in our dealerships at Porsche. We have other new CI coming next year among the first Porsche center you will have the Porsche center Markham and the Toronto region that will start with this new CI and the intention of this new corporate identity is to create a destination Porsche.

Marc Ouayoun:
It's a place where you can have a coffee with Porsche crew members. It's a place where you can discover things about technical innovation, its a place where you can see the history of the brand with the classic display. It's a place where you can expand the racing activities, because most of the details are so involved in club racing. Porsche is certainly the only brand where you want to show to the customers the backstage. You want to bring the customers to the workshops and show them how you work on the accounts. This is part of the experience in all the other manufacturers this is hidden.

Jon Finkelstein:
I love it. Hey, curious, has there been any digital technology that you've seen then you go, "Oh, I really like that."

Marc Ouayoun:
Honestly, not so many. I think that what we have seen that was really for me innovative is all the activities that we have done, for example, on social, with our community and also ,for example, we have organized techniques around the Taycan, for example, with a live broadcast of [inaudible 00:15:37] , very professional with videos, with interviews of experts, with videos inside the car that were broadcasted, I think it's nothing special. But during this time, that was really a well-perceived because lots of people would not have gone to an event in a dealership, for example. So this is really something I really liked. Another aspect that I think we made great progress, and it's a bit more technical is the Configurator and what we call the Porsche Finder. If you go online and configurate your car, I think we have really one of the best configurators on the market where you can really play a lot with, and I do it myself.

Marc Ouayoun:
Then you have so many choices. You can put the car in front of your driveway, upload the picture and see the car in your environment. And then you can generate a code and your sales executive receives a code that's really great. And another good example is the Porsche Finder and we are among the very first markets on the world to have our total inventory on this Porsche Finder where you can really look for a car and even do a reservation of discount online. So I'm not saying that you can fully buy this car, because we have a sales model where the dealer is so important.

Jon Finkelstein:
I'm kind of hearing a bit of a theme which is a transparent. That's amazing.

Marc Ouayoun:

Jon Finkelstein:
So you mentioned the Taycan a couple of times, and I'd like to talk about that now if you're all right with that, because it's kind of the living in body, man, I guess, of new tech, human centered, creating product for people, sustainability environment, good corporate citizen, electrification. For those of you who are listening that may not know Porsche recently launched the Taycan, which is it's first fully electric vehicle. It's absolutely stunning. It has all the trappings of every sports car you've ever wanted with the convenience that someone can add now with the convenience of having the back seats. But anyway, tell me a little bit about how the cover came to be, because as I was saying this to our team at PwC earlier is like I know Porsche as a company who has always been thinking about incremental change.

Marc Ouayoun:
Yeah. It's interesting what you are saying about this incremental change, because it's clear that the Porsche is a combination of tradition and innovation. What is really incredible in this brand is that after the birth of a new car, the guy's so disruptive and soon you have such a great concept and then you just update it year after year, but you need to start with the disruption. And before you go in the direction of updating your car, refining your car year after year. It's the pioneering spirit. This is a big part of the DNA. And think about the Panamera. Panamera was the first four-door sports car. And it was really completely disruptive in the segment of the, let's say luxury, best sedans. Driving a Panamera you understand instantly what I mean. It's different. The Cayenne, when the Cayenne was launched 2002, 2003, this was the first sporty SUV. An SUV that in the meantime, all the manufacturers try to go in this direction to combine this usability with dynamic chasy and sporty chasy.

Marc Ouayoun:
So there is a sentence, I picked a sentence again from Wolfgang Porsche, and it was so interesting. He was mentioning the Taycan and the Mission E. The Mission E was the concept machine. This is what sets a Wolfgang Porsche when the Mission E was presented. And this Mission E was a big disruption again, when we showed that in 2015, that was crazy. He said, and I just wrote that because I thought it was really so meaningful. He said, "My grandfather built an electric car, the Lohner Semper Vivus, in 1899. So the Mission E stands for the audacity that is a Porsche tradition.

Jon Finkelstein:
I love that. But I think that totally sums up the perspective of having tradition and family but also being innovative at the same time disruption.

Marc Ouayoun:
Yeah. It's also, and especially during this time as I was saying, because the car industry, the automotive industry is completely disrupted. Many people are saying that it would change more in the next 10 years and the last 50 years. And this is true. We need now nowadays to reinvent ourselves. And I think that Porsche in its specific segment of sports cars, we are sports car builder, designer is really thinking ahead because as all luxury brands we need to lead by example. We need to show the way because luxury goods have also this role to really anticipate what the future trends will be. That has been the case in the seventies for all the security features in the cars, for example. And basically we have no other alternative. Everybody understands it. Now, sustainability is the only way for a sports car to survive and to continue to be successful in the future.

Marc Ouayoun:
There is not choice the sustainability is, and I would even say zero-emission not only at the take by, but during the entire lifecycle of the vehicle and also during the production and the manufacturing process is the only way today. So I think Porsche as a company understood that long time ago, and the Taycan is the best answer for all the people who, of course, we are all Porsche fans. We like the loud engines, the flat seeks, loud noise and so on, but driving the Taycan everyday I can tell you, I wouldn't believe how this car respects the Porsche DNA. How this car has a soul and how this car is emotional when you drive it. Of course, it's different, but it has always been like that in the Porsche history. There is a time where old Porsche and aficionados would say it was better before, but at the end of the day Porsche was always right in moving the footprint of the brand into the future.

Jon Finkelstein:
I'd love to hear how big brands like yourselves are really thinking about cradle to grave sustainability. Because the first thing that people will always say about EVs or electric vehicles is. Oh, the batteries they're harmful and this is harmful and that's harmful and what are you doing? But the thing is they don't spend the time to understand what brands like Porsche are doing in terms of the factories themselves, the materials being used, the recycling programs, all these different. Plus I saw you talking in an interview somewhere about how Porsche is starting to now build charging network in Canada to sort of help. And I guess, to lead people, because that's the first thing they always ask, right? How was the range? And then, of course, it's like it depends.

Jon Finkelstein:
But that's the first thing. The range anxiety on EVs is off the charts. I think it's really interesting how has an organization you guys are sort of taking matters into your own hands. If I understand it correctly and starting to build infrastructure between Toronto and Montreal or Vancouver in Calgary say so that people can kind of get into the warm bath, if you will. It's just like a nice, a nice way of getting into it. That must, that must be quite the undertaking.

Marc Ouayoun:
That's a good question because charging is a key success factor of electric vehicles. Range anxiety exists. That's true. At Porsche we really tried to have an artistic approach depending on journey. Your charging needs are different. I mean, most of the time you charge at home, you know that 80% of the time you just charge at home because 80% of the time or 90% of the time you're just commuting with your car. And for that we have one of the most advanced solution in Canada compared even to other markets. We implemented with my team digital solution for the drivers, a home charging portal that really supports the customer journey. When the customer comes to configurate the Taycan in the dealership. Yeah, it's a procedure teach you really to go through a journey on this portal where you qualify you're already answer a few questions about where you live in your home and what kind of installation you have.

Marc Ouayoun:
And then we'd selected qualified technicians that are certified by Porsche. We selected them on the specific criteria and these technicians just go to your place, do a home check and then recommend you a solution for your home charge installation. So, of course, every situation is different, but we really customize the home charging solutions to your home settings. So that's the first step of our strategy. The second step is, of course, charging on the road and for charging and on the road that's a huge investment and we are doing this investment, not alone. We do that with the Volkswagen group in Canada, we have voluntarily decided to invest millions and millions of Canadian dollars to put on the main highways charging solutions to 350 kilowatts.

Marc Ouayoun:
So you will have in the near future, more than 30 in total 32 charging stations, and every charging station will have minimum three to four pedestals. And some of those pedestals will be specifically designed for high-speed charging, just to make sure that we provide to our customers what they expect when they are traveling long distances. And with this high-speed network, you can charge up to 270 kilowatts and basically that you can charge from zero to 80% charge in less than 25 minutes. This is an incredible asset for Taycan because we are the only one on the market with 800 volt architecture that provides its capacity to charge rapidly on a high-speed charging network.

Jon Finkelstein:
That sounds like a step up from DC fast charge.

Marc Ouayoun:
Yeah, it's a big step. And I just experienced myself before traveling to France. Recently, I drove to Ottawa. We have done several drives with John and, for example, and this is really a great expense. You can now drive to Montreal without any hustle, without any range anxiety, because you stop and I can retell you. I drove to Ottawa myself, I could have driven almost directly to Ottawa because my range in may Taycan 4S at that time was more than 400 kilometers. We have now eight stations available and we will have normally at the end of the year, more than 20 stations available. And in 2021, we'll have 32 stations. And, of course, it's not enough.

Marc Ouayoun:
So that's why we also see a lot of public investments on charging infrastructure on the road. Also, private investment. I can say that that petrol Canada, for example, has implemented many charging stations across Canada and last but not least, we want to have also what we call destination charging. Dissension charging is when you go to a hotel, to a golf course, to a destination, you have a charger. I'm not a high speed charger, between 10 and 20 kilowatts, but you just plug your car during the night and you get a fully loaded car in the morning, or just you go to a restaurant or to a nice hotel and you stay two hours and your car is recharged. That's really a good service. And we will have 10 locations selected at the end of this year. And we plan to have minimum 32 to 40 locations with a destination chargers by the end of next year.

Jon Finkelstein:
I love it how you're really thinking about sort of the total sort of ecosystem or environment. We're talking about really creating a total experience for customers. And I wanted to ask you a little bit about something that's kind of exciting I new the Porsche's doing, and that's the Porsche passport. I know it's a bit of an experiment, but maybe you could just tell listeners what it's about and kind of how the idea came about and why as a brand you've decided to do that?

Marc Ouayoun:
It's a very good question, because this is certainly a very promising offer that we have now, it's the subscription model. So why creating this? And we think that consumers increasingly want more flexibility, more into your choices and also more convenience than to have this on their mobile device. So our strategic direction is to be the most aspirational brands in a new era of mobility and customer expectations. This is our vision. We want to offer a choice in how people can experience the thrill of driving a Porsche and our market research really show that consumers want to an option across a big spectrum from access to ownership and Porsche Drive is that response from the brand. It's attracting new customers to the brands that wants to expand the brand, but maybe because they are younger, because they just want to expand first, maybe also, because they want to expand different models and they don't want to have a car that they own.

Marc Ouayoun:
They just want to have the expense of it. These people are clearly attracted by this model. So we started in U.S. We then continued with a pilot in Toronto and we see a great response, especially in Toronto, we have at moment more 30 cars, almost 30 cars in operation for this program. So it's becoming serious. It's a very successful because we also attract younger people to the brand, which is a big target. We want to attract younger customers. We're on to attract more Auburn customers. And we want to also connect with younger generations. Young generation have different expectations. For them owning a car is not ultimate dream that generation so 20 or 30 years ago had. But I think that young generation still are attracted by strong brands and also one attracted by real life emotional expenses.

Marc Ouayoun:
And we see a great response, for example, the average age of people subscribing to the drive model are about 40 years old. The average Porsche customer on the traditional average per customer is more 50 years old. So it's interesting to create a new funnel for new customers that could possibly then also lease or buy a car. We have the full spectrum today. You can rent a car for weekends. You can subscribe passport, launch program, for example, for two weeks, one month. And then during this months change for Cayenne to a 718 or 911. And then if you like the car you can lease it and own it. So this is a full spectrum. Again, the customer is in the driving seat. That's the most important.

Jon Finkelstein:
I love the fact that you're picking up on a really kind of important trend, I guess, in consumer behavior. And that's the idea of customization. Now we're talking about, Hey, for a monthly subscription price, you can change your car as you wish. I love the fact that it kind of, it almost feels like a response to car sharing in a way. Now, when we think about millennials and younger people, they would prefer to have internet over a car, these kinds of things, and say, well, okay, if that's the kind of the dynamic that we're working with, how might we attract younger people and then move them through the experience to purchase or lease or whatever, ultimately it's super smart.

Marc Ouayoun:
Another part of the expense is this app that we have it's weird, a the touch of a button you can really swap your car to another one that would be delivered right to your door. So it's really this interaction between digital and physical experience that really go hand in hand.

Jon Finkelstein:
Okay. So just a couple of final questions Marc, before we get into the lightning round, if you don't mind. So for people who are listing, but what kind of advice might you give CEOs, leaders in different organizations who are going through? I mean, this really is a "unprecedented time" and it sounds like you've weathered the storm very smoothly. What would you tell leaders in Canada?

Marc Ouayoun:
It's very challenging time as I said, but I think the most important thing would be to use both a telescope and a microscope. That means you really have this longterm view. You keep the vision and refine the vision based on the acceleration of the trends that COVID generated, but also microscope, because it's time to fix short-term problems every day.

Jon Finkelstein:
I'm going to steal that one too. Okay, one of the things that we'd like to do on Shift is kind of do this lightning round a non-sequitur questions. Marc, you've been in Canada for thr years. Curious, what are your top three favorite things about your Canadian experience or Canada in general?

Marc Ouayoun:
Huh, three things? So I would say diversity, nature, and people.

Jon Finkelstein:
What has surprised you most about Canadians?

Marc Ouayoun:
I would say a good balance between private life and work life. They are very flexible, very engaged, but at the other hand, really having good time for outdoor activities for family and, and these balance is very important for me. I see that as a clear asset in a company, I want people to be balanced and to have a good work-life balance around me. And I think that Canadians are really good at that.

Jon Finkelstein:
One last random question. Are you a Raptors fan, a Blue Jays fan, or a Maple Leafs fan or none of the above?

Marc Ouayoun:
Raptors, for only one reason. I had the chance to go there with my sons. We went to see them in Toronto a game, and that was fantastic. So, and I was there also last year for these incredible moments. And I was lucky because, when the French football team won the World Cup in '98, I was expectorate in London. This time I was in Toronto when something incredible happened for Canada. So I had the chance to live there.

Jon Finkelstein:
That was quite a historical moment for everybody I think.

Marc Ouayoun:
I guess so, yeah.

Jon Finkelstein:
Mark, that wraps up this installment of Shift. I really want to thank you so much for being part of it and being so open and transparent with your answers as a car guy. It was super interesting for me and as someone who's interested in tech and transformation, listening to the stories about Porsche and Porsche Canada and the stuff that you're doing is really inspirational. So thank you so much for being here.

Marc Ouayoun:
Yeah, it was a pleasure.

Jon Finkelstein:
Thanks for listening to this episode of Shift. You can get more details at If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more subscribe to our podcast series, you can find us on iTunes, Google Play, or your preferred podcast platform. 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.

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.

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Tel: +1 416 687 8452

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Chris Mar

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