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The Leaders · Season 2

Developing a mission that stands the test of time

Oct 20, 2020

Trudy Fahie, HBA ’81, President & CEO of Duo Bank, talks about the need to be nimble during the pandemic, giving back and the importance of personal authenticity.


Trudy Fahie

Establishing a personal mission is mission critical, according to Trudy Fahie, HBA ’81, President & CEO of Duo Bank. Leaning on decades of business and leadership experience, Fahie talks about the need to be nimble during the pandemic, giving back and the importance of personal authenticity.



Insights and wisdom lie within every business decision. Welcome to the Leaders by Ivey podcast, where we discover hidden narratives in unlock key learnings for our own leadership and career journeys. Welcome back to the Leaders by Ivey podcast, I’m Matt Quinn. Today we chat with Trudy Fahie, HBA’81 and President and Chief Executive Officer of Duo Bank. We have a great conversation lined up for you where we talk about giving back and the importance of authenticity, enjoy. Trudy thanks so much for joining us today. Let's, let's start right at the beginning. Who are you? What do you do and what's your relation to the Ivey Business school? Hi, thank you for having me looking forward to the conversation. I’m Trudy Fahie, I’m proud, mother of two awesome, kids and I’m also CEO of Duo Bank of Canada, formerly Walmart Canada bank. So I had up the bank, which primarily focuses on credit cards related insurance products rewards and deposits. My relationship with Ivey goes back many years. I was an Ivey, HBA grad and I’m currently on the Ivey Advisory Board, and over the years I’ve been back to Ivey on many occasions for various speaking engagements, and I absolutely love doing that. I enjoy engaging with the students finding out what's important to them, what their areas of focus are, and every time I leave Ivey I come away energized and always having learned something from these students is there? Is there a recent learning that you could share with us when you've when you met these students, maybe a surprise of something that they're interested in or a change in, how they're learning what anything stand out to you recently. What I find really interesting is just the desire to learn, engage, have different experiences. I would say the interests are much broader now for the Ivey student population than they were at the time that I was there, and I find that very refreshing students are taking what they learn the tools from the Ivey Business school and apply it in so many different ways beyond the industries that were the typical industries of many decades ago. That's great and thank you for giving back to the school, it's a challenging time to say the least, and I’d like to talk a little bit about the most significant challenge you faced as a leader in the past few months, and how did you respond to that? Right now my focus is on a quite significant challenge that many of us space and that really relates to planning for the recovery phase from the pandemic, and while one can look at pandemic, they were so weary of hearing about a pandemic, as I think about it, you could change that word with any type of crisis that has a significant impact on our business. So, as I’ve gone through this process, I’ve learned that what we're putting in place to address this challenge could really apply to any crisis. What we're focused on now is looking out. What are the business impacts from the pandemic for our business? What are the short-term impacts that will level off going forward and what are the more permanent business impacts that we need to plan for and address, and that really speaks to what is the new normal for how we'll operate our businesses and out of that? What are the opportunities in this new normal that we should, as a business, be chasing down to respond to what will likely be very permanent changes in consumer behavior and other business opportunities that that come from that? I was just going to say is there one that stands out to you at something that you think is going to be a part of this new norm? And what is the opportunity that you're seeing in that? Because you're right, we often hear of the negative side of it, but you're right. There are some huge opportunities. What we see is a change in how consumers interact the world, so we've all learned to find more creative ways to shop online and to find ways to access goods and services that doesn't require physical contact. So, as we think about our business in financial services and in the credit card space, we're looking at ways to deliver the services we currently deliver in a in a range of face to face and online and mobile technologies were now focused much more readily. And how do we make very significant changes to make our business available through all the mobile channel? So as a customer is looking to interact with us in applying for a credit card using the credit card paying bills with that credit card? How do we make sure that they can be comfortable in that and leveraging all of the technology is available to make that experience, work for them and that's an opportunity in business, because for those who do that more effectively in meeting those new customer demands, it will be successful and it's an opportunity as well to look for more efficient ways of doing business by leveraging the change in how people are looking to interact with the organizations. So as a leader, how do you set your team up? You know across the large organization to accept this change and to look for those new opportunities and being comfortable, maybe with not knowing how did you foster that within your group. One of the ways were tackling it planning for the, I would say short term one to two years and thinking about medium term being more three to five years. We don't have a crystal ball and we know that things are changing in more dramatic ways than most of us have seen in our in our lifetime. So one of the ways we're tackling that is by acknowledging that forecasting is a challenge, so we're getting much better at addressing it through very solid forecast of what's the best case, the worst case, what's a moderate case, so many sensitivities around each of the possible outcome so that we can plan for how would we respond to? What do we want to put in place for any of those possible outcomes? Thinking about our business differently has come somewhat from having to plan very quickly when the pandemic began and we were forced to make some dramatic changes when our call center, for example, in the Philippines, shut down very quickly. We needed to move at lightning speed to redirect those calls to other call centers and change the way we do business. So it was a real test of resiliency and the ability to be agile and move quickly and to make that work for our team, something that we put in place as part of what was our already existing a pandemic plan. It's now part of business as usual, which includes bringing all of the key cross functional teams together on daily calls with the leadership group to work through. What's a challenge we have today, let's put some collective thinking very quickly to the problem solve real time and update and follow up next day, and we recognize that having that broad cross, functional group tackle these issues directly has really helped move the business forward much more quickly and with a much better shared understanding of where we're going as a business. So some of those things, I would say, have been enablers for the team, but they’re also practices that were now making ongoing practices rather than just in a crisis situation. So take business as not normal and roll it into business as normal or business as usual and making you know exercising that muscle much more often, absolutely is there anything as you look back- and I you know when we're at such a pace, it's hard to take a moment to look back. Is there anything that you would have done differently either in leading the team or planning or getting those groups together? I think, fortunately, there's very little that I would do differently, but many things I would do quicker and sooner and what I would put into that category would really be around recognizing that every aspect of what makes our team great in our business great can actually be done in different ways. Had we put some of those pieces in place earlier, we wouldn't have had to move into a fast build mode when one of our channels of doing business was shut down with very little notice. I’ve also come to understand that, as I look back and think how many days we spent as a leadership team struggling to decide how many work from home days per week, should we have in our business. What's the right balance? How much do you lose when not everyone is in the office at the same time, and now clearly, experience has taught us that in our business we can work very effectively remotely. I would have made it mandatory sooner that people turn on their camera in video meetings and that we make it as we do now make it very clear that we don't care what anyone looks like if they haven't shaved if they're still in their pajamas. That's fine just having that face-to-face interaction, really helps people engage and feel connected. So for me, it's about putting those processes in place from a business perspective. What is we're looking at now is making sure that we have the all of those channels covered off so that if we have a situation where a live agent in an office isn't do-able, how do we make sure we have the technology in place at that age so it can operate from home equally effectively. So those are some of the things that I would say we would do differently going forward, but is really more faster, quicker. Yeah and you've used the word team and cohesiveness, and that is there anything else that you've put into place or either most recently or from the start that helps the individual team members collaborate better or feel a sense of that teamness. What we've done is ensured that the regular team meetings that we had more often face to face prior to COVID we've made sure that we maintain that throughout this environment and I’m pleased to say when we have the weekly huddle with my entire team on, you can't see everyone on the screen, but everyone's on video, and we have a hundred percent attendance at those meetings, because it's an update. It's a meeting to chat at the beginning of the meeting just on who's, doing what, in their personal lives, just interesting things that we all face a day in day out and we add fun elements. So every team meeting we have something in there, whether it's an online bingo or it's a look at baby pictures and guess who so there's five minutes of every meeting. That has something that's just fun and our typical engagement activities for the broader team. That would normally happen with our whole team. You know on a football field playing games and enjoying an afternoon together, we've had to replace that with virtual events to keep people engaged and focused whether it's a painting session or learn something about cooking and giving people opportunities to be on a zoom call together and enjoy the experience. So we've tried many different ways to keep folks engaged and a key part of that has been insuring that the team meetings and the debates that we would have normally in the office that we continue those in this virtual environment. And it sounds like you know, there's with a hundred percent attendance. The team members are finding value they're, finding value in the updates their finding value in that community sense as well, and we've heard this from other leaders on the podcast that it's just so important to design that in that it's not just check off the box. It's a meeting. It's provided real value for those that are attending us great, to hear, let's to pivot, just slightly and learn a little bit more about you. Is there any initiatives that you are personally interested in that you want to call to the attention of our listeners problems that you're passionate about things that you're listening to or reading? There are a couple of areas that I’m particularly passionate about. One of them is about always giving back, and I would say the second one is around being inclusive. If I think about passion for giving back. I think about the mission that I set for myself many years ago, which is to be known for being there, and for me, that can be being there for a family for friends for colleagues in many different ways, it's something that's really important to me and giving back. I is an important part of that and it means different things to different people and through our lives. We have times when we have more time available for giving back and other times not so much when I was a kid I volunteered at a long term care facility and did a number of activities supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. As I became a parent, I had much less available time. And the kids were young, and so I focused my giving back by participating in events that are in their school. So I would volunteer my business expertise to help for fundraising events at their school, so I could be engaged, but in a way that I could still fit in with my business environment. Now I have the luxury of being on volunteer boards, and I have found that to be incredibly impactful for me and hopefully I’m helping those organizations as well through COVID. I would say it's been a very interesting one as I look at not for profit organizations and how they navigate through somewhat similar challenges, but with the different lens than the ones I’m facing in in business. I’m on the board for Kensington health. So, in the health care area, the challenges they are facing is really dealing with challenges of an outbreak in long term care which is part of Kensington, also has an eye institute, hospice thinking about surgeries being shut down for a period of time, which clearly impacts a revenue of a not for profit organization and very seriously skyrocketing costs for personal protective equipment. So those are challenges that I’ve been able to see in a completely different world and gain an appreciation for what, in that space, is life and dealt death challenges a quite different than the kinds of challenges that we face in business but in in other, regards somewhat similar so overall for me giving back as something that is not only a priority for me and when I hope I’ve installed in my in my kids, I think it's also something that I hope people learn to recognize a giving back gives each of us so much riches as well. So it's not just about what we give others it's what we benefit from that process ourselves. So I would say that one's a pretty big one for me and the scene- there really is, as you said through all the stages of your professional and personal life, is to take those skills in those tools that you have and find a place that fits at that particular time. So that's really cool to see how that is, changed and evolved. You mentioned, and I’d love to get more from this you mentioned being. There is your mission and it sounds like that's a mission that you've had for a while. How did you develop this? Was it something you sat down and consciously thought through and develop this mission statement for yourself or is it something that's evolved over the course of your career? What is interesting is the development of my mission was something I did in an afternoon at one of the many leadership programs. Probably many of us have participated in and often those programs create that the rare opportunity to sit back and actually think about you know what is important to you. You know when you're writing what you accomplished in your life. What are the things that will have mattered? What is really important that you want to put in place now, thinking about what's important for you and what you want to be known for and what you want that to represent. So quite honestly was through one of those programs that I took the time to actually focus on this and find tune the wording- and I haven't changed it in many years, so it quite surprisingly kind of stands a test of time for me, but that's how it began. And it sounds like it resonates for you in lots of different ways. How did you make it stick? How did you make it so that it is something that, after these years, you still go back to do you journal about it? Do you revisit it? You know quarterly. It’s something that's in the back of my mind and one of the ways that I’ve found. I can be true to myself in in making sure that I follow through is I tell other people. That is what my mission is sometimes being vocal about it people will hold you accountable for that, and so my kids hear about it all the time and they often hear me reference it when they were younger. I talked to him about a movie that we loved watching when they were kids at Disney animated film called Lilo and Stitch. Probably you've seen that as well, but if you got the film is set in Hawaii and the expression that I remind my kids about all the time is Hawaiian word, o hana, which means family. No one gets left behind or forgotten. So I often reference when we're thinking about. Should we do that to help them? What should we do here? I say: oh, no, one gets left behind or forgotten that person needs our help right now and they need to be included in the activities that we have under way. That kind of extends to a business environment as well, when you think about being inclusive in a business setting. In my mind, that holds completely true as well the importance of making sure that we listen were open to other points of view. We seek to understand and engage in what makes other people tick and understanding where they're coming from. All of that, in my mind, helps create a sense of belonging for us and always feeling like you fit in, and, and that's really where, where a lot of that comes from, so that's how I hold myself accountable, I tell people about it. I remind my kids and they hold it hold me to account on that, which is great. Well that thank you for sharing that kind of personal side, of how you develop your own goals and your own vision for yourself. Trudy to you often come back to Ivey, to speak and to share your story with current students. Are there themes that you revisit that you think are important for students, as they venture out to their first professional role in being leaders? We train them to be leaders and their leaders as students, but this is the next step anything stand out to you. What I think is really important for students now to think about is their contemplating what career choice do I want to make, I often tell students that it's quite different than when I began my career when folks would have one maybe two different careers in their lifetime. Now I an average, I think, more, most recently as being somewhere in the neighborhood of six different careers. So I encourage people to think about what are the skills that you need in your tool, kit that can help you be successful in whatever you choose to do and be open to moving from one area of interest to another, but focusing on what actually truly does interest you and starting there. Rarely do people find the perfect role to start out in a career and then and stick with that. We learn as much about what we don't like is what we do like from the rules, so be patient with yourself. Try a number of different things be curious, be curious about what you're interested in be curious about learning about. What's around you and finding that passion we spend way more hours in our career world, often than we do in our personal world, so to spend that time doing something that does that you're, not passionate about that, doesn't inspire you. That's not a good use of your time, so focus on what works for you engage in that and be truly authentic, be in an environment that works for you. That enables you to be yourself. The one thing I’ve learned over the years is I’ll always be authentic. I’m what you see is what you get kind of person and I think that's important. It's important to know who we are. We all have lots to learn and develop and improve. I do every single day and I don't expect that that will ever change, but at the core is what is what makes you who you are hold on to that and then focus on what you really enjoy and can be passionate about and then put your effort behind, building the skills and a broad base that will enable you to pivot and move to different roles, different organizations, different industries. There is a huge vast set of opportunities out there. The trick is to find what works for you make that start and then pivot, as you go to find those right opportunities, I’m very fortunate. I’ve been in many different industries and different rules. I’ve loved every one of them, I’m thankful for that find the ones that would work for you would be my advice. Great Trudy, thanks so much for taking the time out of your schedule to chat with this and sharing. You know your career journey, but also what you're finding is important. A thing that's stood out to me was really the unauthenticity part of it. You know having that that goal post or that mission for yourself, developing it and reframing it and having it something that guides you for your role and then finally giving back. So thank you very much for giving back and spending some time with us today. It was my pleasure. Many thanks to Trudy Fahie for joining us today. What stood out to me is this notion of no one getting left behind. We could definitely implement this mindset in our teams., businesses and in our communities. Join us next time, as we explore leadership and how to build global organizations and businesses to give back.