It’s one of Canada’s largest banks and one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies. And with an impressive portfolio of products and services, it’s no surprise RBC regularly receives awards on the world banking and economic stage.
Q&A with RBC
Since its start 150 years ago, the RBC has been steadily expanding across Canada and the U.S. into global markets. Today, RBC’s 87,000-plus employees serve 17 million clients in 29 countries, providing personal and commercial banking, wealth management, insurance, investor services and capital markets products and services.
With a scope this big, it might seem easy to lose the focus on local — but RBC considers it “an important responsibility to help create positive social and economic impact within our communities.”
In Greater Victoria, RBC has demonstrated this commitment as presenting sponsor of Rising Economy Week for two years in a row. In fact, RBC stepped up immediately after the pandemic as a member of the Capital & Finance committee of the Rising Economy Taskforce. SIPP convened this taskforce to develop a strong, coordinated region-wide response to the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19.
Supporting Entrepreneurs and Skills Development
Supporting a robust, resilient economy means encouraging the startup and growth of new businesses and a skilled, inclusive workforce. Through its online platform Ownr®, RBC Ventures has helped over 65,000 entrepreneurs launch businesses. Future Launch® is a 10-year, $500-million commitment to prepare young people for the jobs of tomorrow, helping to address the skills shortage and build a more inclusive workforce.
Commitment to the Planet
RBC’s purpose-driven approach is also evident in its focus on accelerating clean economic growth and transitioning to the net-zero economy. It is part of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance — a global, industry-led initiative to accelerate and support efforts to address climate change — and has committed to reducing its global emissions by 70% and sourcing 100% of its electricity from renewable and non-emitting sources by 2025. RBC is committed to using their size and scale to align with ambitious new global targets and set new standards for its industry.
To find out how RBC’s global mandate fits and serves the local economy, we talked to Jack Leung, Vice-President, Commercial Financial Services, Vancouver Island, RBC.
Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?
RBC joined SIPP because there is a real and pressing need for the region to have one economic voice working on its behalf. The Capital Regional District is composed of 13 municipalities, and many of them have their own economic development arms. This approach can tend to be fragmented, so unifying the region under SIPP made a lot of sense.
With 12 branches located in communities throughout the region, hundreds of employees who specialize in providing financial advice, and thousands of personal, business and wealth customers, RBC has a vested interest in being involved with sustainable economic development in the surrounding area.
What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region?
Technology is fundamentally changing the way we deal with our everyday lives and the South Island area has an incredible base of technology companies. We have three great post-secondary institutions — which include the University of Victoria, Royal Roads and Camosun College — that supply the region with a highly educated workforce.
With our access to outdoor activities and mild temperatures, the Island boasts an incredible quality of life. When I was growing up in Victoria, we didn’t have the same opportunities, and many of my peers ended up leaving Victoria for perceived greener pastures elsewhere. The landscape has now changed. There is an abundance of opportunity here now, and we need to find ways to keep housing affordable so that more of our young graduates stay in the area.
What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs, and investment?
Canada ranks very highly for being one of the best countries to live in the world. This is especially true for the quality of life that can be achieved on Vancouver Island. It is a safe place to live, with world-class post-secondary schools, a growing tech sector complemented by a foodie and craft liquor vibe.
Immigration to the South Island continues to grow — and keeping that high quality of life with a solid opportunity for a career, I believe, is the region’s secret sauce.
What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?
RBC’s shared purpose is “Helping Clients Thrive and Communities Prosper.” From a South Island perspective, this means giving great advice to our clients that allows them to thrive. It also means being involved in the community and contributing both time and money to make it a better place to live and work. I grew up here on the Island and watched it grow and change over many years. It’s so exciting to be part of a company that contributes to and invests in both clients and community so that we can all thrive and prosper.
What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?
RBC Foundation and its employees have given back to the South Island in many ways. We are known for providing shareholder value, but we also want people to know that we give back to the communities we live in.
Here’s a visual summary of our Community Investment in the South Island region 2021:
What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?
Affordable housing impacts many of us in different ways. My own children are going to have a difficult time staying in the region if affordability continues to be a challenge.
Market factors such as supply and demand will continue to play a role, and helping put more sustainable supply into the market place would be a smart way to help with that challenge.
How we view housing density, sustainability and affordability are connected. If we are to succeed in keeping and attracting talent in the region, then there needs to be a mindset shift.
We live on an island with a limited supply of land, and how we sustainably develop it will have a tremendous impact on housing affordability.
What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?
Islanders are resilient. We have faced so many challenges during the pandemic and have found ways to come out on the positive side more often than not. We have an incredibly high vaccination rate versus other parts of the world, and it goes to show how we all want to do the right thing and protect each other.
It is incredible to see entrepreneurs reinvent themselves during the pandemic. Whether it’s been online sales, outdoor patios, or virtual appointments, it’s amazing to me how they have pivoted, adapted and thrived.
RBC has provided access to emergency funds through various government programs to help support these pivots to new business models.
Personally, I couldn’t be prouder of Victoria’s sense of community and its willingness to adapt.
When you envision the South Island region in 2040, what will have changed? What does our future look like?
I envision a blue economy thriving in the region. Most of the world is covered by water and our region is surrounded by it. Since saltwater is the most abundant resource we have, it makes sense to continue to explore how it can help our region and, frankly, the rest of the world.
Whether it is tidal energy or seaweed-based food products, there is so much that we will learn between now and 2040 that will add to the blue economy.
I sincerely hope I will still be around and involved to help the next generation bring our region forward.