Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2021), Top Employers for Canadians Over 40 (2021) and Montreal's Top Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 12, 2020)
Here are some of the reasons why Business Development Bank of Canada was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2021), Top Employers for Canadians Over 40 (2021) and Montreal's Top Employers (2021):
- BDC helps employees plan securely for the future with contributions to a defined benefit pension plan and health benefits that extend to retirees (with 100 per cent premium coverage and no age limit)
- BDC employees can also participate in an additional savings and investment plan, which allows them to contribute a percentage of their base salary to a group RRSP or TFSA with matching employer contributions
- BDC's "Exclamation" recognition platform enables employees to give peer recognition with the on-the-spot monetary and non-monetary recognition -- the organization also fosters positivity through its Samara Awards, to recognize exceptional achievements in various categories
Teamwork helps BDC rise to the pandemic challenge
In March 2020, Lisa Christensen, an employee for over 20 years at the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), boarded a flight to Vancouver, where she was scheduled to meet with a group of local women business owners in her capacity as senior adviser, women entrepreneurship team, for BDC.
A Crown corporation and national development bank owned by the Government of Canada, BDC has a mandate to help create and develop Canadian entrepreneurs through financing, growth and transition capital, venture capital and advisory services, with a focus on small and mid-sized businesses. Montréal-based, BDC operates business centres across Canada on behalf of 62,000 clients.
Everything changed on that day in March, including Christensen’s immediate plans and the focus of her job, when she received word that BDC was sending its 2,400 employees home to reduce their exposure to COVID-19.
“When I got to Vancouver, I didn’t take my meeting, I took a flight straight back to Calgary,” she says. “The bank wanted to ensure no employee was put at undue risk and from that day forward, we’ve all been working from home.”
At the same time, businesses in Canada were forced to close their doors, and many of them needed BDC’s help more than ever. In the initial days of the pandemic, the bank received more loan requests through its online platform in just three weeks than it typically receives in a full year. Its website received almost a million visits.
“We have a crisis management plan in place, but we never imagined something like this,” says Pierre Dubreuil, BDC’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Our systems weren’t built for this volume. But our employees rose to the challenge.”
Within days, Christensen’s role at BDC changed radically, as she became the leader of a team responsible for processing loans.
“We had employees from all departments on the team,” she says. “Some were experienced with loan processing, some weren’t. We all had to learn new jobs, technology and processes to support our clients.”
BDC acted quickly to accommodate its employees and clients. “We made sure that employees who were dealing with these situations knew where to send them for support and where to seek support themselves,” says Dubreuil.
For clients, that included increasing access to capital, introducing more flexible terms, postponing payments and innovating internal processes to be more agile. Efforts were also made to fast-track the bank’s digital transformation.
For employees working from home, the bank acted quickly to ensure teams had the support they needed. Senior leaders appeared on weekly video updates to share news, offer encouragement and answer employees’ questions. The bank provided funds for employees to purchase equipment for their home offices. The intranet provided information and tools to weather the crisis, from how to work from home with kids to managing remotely.
Many employees took advantage of the bank’s virtual healthcare, mental health support and other benefits. To help leaders and their teams navigate ambiguity and make decisions during a crisis, the bank also hosted virtual resiliency sessions.
“The first 40 days were non-stop,” says Dubreuil. “It was a big challenge and a great learning experience, but also very stressful.”
For Christensen, the pandemic has given her a new appreciation for her own capacities. “It’s made me career-resilient,” she says. “Our leaders trusted me to oversee a national team during a crisis. Now I know that I can rise to the challenge again.”
There’s a culture of innovation at BDC
Visiting clients as an account manager in the technologies group for the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) in Montréal, Marc-André Maheu often discovered that they had worked as sub-contractors for the bank on its mobile applications.
Their involvement with BDC didn’t surprise him. “Word gets around about BDC’s emphasis on technology development,” he says.
A Crown corporation and national development bank owned by the Government of Canada, BDC’s mandate is to help create and develop Canadian entrepreneurs through financing and advisory services, with a focus on small and mid-sized businesses. The bank operates business centres across Canada on behalf of 62,000 clients, and leading-edge technology plays a big role in its ability to support them.
“BDC invests a lot of its budget and resources in technology development,” says Lisa To, head of the IT performance office in Montréal. “We’re determined to create efficient lending products and tools that go beyond our client’s expectations.”
One such initiative was the automation of small loan processing, whereby entrepreneurs could apply for a loan of under $100,000 and have it authorized in real time. Today, BDC’s online lending enables accelerated loan processing, and almost every step, from verifying eligibility to adjudicating credit and exchanging e-signatures, is now automated – the first digital offering of its kind to market in Canada.
“There’s a culture of innovation at BDC,” says Maheu. “The bank provides good systems, great tools and technology, and continuous learning so we can do our work well.”
Many of BDC’s innovations in technology originate with employees, says To. “A lot of new ideas come from our teams, with the support of senior management. It motivates people when their ideas are given credibility.”
“You can feel a sense of purpose here at BDC,” says Maheu, who was recently promoted to regional director, technology industry, for Ontario. “It’s a very dynamic environment, working on projects to help our clients grow their businesses.”
BDC’s collaborative approach, supported by leading-edge technology, encourages employees to put the client at the centre of everything they do. In fact, this approach attracted Maheu in 2014, after he’d spent two of his three co-op terms at the bank while studying for his bachelor’s degree in finance at Concordia University.
Helping entrepreneurs find ways to succeed is more important than ever. “Before the pandemic, digital transformation might have seemed conceptual to some people, but we have seen how it can improve the process for our clients – and why ongoing investments in it are so important,” adds To.
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2021):
By Kristina Leung and Stephanie Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 1, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why Business Development Bank of Canada was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2021):
- BDC offers internal resources to encourage employees to learn about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's findings and works with Our Children's Medicine to address barriers faced by Indigenous job-seekers
- The Young Women at BDC Network began in the Montréal office and its success resulted in other chapters across the country -- the group organizes networking events, speaker series and social activities to inspire personal and professional growth
- BDC's diversity and inclusion strategy serves as the roadmap for programs and initiatives in three areas: awareness, engagement and accountability for each of the eight identified communities of focus (women, visible minorities, indigenous persons, persons with disabilities, LGBT, newcomers, intergenerational and military communities)
"Over the years, I have worked with many Black entrepreneurs, and my own professional experiences have made me all the more impressed by their determination to overcome obstacles and build thriving businesses. That’s why I’m proud BDC is well advanced in the creation of an action plan to better support Black entrepreneurs by providing them with financing and business advice, and by encouraging the growth of a vital Black entrepreneurship ecosystem in Canada." Kunle Tauhid, Vice President
BDC leads by example for Canada’s entrepreneurs
As the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) wants its employees to be as diverse as the clients they serve.
“BDC is a great champion of diversity,” says Catherine Leteinturier Guissé, who was born in France and is now a business centre manager in Ottawa. “We have an unbelievable number of people here from different countries, and most of them were bankers in other parts of the world before they came here.
“Diversity is good for the bank and good for clients,” she continues, “especially because we’re always trying to encourage them to explore new markets and export. It’s good for them to have access to our pool of knowledge.”
A Crown corporation and national development bank owned by the Government of Canada, BDC’s mandate is to help create and develop Canadian entrepreneurs through financing, growth and transition capital, venture capital and advisory services, with a focus on small and mid-sized businesses. BDC operates business centres across Canada on behalf of 62,000 clients.
“Diversity and inclusion are built into our business strategy and top of mind for executives and leaders at BDC,” says Marie-Chantal Lamothe, chief human resources officer.
As Lamothe points out, the bank recently formed a diversity and leadership council led by 12 senior leaders and supported by more than 60 engaged employees from across the country.
“They focus on driving measurable progress against BDC’s objectives,” she says, “including recruiting and retaining talent from diverse communities and partnering with organizations to actively recruit in underrepresented communities.”
BDC also promotes diversity among its clients. “We offer financing, advice and resources for underserved communities, including women, Indigenous, Black, visible minorities and newcomers to Canada,” says Lamothe.
“We want to lead by example so the entrepreneurs we work with across Canada understand the value of diversity and inclusion and how it can enhance their success as a business.”
Throughout the year, BDC offers training sessions to, for example, identify unconscious bias, share the experience of racism through listening circles, or participate in discussions with experts in the field of diversity.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn more about others,” says Leteinturier Guissé, “and to be more open-minded in our work.”
To ensure that its initiatives are effective, BDC’s senior leadership team has established objectives for its diversity and inclusion programs. “We have ambitious targets and a lot of work ahead of us,” says Lamothe. “We also have a clear action plan and the commitment and engagement of the entire bank, from our leadership team down, which is what it will take to move the needle.”
For Leteinturier Guissé, diversity has been a priority since she moved to Canada from Senegal to join a dance company in Montréal. Her curiosity eventually led her to obtain an MBA at Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales in Montréal before she began her career in banking.
“Diversity makes the bank stronger and more creative,” she says. “But it’s a journey, and it will never end.”