Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2021) and Greater Toronto'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 Royal Bank of Canada was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2021) and Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2021):
- RBC committed to no job losses in 2020 due to the pandemic, quickly moving thousands of employees to work-from-home arrangements and introducing a special daily compensation program of $50 per day for day-in, day-out support for those employees who were needed to work onsite during the early months of the pandemic
- Through RBC's in-house "Wellness+" program, the bank encourages employees to adopt healthy habits, rewarding healthy behaviour with credits for a personal wellness account -- additionally, the bank published the "RBC Blueprint for Well-being and Mental Health," which outlines its vision for promoting the mental health and well-being of all employees
Putting people first is key to the mission at RBC
In a career spanning 44 years with RBC, Agnes Viau always worked on site. That was until March 27, 2020, when she joined more than 70,000 RBC employees adapting to new working conditions virtually overnight because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of driving to RBC’s Contact Centre in Mississauga, Ont., as she’d done just the day before, Viau carried on managing inquiries from employees throughout Canada from the safety of her home in Guelph, Ont.
“It just felt natural,” Viau says of her first experience with a virtual workplace. “The transition was seamless.” The only question, she adds, was whether she or her husband – also an RBC employee – would work in their home office while the other took over the kitchen island. (Viau got the office.)
Jikin Shah, interim senior vice president, RBC Tech Infrastructure, says that every decision RBC makes pertaining to the pandemic is informed by its Purpose of helping clients thrive and communities prosper. “Staying true to our Purpose,” he adds, “keeps a clear focus on making the health and safety of our employees and clients our first priority.”
To that end, RBC has introduced a broad spectrum of measures complying with the best advice from top public health officials. Shah says this includes temporarily closing some branches across Canada and many offices worldwide while following strict hygiene and sanitation protocols in premises that are still open. RBC, one of Canada’s largest employers, also has operations in 36 countries globally.
Along the way, they’ve had to redefine the RBC workspace, says Shah. Pre-pandemic, about 20,000 employees could work remotely; that number has soared to over 80 per cent of RBC’s global workforce. And they all require the right tools, technology and secure connections to work full-time at home.
Consequently, RBC did such things as distributing more than 7,000 laptops and offering each employee up to $400 to equip their home offices, Shah says. He adds that the bank’s IT employees have worked round the clock to enable their colleagues to work efficiently and to protect data privacy. This includes new virtual collaboration tools and the setup of a dedicated intranet page for tech support, making technology resources easily accessible for all employees.
Another bright spot was that while other companies cut back on their summer programs in the wake of the pandemic, RBC continued its commitment to students, virtually onboarding and providing training to more than 1,400 students globally.
While technology has played a key role, Shah says it’s not the whole story of RBC’s response to the pandemic. “Protecting people’s health includes tending to their mental and emotional well-being as well as their physical safety,” he explains, adding that numerous initiatives were launched so remote-working employees would understand that everyone is in this together.
These include more virtual town halls, regular surveys, Q&A sessions with medical and other experts, and regular online meetings with RBC leaders who, like everyone else, have children and pets wandering into view of their screens. The technology is also facilitating simple social interactions among co-workers via coffee chats and other fun activities.
Viau happily gave up her three-hour-plus daily commute, but says she initially missed impromptu get-togethers with her team at the call centre. She’s pleased RBC has made virtual talks possible, alongside one-on-one conversations with her manager. It all speaks to how much RBC values its employees, Viau says. “I’m truly grateful to be part of this organization.”
Shah says it’s still an open question as to when and how, or even if, employees will return to their former routines. Still, he’s certain of at least one thing: “No matter what the future brings, RBC’s ability to respond will go above and beyond expectations.”
COVID-19 can’t knock RBC off its Purpose-driven course
As one of Canada’s largest corporate donors, RBC has a significant impact on charitable and non-profit organizations and the communities they serve throughout the country – and around the world. RBC also empowers employees who want to make a difference in the places they live and work.
When the bank’s 150-year history of delivering social impact collided with the global pandemic, the outcome was never in doubt. RBC would honour the commitments it had made to its community partners – and go further to enact measures that enabled its 85,000-plus employees globally to continue safely engaging with the issues and causes that matter to them.
Valerie Chort, vice president of corporate citizenship, says the non-profit sector experienced a two-fold blow – decreased donations and unprecedented demand for services. So RBC directed over $10 million to mental health and food security programs. It also reassured more than 900 community partners that their funding was intact and offered the flexibility to use up to 50 per cent of it to cover operating costs, up from its standard 20 per cent cap.
Chort says the move is in the spirit of RBC’s stated Purpose: to help clients thrive and communities prosper. “We know that RBC is part of something larger than itself,” she says. “If our charitable and non-profit partners don’t make it through, our communities don’t make it through.”
At the same time, Chort says, RBC wanted to take a “more than money” approach in response to the pandemic. It also had resources and talented employees to support a wide range of activities.
Take, for example, RBC Race for the Kids, a series of runs supporting children’s charities worldwide. With in-person events impossible in 2020, RBC developed the organizational and technological infrastructure to host its first-ever virtual and global event. It then invited its 36 charity partners on board to take advantage of the platform, to further increase their fundraising capacity at minimal cost.
The result? More than 26,000 participants took part, hailing from over 130 countries – the most locations ever. They raised more than $5 million, bringing the total to over $60 million since RBC Race for Kids began in 2009.
GTA resident Danny Fabbro was among the race participants. Since joining RBC as a branch manager in 2007, he’s also been an active volunteer and event organizer, helping to raise thousands of dollars for Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community.
“I’ve been very blessed,” says Fabbro, who manages the Yonge & Bloor branch. “RBC doesn’t just support my volunteer activities, it encourages them. Making a difference in our communities is embedded in everything we do at RBC.”
So Fabbro was not surprised that instead of cancelling the Race for the Kids, RBC turned it into a virtual event. “The method has changed, the heart has not.”
RBC employees have rallied around their Purpose with initiatives such as the bank’s #PowerOfPurpose campaign, where colleagues recognized peers who went that extra mile to help their clients, communities, and each other for a chance to win $150 in donation credits – which they could then allocate to the charity of their choice. Similarly, RBC committed an additional $2 million so that RBCers like Fabbro could direct a $25 community donation to a cause close to their heart.
According to Chort, mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has almost become a program unto itself. Still, she says some things at RBC won’t change. “Whether we’re at the response, relief, or recovery stage, we – and our employees – are committed to understanding and supporting the needs of our communities.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2021):
By Kristina Leung, Stephanie Leung, and Jing Wang, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Jan 18, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why Royal Bank of Canada was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2021):
- RBC established a dedicated Indigenous student awards program, providing $4,000 annually to recipients for a maximum of four years, and also manages an Indigenous student internship program to provide first hand experience in various areas of operation including finance, sales and services, IT, and marketing (to name a few)
- RBC created a unique Amplify program, a summer internship that allows students to work in creative, agile environments to solve business and industry challenges -- students pitch their work to executives and employees at Amp Expo and successful ideas may be green-lit for further exploration with additional resources and the possibility of future implementation
- Recent university and college graduates can acquire career-level experience through RBC's Career Launch Program, a one-year paid internship for graduates under the age of 24 -- the program features rotations in retail branches and corporate offices, mentorship, professional networking and community experience via a short-term placement with a registered Canadian charity -- program participants may also participate in the Next Great Social Innovator Challenge, an annual competition inviting associates to find a solution to a specific business need
RBC is committed to offering more than a job
Jenny Poulos, senior vice president of talent services & operations at RBC, was in the middle of a big job when the COVID-19 pandemic made it even bigger.
Poulos was leading RBC’s hiring program to provide training to over 1,400 summer students globally. By March 2020, she and her team had extended nearly all the offers of employment when the full impact of the pandemic hit. RBC quickly introduced an array of measures to ensure the health and safety of its employees and clients, including temporarily closing some branches across Canada and many of its offices worldwide.
Like the majority of RBC’s 85,000+ employees, Poulos began working from home while handling her usual responsibilities. Ensuring RBC’s virtual workplace would provide the experiential learning that has benefited previous summer students became a top priority.
“We always want to give them more than a job,” says Poulos. “We’re determined they have meaningful work. So it wasn’t a question of what we were going to do, but how.”
RBC, one of Canada’s largest employers, helps thousands of young people each year gain practical work experience and make informed career decisions. As well as summer jobs, co-op placements and internships provide them with coaching, feedback and opportunities to develop skills for the future year-round. The bank also has a range of innovative tools and resources for self-directed development.
First, however, the students had to be onboarded virtually. While they waited for one of the 1,400 laptops RBC was distributing, they could download an app on their own devices to stay connected and to access information about RBC’s culture and corporate organization prior to their start date.
In years past, students had opportunities to interact with RBC’s senior leaders. Thanks to their ongoing support, the custom continued, starting with an introductory conference via satellite. They were also accessible through virtual town halls and less structured settings like coffee chats so students could build their networks despite being at home.
Jeanelle Suarez is one summer student who moved on to a full-time position. Today, she’s a coordinator, digital marketing and analytics, RBC Wealth Management. But she became familiar with RBC’s approach to career readiness even before she started working there.
As a post-secondary student studying creative advertising in Toronto, Suarez needed to complete a co-op placement before graduating with her BA. To hone her job search and interviewing skills, she used Prepped, a free digital platform offered by RBC Ventures. With its suite of interactive tools and exercises, Prepped provides job seekers with a personalized program to develop the skills employers want.
“I was looking for a challenge to help me grow professionally and RBC delivered,” says Suarez, whose placement began in January 2020. “I expected I’d be in a fixed role, but they asked me a lot about what I wanted. RBC understood my strengths and allowed me to continue developing my skills beyond my role.”
As she transitioned from intern to summer student to full-time employee, Suarez achieved her goal of working on a long-term project. She also experienced the shift from working on RBC premises to a virtual workplace. She says RBC helped allay her initial concerns about becoming isolated with new online tools that facilitate both virtual collaboration and informal social connections.
At the same time, Suarez says, her managers have stayed in close contact, pointing her to available resources and paying particular attention to her well-being. “I never once felt pressured to do more than I had the capacity for,” she adds.
As Poulos sees it, RBC also learned a key lesson from the summer student program: “It’s helping us shape our new world of work.”
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 Royal Bank of Canada was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2021):
- RBC provides real-time American Sign Language video support to its clients through a language interpretation app -- the app was introduced to branch locations across Canada and allows clients and employees to communicate through a professional interpreter
- RBC is committed to developing Indigenous talent pipelines, launching a dedicated Indigenous summer internship program to provide on-the-job learning and training to post-secondary students (the program employed 32 interns in 2019) -- additionally, the bank manages a two-year Indigenous peoples development program for recent graduates, providing exposure to finance, auditing, risk management, technology, marketing or human resources
- RBC offers a 10-month Ignite leadership development program for high-performing, culturally diverse talent, aimed at accelerating their trajectory to senior management -- the program provides opportunities to develop and practice leadership behaviours and enable cross-enterprise networking with peers and senior leaders -- program also features formal coaching by an external executive coach and the opportunity to partner with a charity to help solve business challenges
RBC takes action against systemic racism
As vice president, social impact and innovation, with RBC, Mark Beckles is well positioned to put his previous experience in financial services, risk management and executive leadership in both the corporate and non-profit sectors to good use.
For the long-time advocate for social, racial and economic justice, being part of an organization where he can continue to make a positive difference in those areas is essential.
Beckles’ responsibilities include RBC Future Launch, the bank’s largest-ever commitment to a social cause. The 10-year, $500-million program is dedicated to helping Canadians aged 15 to 29 to acquire the work experience, skills and resources they’ll need to thrive in the rapidly changing workplace of tomorrow.
“RBC has embedded diversity and inclusion [D&I] as a core value,” says Beckles. “It’s aligned with our Purpose – to help clients thrive and communities prosper – but we can only achieve this if everyone’s full potential is unlocked.”
The two major news stories of 2020 highlight the urgent need for action, Beckles says.
By disproportionately affecting the poor and other marginalized people, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a greater understanding of the inequities in Canadian society, he says. And the murder of George Floyd led to massive protests worldwide, and heightened awareness of how widespread systemic racism and bias truly is.
Still, there was a form of silver lining, says Beckles, as many Black Canadians felt they could no longer stay quiet about their own lived experience of racism. “You can’t fix what you don’t understand,” he says. “As tragic as that event was, it has allowed some unprecedented conversations to take place and reveal some uncomfortable truths.”
Helena Gottschling, chief human resources officer with global responsibility for HR, says that hundreds of such conversations have taken place within RBC. While some arose organically, others were planned listening sessions in Canada and the 36 countries where the bank operates.
RBC has experience encouraging difficult conversations thanks to its 'That Little Voice' video. Released in February 2020, and with more than half a million impressions, the video and discussion guides are designed to encourage people to #speakupforinclusion, says Gottschling.
Still, this time was different, she says. “We knew we needed to create opportunities to just listen. RBC is committed to providing a safe and respectful workplace for all our employees, but we know we can always do better. D&I is a journey, not a destination, and I’ll never declare we’ve arrived.”
As a result of what they heard, RBC has taken specific actions to help fight systemic racism with an action plan released in July 2020, Gottschling says. The first of three key target areas, enabling economic growth and wealth creation, includes committing $100 million over five years in small business loans to Black entrepreneurs and establishing a program to help advance growth for Black-owned businesses.
Investing in the future is another key priority, with $50 million in funding from now up to 2025 to create meaningful and transformative pathways for 25,000 BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) youth as part of Future Launch. RBC is also dedicating 40 per cent of all student opportunities to BIPOC youth, with a specific focus on recruiting from Black and Indigenous communities.
The third key action area, redefining inclusive leadership, provides a range of measures to increase the bank’s staffing goal of BIPOC executives from 20 to 30 per cent. RBC is also enhancing its existing unconscious bias training and making anti-racism and anti-bias training mandatory for all employees.
Crucially, it will measure and report publicly on the progress it makes on these and other D&I initiatives, says Gottschling. “We’re holding ourselves accountable.”
Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Chantel Watkins, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 18, 2021)
Here are some of the reasons why Royal Bank of Canada was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2021):
- Along with dedicated financial products and services for clients in the renewable energy, cleantech and low carbon sectors, RBC has introduced a number of green building features at locations across the bank, including green roofs, solar electricity panel installations, rainwater collection, LED lighting retrofits -- and as part of its formal environmental blueprint, the bank continues to increase the amount of LEED-certified office space it occupies
- Across RBC, over 500 employees act as Green Champions to create awareness and encourage sustainable behaviours through numerous employee-led initiatives such as monthly car-free days, weekly organic produce deliveries, sustainability-themed lunch and learns, and environmentally themed volunteer initiatives
- As part of its environmental blueprint, RBC has maintained a steady focus on waste reduction and recycling initiatives (setting a goal of zero electronic waste to the landfill), maintaining organic and recycling programs at all locations, finding ways to reuse or donate slightly used furniture, and properly disposing of carpets and demolition waste in new renovations and construction
RBC has a blueprint for building a more sustainable future
When RBC introduced its Climate Blueprint in 2019, it spelled out the bank’s commitment to sustainability, including providing $100 billion in sustainable finance by 2025. The plan has been more successful – and created change more quickly – than anticipated.
“We exceeded our sustainable financing target in the first two years,” says Andrew Craig, senior director, sustainability at RBC. As a result, RBC updated the Blueprint – twice – and expanded its target to $500 billion to support sustainable companies and projects by 2025.
While RBC has a strong record of environmental stewardship, the Blueprint signified a fundamental change. Green initiatives were once considered a means for managing reputation, Craig explains. Now RBC has embedded climate as a core business strategy.
The RBC Climate Blueprint sets out five pillars to guide RBC’s focus on accelerating clean economic growth and supporting clients in a socially inclusive transition to net-zero. Four encompass short-to long-term commitments for addressing climate-related risks and opportunities. Measures include developing and expanding climate-related financial products and services; committing to net-zero emissions in its lending by 2050; deriving 100 per cent of RBC’s electricity from sustainable sources by 2025; and providing research and thought leadership on climate policy.
The fifth pillar is rooted in its Tech for Nature program, which brings together charitable partners, technology experts, the public and private sector – including RBC’s own unique capabilities – to build the multi-partner coalitions needed to work towards solving environmental challenges. Through this initiative, there are now over 120 partners being supported by the program, with more than $25 million invested to date.
Investing in the sustainable economy is crucial to RBC’s Purpose – to help clients thrive and communities prosper, Craig says. Many RBC clients, he adds, see climate-related innovation as a growth opportunity and have adopted new business practices – or are eager to do so.
“There’s not a lot of debate about the reality of climate change,” he says. “The debate is more about the pace and scale of the efforts required to address climate change and adapt to its effects. RBC is in a unique position to help our clients navigate the uncertainty and opportunity for clean economic growth.”
RBC’s belief that capital can be a force for positive change also means everyone at the bank has a part to play in contributing to a more sustainable and prosperous future, Craig adds. It’s a value system, he says, that helps attract and retain top talent.
That’s certainly true for Wazhma Wesa, manager, social impact, who joined RBC in 2019. With a background that includes graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Oxford, and experience in the international development sector, she was looking for an opportunity to help others.
“I wanted a job in the private sector with the capabilities and resources to have a positive impact on the world,” Wesa says. “This led me to RBC.”
Her responsibilities have included tracking the progress of environmental and social initiatives, including Tech for Nature. In addition to providing funding, Wesa says, RBC is leveraging its capabilities in artificial intelligence, blockchain and app development to help partners scale up their activities.
Tech for Nature is funding technology-driven programs in three key areas: data, innovation ecosystem and behaviour change. In the program’s first year, RBC worked with community partners on everything from citizen science projects to ventures for efficiently collecting, analyzing and sharing data to better understand the natural ecosystem.
And there’s been at least one spin-off benefit. Wesa says employees throughout RBC regularly ask about volunteer opportunities with those partners. “It’s rewarding to be part of a values-driven organization,” she says.