We have entered a pivotal time in the evolution of financial services. The advent of myriad technologies, the unprecedented pace of change, non-traditional and traditional competition, the regulatory environment, increasing consumer expectations of value, ease, and simplification, global and localized economic influencers – the list goes on. All represent a plethora of headwinds that afford a heightened urgency to think deeply about our business, move quickly, and pivot readily, while necessitating agility in our approach. The financial services industry is navigating these headwinds concurrent to striving to win for our clients today, digitizing and leveraging technologies to enhance our client experience and deliver cost efficiencies in the near term, while also fundamentally rethinking financial services for the future. As a realistic optimist – a very exciting as well as a somewhat unnerving time!
I highly value my experiences within the Dal MBA program and consider my investment central to enabling me to actively and positively engage in the industry transformation currently taking place. The program effectively strengthened my perspective, tuned my business acumen, and set the tone for the magnitude of change that I would ultimately be leading through.
How did the MBA influence my choices and decisions?
Building from my undergrad, the MBA enabled me to think more broadly, to take a wide lens to issues, while also strengthening my perspective and resourcefulness to engage in ongoing issues and opportunities present in today’s business environment. The opportunity to study, while working full time, (and parenting full time!) stretched me personally and professionally as I worked to manage the demands of my three parallel, competing realities.
Managing this complexity provided the impetus to broaden my capacity and demonstrated the value of adaptability as a core capability in my long-term development. Fundamental to today’s business environment is the ability to readily adapt to rapidly changing work. An essential capability as we look at the heightened importance of systematic horizontal integration and collaborative, fast paced, functional work environments.
The Dal MBA program also instilled a confidence that has fueled my curiosity and enabled me to more readily expose my vulnerabilities; never easy, but essential to long term personal and professional growth. Trusting the Dal MBA as my foundation, I have more easily stepped out of my areas of specialization into other parts of the business to broaden my experiences – trusting that I have the tools and foundation to enable me to positively impact the role and business in which I have transitioned.
How would you encourage others to seek more education?
Formal education is one lever for development – a lever that has always been extremely important to me personally. Peers, new work, mentors, classes, courses, experiences – there are many development tactics to consider. I suggest the first development step for anyone is to take the time to understand yourself. How well do you know yourself? Your interests? Strengths? Opportunities? Blind spots? Motivations? Take the time to reflect, ask for feedback, understand where you want to develop, and then be strategic about honing in on the areas that will support your overall development plan and journey. I have always focused on capabilities for my development, not roles, as the speed of change is reshaping everything we know. It is highly likely that your 2 or 3 out role target may not exist when you are looking for it.
Ultimately, education comes through many places. I am currently 15 years into my career and 12 years into a family life with 3 children – you quickly realize that the learning journey never ends! With the pace of change of today’s world, I find I am constantly learning both formally and informally. I am currently completing my CSC (why not!), taking a Data Science course, and completing a Lean project for a LSS designation. I am also working on many cross-functional projects that, in their own, foster unique development opportunities. Personally, my spouse and children are endlessly integrating the ‘internet of things’ into our home and routines, sharing apps and technologies fascinating in which to participate. In the end, simply being curious and engaging in the ongoing changes around me.
It is rewarding to embrace opportunities to continuously develop and grow. The world is an amazing place and, to think I am just scratching the surface of fully understanding my family, my work, my environment, and my passion, is an exhilarating feeling. Dal helped instill this in me.
I just love this quote from Stephen Hawking always reminding me to engage, embrace, and be curious:
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
Richard (Rick) Atherton MBA(FS) 2016 is Senior Director, Senior Director, Operations Enablement and Integration, CB Operation, RBC. He is dedicated to the development, communication and integration of change leadership strategies supporting transformational initiatives across RBC Canadian Banking Operations. His mission is to enable effective and sustainable change to improve productivity, drive engagement, and deliver operational efficiencies. Rick has graciously agreed to be a repeat contributor on CFAME Connection.