Schulich community comes together to ‘integrate, innovate and initiate’ at Annual Alumni Forum
With the intent to ‘integrate, innovate and initiate’, close to 400 alumni, faculty, staff and friends gathered at the Schulich School of Business on Saturday, November 23rd at CONNECT 2013, the Annual Schulich Alumni Forum. The day-long event aims to foster connections between a diverse range of the world’s current and future leaders and experts as they share their knowledge, insights and experiences while discussing the most talked-about management issues of the day.
This year, Schulich was honoured to present a keynote address from alumna Kathleen Taylor (MBA/JD ’84),Chair Designate of the Royal Bank of Canada and former President and CEO Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
“A large and growing number of our alumni have assumed senior positions in corporations based here in Canada and throughout the world … but few have attained the heights and the level of success that Katie Taylor has,” said Dean Dezsö J. Horváth in his introduction of Ms. Taylor.
Throughout her nearly 25 years with one of the world’s most famous luxury brands, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Ms. Taylor played a key role in growing the company’s global footprint as the small, Toronto-based luxury hotel chain founded by Isadore Sharpe quadrupled in size, spreading to 90 locations in close to 40 countries.
Following her stellar career at Four Seasons, which concluded earlier this year, Ms. Taylor has not stepped back. On the contrary, her rise to the very top of Canada’s corporate elite continues. In late August, she was named the Chair Designate for the Royal Bank of Canada, one of the largest banks in the world based on market capitalization. When she assumes the role in January, she will become the first female executive to lead the board of a major Canadian bank. And in October, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty appointed Kathleen a director of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, one of the largest pension plans in the country with close to $190 billion in assets.
“Kathleen’s business success, according to those who know her best, is based in large part on her ability to motivate and lead people,” said Dean Horváth. “She is a shining example of the kind of globally oriented strategic leader the Schulich School of Business seeks to cultivate through our MBA program and we are honoured to have her here with us today.”
On the opportunity to attend CONNECT, Ms. Taylor said: “It’s an extraordinary day we have for you today and what a privilege and honour for all of us to be here and on this campus which is so very well known for its international outlook, the breadth of diversity that is now represented by the School, its true innovation and – we hear a lot about this when we’re here with the Dean – it is of course, Schulich’s global reach.”
“Our theme for the day is three very powerful words – integrate, innovate, initiate – all action-filled words,” she said. “Each of them, individually and unquestionably, is critical to the success of any business today – domestic, regional or global – yet they’re all undeniably interconnected. And for me, as I thought about all three words together and what they mean in business, they all came together under a lens that I call leadership and the power that leadership brings to businesses of all kinds.”
Using her experiences with Four Seasons and RBC, as well as the event’s theme of ‘integrate, innovate, initiate’, Ms. Taylor engaged the audience in a discussion about leadership and how to use it as a tool to strengthen business operations, make them more efficient, more connected and, ultimately, to achieve better results.
At the Four Seasons, Ms. Taylor explained they fashioned their leadership around ‘The Golden Rule’ – no matter how senior, no matter what title, no matter what job, no matter what culture – everyone treats everyone else the way they would want to be treated. Helping to create workplaces where bosses were seen as team leaders, communicators and mentors. The main job of senior leadership, she explained, was to inspire a collective commitment to ‘The Golden Rule’, the company’s motto of business excellence.
“There’s no question that when businesses champion shared values through integration and inclusion, employee engagement and productivity always increases [and] that generally reduces turnover and therefore costs, all while generally improving customer satisfaction – really easy to say, really, really hard to do. Getting to that stage requires daily practice and commitment in every element of the business, every corner of the business, in all business matters no matter how big or how small.”
Following the keynote presentation, guests at CONNECT had the opportunity to attend a variety of panel discussions, presentations and interactive tutorials on a wide-range of topics. These sessions explored such themes as operating Canadian SMEs across borders, how to maximize “mid-career” opportunities, corporate and securities fraud in Canada and beyond, as well as issues in the areas of economics, marketing and real estate.
Notable speakers at CONNECT 2013 included Katie Daniels, Deputy Director Corporate Finance Branch, Ontario Securities Commission; David Gardner (BBA ’83, MBA ’84), Vice President – Marketing & Sales, Honda Canada; Warren Jestin, Senior Vice President & Chief Economist, Scotiabank Group; Glain Roberts-McCabe, Founder & President, The Executive Roundtable Inc.; and Benjamin Tal, Managing Director & Deputy Chief Economist, CIBC World Markets.
Guests at CONNECT 2013 also had the opportunity to visit the Alumni Connections Café where they could network while enjoying coffee and snacks; attend a wine tasting by Lifford/Schiralli Wine Agencies; and “Meet the CEOs” at an afternoon plenary session where panelists Howard Grosfield, President and CEO, American Express Canada; Les Mandelbaum, Co-Founder and President, Umbra; Stephen Wetmore, CEO, Canadian Tire Corporation; and moderator Howard Lichtman (JD ’79, MBA ’82), President, Lightning Group shared their paths to success, the lessons they learned along the way and their perspectives on current global business challenges.
Alumni from the classes of 1968 through to 2013 attended CONNECT 2013, including representatives from the MBA Class of 1969 who took part in a special international fellowship in honour of Canada’s centennial in 1967, called the Centennial Fellowship program. These alumni, known as the Centennial Fellows, celebrated their 40-year reunion at Schulich in October 2009, which inspired the creation of a new financial aid endowment for Schulich students. As a result of the collective generosity of the Centennial Fellows, over $50,000 was raised and representatives came back to campus for CONNECT 2013 to meet the inaugural recipient of their award,Eva Tremuth (MBA ’13).
CONNECT 2013 would not have been the success it was without the leadership of Conference Chair Willy Kruh (MBA ’83), Partner, Global Chair Consumer Markets, KPMG LLP; Program Chair Howard Lichtman (JD ’79, MBA ’82), President, Lightning Group; and its sponsors: CGA Ontario, Honda Canada, KPMG LLP, Lifford Agency, CPA Ontario, York Alumni, Schulich Executive Education Centre (SEEC), Toronto Symphony Orchestra and UBER.
The Schulich Global Alumni Network boasts more than 25,000 Schulich alumni living in over 90 different countries and has 86 alumni chapters in 63 countries, with many tuning into the day’s events via a live webcast.