CEO of Quebec’s second-largest bank promotes growth, diversity, and participation

The first female CEO of the Laurentian Bank is nervous.

“I felt nervous,” she said. “It’s such a big change for me to be speaking on a stage and to be speaking my mind.”

But nerves aside, she didn’t shy away from answering questions about the bank — Quebec’s second-largest — as a daughter of Lebanese immigrants, her children’s National Basketball Association careers, and the importance of diversity in the industry.

In a wide-ranging talk at the Bank of Montreal’s Global Banking Conference in Toronto, Ms. Llewellyn said it was important to hear what she had to say, and she wasn’t shy about her targets, which aim to double revenues from retail banking to $2.5 billion by 2022.

“It’s hard to focus on profitability when growth is so important,” she said.

The Laurentian Bank may, as a result, be profitable, Ms. Llewellyn, 53, added.

Ms. Llewellyn’s mother, who helped her learn the value of hard work, and her father, who used his life insurance to pay her first year’s tuition in university, are, in part, responsible for the visionary programming that is making the Laurentian Bank much more important to society. She also cited “evolving consumer and business needs” as one of the drivers of growth.

Most prominently, the bank has become a lender of choice to professional athletes, targeting about 100 such clients, and sending support to clients who win sporting titles like the Stanley Cup.

The bank now deals with about 200 such clients, and its mission is now to provide services for all levels of success, to financial, emotional and social.

As for the NBA players on the board of the International Basketball Federation, Ms. Llewellyn is delighted to see how the game itself has evolved in its home country and abroad. Since the NBA established its official league office in Montreal, she said, young people want to see the players perform and, moreover, want to help them succeed as professionals.

Still, some young basketballers cannot always find a financing mechanism to buy the products they need to play. In many cases, Quebec provincial banks do not lend to basketball players, she said. Laurentian bank has been helping such customers find a lender that would finance their purchase.

In the meantime, the bank is doing more of its part for the sport — both physically and financially. It has built a 70,000-square-foot basketball facility in its Winnipeg city center that will open in May and will hold games, camps and clinics. At the event, NBA players often hoisted boxing gloves and participated in match-ups with the city’s boxing team.

Last year, the bank supported a one-day camp for young players that drew more than 150 people, Ms. Llewellyn said. There is also an initiative to encourage girls, from 11 to 17, to take up the sport.

For Laurentian Bank, Ms. Llewellyn said, supporting the league is a way to reach those in Quebec and its young people who are interested in the game but who find it hard to find finance to play.

As for the millions of other fans out there who have never seen an NBA game, Ms. Llewellyn does not believe they will miss a game just because Canada has one of the league’s owners.

“We have three teams in Quebec,” she said. “All of them are successful, profitable.”

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