Trust Leader: Mary Dable Arab, Scotiabank

January 11, 2017

District Vice President, Northeast Nova Scotia,  Canada, Scotiabank

Mary Dable Arab, District Vice President, Scotiabank, is wonderful example of a Trust Leader who applies and lives the principles of building trust every day.

Building a culture of trust and customer focus in an organization starts at the top, with the leadership team and cascades throughout the entire organization. After working with Mary and her team at Scotiabank and spending time getting to know her, I can say Mary not only applies the trust principles, they are woven throughout her leadership style.

Recognized as one of Scotiabank’s leaders, Mary is laser focused on creating a superior customer experience for Scotiabank customers. She is passionate about strengthening and protecting both employee trust and customer trust in the Bank. 

Scotiabank is Canada’s international bank and a leading financial services provider in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and Central America, and Asia-Pacific. The Bank is dedicated to helping its 23 million customers become better off through a broad range of advice, products and services, including personal and commercial banking, wealth management and private banking, corporate and investment banking, and capital markets.
Mary works diligently and consistently to make an impact with customers and employees every day. In her current role, Mary is responsible for leading several hundred people in branches across Nova Scotia, she has led call center centres and thousands of professionals across Canada in creating superior customer experience for all Scotiabank customers. I sat down with Mary to find out how she does this. Her very first sentence was: 
“To me, conversations about finances are very personal. We know that our customers want to work with someone they trust, and with an organization that has a good reputation. A trusted personal and corporate reputation is critical to the success of the relationship.”

“For our customers, the person they interact with is the face of the bank. They ‘are’ the bank. Each person in the organization plays a key role in creating a good reputation and earning the customers’ trust in Scotiabank.”

With so much of banking and so many transactions done on line now, people do not go into the branch to “do their banking”. I asked, how Scotiabank builds trust online and in a digital world?

“We are focused on providing an excellent customer experience in every one of the channels that our customers choose to do business with us – in a branch, online, using a mobile phone, on the telephone or at the ABM. Our guiding principle for all interactions is to make banking easier for our customers.”

Mary went on to explain with a reference that I, as a mother of a teenager, could relate to well. She said, “kids are learning to build online apps in summer camp. They download music and games to their mobile devices in a short few clicks, and they are using the latest technology to speak with their friends and do their homework at night. These are the Scotiabank customers of the not too distant future, and we need to meet them where their needs and expectations are.”
Scotiabank’s commitment to making it easy and accessible for customers to bank with them is a practical and tangible way to demonstrate its commitment to making it easier to do business with us.
We often hear of small companies doing this with success. And in some ways it is easier to apply the principles to a company with only a dozen employees and a few hundred customers. How does Canada’s third largest bank with over 88,000 employees and 23 million customers operationalize making it easier for its customers?

“Scotiabank is undergoing a digital transformation. We are investing in technology and automating processes to provide digital tools and solutions that better serve customers, improve speed, be more cost efficient and productive, and to be our customers’ primary bank of choice. This digital transformation is what ensures we can make it effective across all of our employees and our customers.”

We trust when we understand...when things are clear, when we can visualize the outcome that is being offered or described. For this reason, one of the characteristics of a trust leader is being a strong communicator. In this regard, Mary is a master. For example, when I asked “What kinds of projects is Scotiabank working on as part of its digital transformation?, she responded with concrete examples and visual images that helped me to understand the goal. Her language is clear and full of visual examples. 

“Today, we can order and pay for a cup of coffee with our Starbucks app, and then avoid the line when we arrive to pick up our coffee. We can open an Uber account, and then order a cab and watch its progress as it arrives at our door. Our digital transformation is about identifying, and reducing customer “pain points” throughout their customer journey. Our investments have resulted in decreases in the time it takes for customers to do their banking – including:

  • The time it takes to open a Day to Day (chequing) account in a branch has decreased from an average of 60 min to less than 10 min.
  • Further, with the launch of online account opening from Scotiabank, the ability to open an account online has decreased from ~15 days (with a mail in sign up package) to ~3 min.
  • The percentage of Mortgage customers who can be approved in 1 branch visit has increased from 3% to 70%, and the time to complete a credit card application online has gone from ~8 min to ~1 ½ minutes."

"We know that the customer experience and the customer’s trust in the company are interchangeable. They are the brand.” 

A few years ago, Mary led a national project at Scotiabank to improve the customer experience. Banks continually measure customer satisfaction scores. Just before Mary returned to work after maternity leave with her second child, Mary went in to see her Group Head to get up to speed. With a broad smile on her face, Mary shared with me one of her most memorable moments during her career at Scotiabank. Her Group Head at the time said, “Mary, we want to improve our customer satisfaction score across our Contact Centre Channels and we want you to do it. You have 18 months.”

The “oh factor”

“I left the meeting with my baby in my arms and for the first time, I stood outside of the bank. I thought – how do customers experience Scotiabank?” Mary studied trusted brands that were effective in delivering superior ‘wow’ experiences, like The Ritz Carleton, Zappos, and Disney. She found that when everyone in the organization understands their purpose, it creates a space for magic to happen. When there is clarity and simplicity around the vision, the purpose and the promise employees are empowered to act in the customers best interests and to ‘wow’ them. 

Mary and her team set a goal to create positive memorable moments for Scotiabank customers, to anticipate their needs and deliver outstanding service. “I call that the “Oh” factor.” The “Oh Factor” is when you see your customer slowly say…. ‘Oh’ and slowly smile; because you’ve anticipated a need they didn’t even articulate. Through training and coaching, Mary and her team of across the country set out to introduce Emotional Intelligence into the Customer Experience Model and increase the customer satisfaction scores in Canada and Internationally.

Emotional intelligence, anticipating client needs, and focusing on building empathy with customers were part of the process to create positive memorable moments for Scotiabank customers. 
“When you have an anticipatory type of service, you can gain a greater sense of loyalty and customer trust and the customer will come back because you’ve created a positive emotional connection that is lasting.” 
I asked for an example, again thinking, how does a multinational company operationalize this?

Mary deconstructed a simple transaction that’s done at the Bank every day….changing your address.  “Our Contact Centre Employees take hundreds of those calls a day. Although, what looks like an ordinary transaction may not be ordinary to you. You likely can count on one hand how many times you’ve moved in your lifetime. Moving can be riddled with emotion, and when we receive that customer’s request to modify their profile, it’s more than a transaction to us. We look for opportunities to be part of that defining moment in your life.”

Despite the growth in electronic options, branches remain a vital part of banking in Canada. “Customers come into the branch to have some of the most important financial conversations of their lives,” she said. “These are the ‘banking moments of truth’. We have to be present and authentic and really good problem solvers.” Mary and her team lead with empathy and work hard to provide their customers with an excellent customer experience.”
Through Emotional Intelligence training and development sessions, Scotiabank employees became self –aware and adaptable, always with the goal of creating a positive memorable experience for customers.  By always bringing it back to the customer and their needs, Mary and her team apply the principle of listening with empathy and compassion. 

Mary and her team implemented a new Customer Experience model to over 2,000 employees in Canada. When I asked, to what do you attribute your success, she replied: “My team and I kept the customer at the centre of everything we did.” Mary has spent most of her career successfully leading large teams from 400 to 2,000 people teams across wide geographical footprints. “When your team is that large, you have to be very focused and your communication must be clear and grounded in passion and authenticity.” According to Mary, “communication is a competitive differentiator for leaders.” 

Not surprisingly, she spends a significant amount of time honing her own communication skills, preparing messages to be clear. She consistently works to improve her skills and techniques, whether it is by attending a professional development session at Harvard University or working with her team on a way to make a message come to life “I am committed to being as transparent and dependable as I can be in all of my interactions – both with my own team, and with the customers that we serve. When people believe you and trust you, it positively affects the outcome of all of your interactions.”

Mary’s inspirational, consistent, clear and simple focus on the customer is one of the reasons Mary is recognized as a trusted leader. There is a pattern with her responses – her comments almost always mention the customer and the way that she and her team are working to improve the customer experience at Scotiabank. This passion and focus in Mary’s DNA. She is a committed, capable, consistent, compassionate and clear communicator who leads with honesty, integrity and confidence. Mary Dable Arab: A Canadian Trust Leader.