ATB Financial: The Rise of the Chief Evangelist

We are delighted to have Dave Mowat, President and CEO of ATB Financial speaking at the upcoming CIO Peer Forum in Edmonton April 26-27, 2017.  Dave is re-imagining ATB Financial to drive innovation and digital transformation.  As such, a new style of leadership and roles are being created to meet that vision.  A key leader on Dave’s impressive executive team is Lorne Rubis, now the Chief Evangelist at ATB Financial.”

ATB Financial: The Rise of the Chief Evangelist

By Brian Clendenin, IT World Canada Contributing Writer

Business is continually evolving. Every enterprise is going to have to fundamentally rewrite the way they work in a digital world. This means the culture of a company, the way in which people collaborate both internally with team members and externally with customers, will all have to adapt to stay competitive. For the people within an organization, a customer-centric mindset should be at the heart of guiding principles during transformative moments in a company’s cultural evolution.

Disruption in any industry requires an evangelist to lead the way. For example, at, Vala Afshar leads the way as the company’s Chief Digital Evangelist and Guy Kawasaki during his time at Apple was famously quoted as saying, “Evangelism isn’t a job title, it’s a way of life.” As such, executive leaders across Canada are thinking about the future demands on their business and key success factors required from both a technology and people perspective. This balance is extremely important to reflect upon in today’s increasingly fast paced world. I reached out to Lorne Rubis, now the Chief Evangelist at ATB Financial to get his perspective and insights. Based in Alberta, ATB Financial is one of Canada’s leading financial institutions that is known for being innovators with a pulse on the need to adapt to customer expectations and understanding the importance for team members to have passionate purpose in everything they do in order to delight customers – everyday.

The rise of the chief evangelist is a three-part series on making the switch from leading people to leading purpose. The insights are particularly relevant for IT leaders at all levels to remain competitive in today’s world and progress our thinking.

Brian Clendenin: What does it mean to be moving from the Chief People Officer to the Chief Evangelist?

Lorne Rubis: “An evangelist is committed to changing the world for the better and helping make remarkable history … So my role has now shifted to creating stories that inspire passion within our team members with the goal of evangelizing them in helping ATB become a Cult Brand. Transparency and open information in everything we do will be an important element along with creating a model for team members to follow. Rallying team members and leadership in this effort will become a focus as we come together to support and advance our purpose to reimagine banking for the greater good of all Albertans.

Brian: What does your first 90-days look like?

Lorne: “I have assembled a lean team to help me and we have already started to create opportunities for more timely, unfiltered, and transparent conversations between our team members and leadership. With this, we have seen a shift towards two-way conversations creating an authentic connection between team members and ATB’s purpose. These are not one-off conversations, but rather an opportunity to enable confidence in our team members to show-up in different ways as they have in the past. We will continue to focus on accelerating our efforts in these areas and further advance our cross-functional collaboration efforts, identifying high impact opportunities for modeling behaviours, utilizing technology to profoundly improve customer experience and readying team members for more impactful leadership roles. We have a defined recipe and road map in becoming a cult brand. Accelerating our ability to achieve the extraordinary results worthy of a cult company through peer to peer collaboration and acute listening are two primary ingredients in that recipe.”

Brian: What challenges will you be up against in your role?

Lorne: “Navigating through more complex environments, having the judgment to make the right decisions and staying focused on what's really important are areas that I believe all leaders are super challenged with today. We will always be in the middle of accelerating, transformative change and it can be mind bending to keep up. Use of advanced technology and sharper skills to help lead in this state are at heightened levels. Leaders will also be challenged with staying on the forefront and integrating the speed of progress with how our team members can show up within the organization they work.”

Brian: How do you plan on helping leaders with the challenges they face today?

Lorne: “Connecting the dots for what’s happening both internally and externally including creating awareness and application of new technologies, will aid with enabling our team members to garner the necessary confidence to increase team collaboration ultimately, achieving greater contribution. It will be a personal challenge to be a super scout, become fully aware of trends, seeking the opinions of thought leaders and then creating the stories that will help the organization stay connected towards making our purpose a reality. This connection is integral to achieving that purpose – a 94-word story on how we will transform banking and create happiness for team members, customers and all Albertans.”

Brian: What makes you the right person to take this role?

Lorne: “Wow, time to be confident and humble, something we ask our team members to do every day.  For me, I believe a Chief Evangelist must have both the wisdom and charisma to inspire. People at ATB tell me that I have established some of this in my previous role as Chief People Officer and I plan only to get better. My focus will be on having the most meaningful conversations, coupled with elevating trusting and authentic relationships with all members of our organization. I plan to show up in every way with an insatiable growth mindset, and self-accountable commitment to model and frame up what matters most in advancing our movement. My role will also extend to external audiences where I will contribute as a thought leader within the community.  We have done some amazing work at ATB, and I have an opportunity to share with the world real, inspiring stories – I’m the face and name, indeed the ‘evangelist’ to relay our story.”

Disruption in any industry requires an evangelist to lead the way. Companies need to be agile and move quickly when new market opportunities arise. This requires that not just the technology needs to be able to support the business needs, but that the passion of the people inside the company are vastly important to sustained success. I think you will see the role of the chief evangelist rise in more organizations over the coming years.