Named one of the top 25 women in banking by American Banker, Janice Fukakusa has been in the spot light as one of the most successful CFOs you could ever meet.
Janice Fukakusa has lead an incredible career in banking and says her parents and mentors played a large role in who she is today.
Photo courtesy: RBC
She was inducted into Canada’s Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame and was selected as Canada’s CFO of the Year by Financial Executives Canada, PwC and Robert Half, according to her RBC biography.
Fukakusa has a track record of achievement that you don’t see every day, plus she has a humanitarian heart. “I think it’s so important to make the time to give back to the community and professionally”, Fukakusa said in a recent interview with Nikkei Voice. She is involved in a variety of community initiatives including the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation for Cancer research, and is a huge supporter of educating youth and advocating for diversity initiatives.
Do a quick search online and you will find a plethora of stories on her academic and professional successes, and community involvements. But what made her choose the career of finance? Who inspired her to become the person she is today, and what advice does she have for aspiring financial leaders and business professionals? We find out:
Samantha Whyte: Upon graduation, you received your Bachelor of Arts from U of T, did you know that one day you’d begin your career in the corporate world?
Janice Fukakusa: I never imagined I would build a strong career in finance. In fact, for my undergraduate degree, I specialized in liberal arts at the University of Toronto.
After graduation, I wanted to broaden my skills and exposure which led me to pursue a Chartered Accountant designation and then an MBA from Schulich which provided a great foundation for a career in financial services.
SW: You have said your parents have been one of the major influences in your life. Who were some role models within the community or in the corporate world that has inspired you to become who you are today?
JF: My parents have definitely been a major influence in my life and helped instill in me a desire to be a life-long learner and to move outside of my comfort zone. My father was an entrepreneur who ran his own business and watching him grow his business helped me realize that I too could control my own destiny.
In the corporate world, I’ve been fortunate to have a number of mentors and role models who have inspired and supported me, including RBC’s former CEO and president, Gord Nixon who was a true inspiration and supported me in taking smart risks to broaden my expertise and challenge myself.
I also get a lot of inspiration through contributing time to community causes. In particular, as a Board member of the Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation, which provides support to those coping with cancer… the event also celebrates wellness after cancer through individuals bravely sharing their very touching personal stories. The event is incredibly inspiring.
It has also been a privilege to be involved with the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s Sakura Gala.
I had the honour of chairing the Gala a few years ago and it was incredibly rewarding to be able to recognize members of our community who have made exceptional contributions to our culture.
It’s something I look forward to supporting each year.
SW: I understand that you began your career in RBC in 1985, what did you begin your career as?
JF: When I joined RBC I was an analyst in mergers and acquisitions. Through that role I was able to gain broad exposure to the bank’s strategic activities and I developed a big picture outlook that allowed me to really see how things fit together to achieve a greater result.
Over the years, I’ve worked in many areas of the bank including retail and corporate banking, and that broad range of experience has given me a real appreciation for different perspectives and diversity of thought which can be a key driver of innovation.
SW: What are some of the enjoyable moments you had as CFO and CAO of RBC?
JF: One that comes to mind is the launch of the RBC Next Great Innovator Challenge, an innovation challenge open to all Canadian post-secondary students that asks them to answer a real-world business challenge by providing an innovative idea. I’ve served as a judge and I can tell you that my colleagues and I were so impressed by the enthusiasm the students brought to the challenge.
SW: You have led two acquisitions including the $3.7 billion agreement with Ally Canada, what would you say were some of the biggest factors in achieving a successful acquisition?
JF: Beyond our ability to attract interest through RBC’s strong global reputation and performance, it also comes down to ensuring a good fit.
When looking at an acquisition opportunity we definitely assess it in terms of strong fit with our strategy and whether it complements and enhances our capabilities, but the softer elements of culture and values can be equally critical, especially when it comes to integrating the business.
RBC has as very strong reputation… so, it’s important when considering an acquisition to ensure that the other company shares our commitment to clients, a collaborative spirit, and a track record of making a difference in our communities.
SW: As more women are entering the corporate field, particularly in the world of finance, what advice would you give to those aspiring to do so?
JF: I think every career is different, but I would encourage someone entering the corporate field to keep a broad perspective. Like all things, the business world is changing and the people that succeed will be the ones who don’t isolate themselves within the confines of their particular industry, but look out more broadly into the world that we live in.
Additionally, I would encourage them to apply themselves fully and commit to delivering their best and to stay curious and reach beyond their comfort zones.
Throughout my career, I’ve made lateral moves into areas I hadn’t considered before in order to gain a better understanding of a business, which has led to working with new people and building strong connections.
Our interview ended with these final words of encouragement:
I would also encourage people to be confident, take risks and learn from their mistakes. Moving outside of your comfort zone is a risk, but every time I did, I considered what I would learn and how it would contribute to my development. It’s also inevitable that we will all make mistakes, but it’s often through our mistakes that we learn the most.