- Alberta has all the ingredients to capitalize on the future of the energy industry by moving to more sustainable sources of energy.
- The pandemic has accelerated the need for automation, tech and digital skills in Alberta, and a comprehensive talent strategy should be in place.
- Alberta’s tech sector, which now includes more than 3,000 companies, is set to thrive in the next decade.
Political leaders have to understand the importance of long-term thinking for the prosperity and health of a community. It is the government’s responsibility to move away from short-term plans and provide security, access and support to citizens so that they can realize their full potential.
Tell us about yourself and what you are passionate about.
Thanks, Tim, and first and foremost, I am really excited to be here. I love what you are doing with TheFutureEconomy.ca platform, so thank you again for the invitation.
I am Chett, Associate Vice President (AVP) of Strategy, Operations, and Social Economics at ATB. I have the honour of working on strategies and operationalizing them across the enterprise, as well as overseeing our Greater Good strategy, which leverages social economics and data to rally ecosystems around solving problems. This connects quite nicely to one of my passions right now, which is exploring how businesses can become a part of solving social problems and create a prosperous society and economy for future generations.
What does it mean to disrupt or transform businesses? How can that be implemented in various companies and industries?
Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to look at a wide variety of different business models and think about either creating a new business model or taking an existing one apart and putting it back together in a way that brings additional value to our clients.
I started my career working in a technology accelerator and we were able to build five different companies. Some of them went public and some of them did not, but this served as a really great learning opportunity for me on how to disrupt different industries. The most successful one at the time was a company called UrtheCast, which put a live high definition camera on the International Space Station to stream live video footage of earth. It put me into this mindset that anything is possible when you have the right vision, strategy and people around you.
When I moved to ATB, I took this thinking with me and had the opportunity to create a wide variety of different innovations to help better serve customers in Alberta and bring additional value. Some of our initiatives include ATB BoostR, our crowd-funding platform, ATB LendR, our crowd-lending platform, ATB X, our accelerator, the ATB Entrepreneur Centre, a branch experience specifically catered to entrepreneurs in Alberta, The Branch for Arts and Culture and Trade FX. I have been able to play with different business models and put them together again, in a way that brings additional value to Albertans and to ATB.
Most recently, I had the opportunity to apply that lens and thinking to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. I now have the honour of overseeing our Greater Good portfolio. ATB’s Greater Good strategy seeks to uplift the well-being of Albertans by solving societal problems.
How would you describe Alberta’s ability to innovate in fintech? Which innovations or trends are you most excited about?
Right now is an incredibly exciting time in Alberta. The overall tech industry in Alberta is blossoming and on the verge of thriving. Some of the numbers that are really exciting to me are that we now have 3,000 tech companies across Alberta, which is a 233% increase since 2012. We have also seen $455 million of venture capital (VC) distributed to these tech companies in 2020, which is a 100% increase from 2019. I am excited to see this momentum across Alberta.
“There is an incredible opportunity in front of Alberta to embrace the energy transition and become a world leader in renewable energy.”
We are seeing cleantech, pharmaceuticals, agtech and fintech starting to take off across the tech industry. The industry that has the most opportunity is energy. We have seen some progress around low carbon, cleaner ways to extract oil and gas, greener products and services and sustainable waste management. There is an incredible opportunity in front of Alberta to embrace the energy transition and become a world leader in renewable energy. This comes from the thinking that you cannot have a long-term strategy based on finite resources. We need to work together to come up with longer term and more sustainable strategies to support the energy industry, which has done so much for Alberta, Canada and the world at large. I want to see a continuing and nurturing prosperity within that industry, which involves being a part of the energy transition and thinking longer term by leveraging more innovative ideas.
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How is Alberta’s energy sector feeding into innovation in other emerging sectors?
From a talent perspective, there are a lot of different opportunities within that question. One of the key enablers needed across all of Alberta’s emerging industries is a solid talent strategy. In 2020, before the pandemic, we were already 1,050 jobs short across Canada from a tech perspective. COVID-19 has accelerated the need for more tech, automation and digital skills in Alberta. We are still seeing some of our talent leak to the United States even though the University of Alberta (U of A) has one of the greatest artificial intelligence programs in the world. Unfortunately, a lot of that talent is still leaking and so there is a bigger opportunity for Alberta to think about how we can attract, retain and keep some of that great talent here. We need to work together across industry sectors to make sure that we can create a unique and valuable value proposition to keep people here in Alberta.
Who and what would you pitch to make Alberta a leader in innovations that drive the future economy?
I will be bold and send a message to all political leaders out there to say that the choices we make today will impact future generations. We must move away from short-term cycles that are four years long towards thinking about long-term sustainability in hundred-year cycles. This will help us make sure we are making the right choices today for future generations to be prosperous.
“ The more Canadians that feel safe, have high levels of well-being, participate in society and are supported to prosper, the better everyone will be in Canada.”
The four guidelines I would put forward on how to create a prosperous society are quite simple. One of the pillars would be the provision of safety, inclusion and well-being. Next, citizens need access to participate in society and the economy. We also need support and investment to prosper. Finally, the horizontal that runs across all of this is responsibly using our resources. The more Canadians that feel safe, have high levels of well-being, participate in society and are supported to prosper, the better everyone will be in Canada.