Letitia A. Hayes
With an eye on transformation and a passion for deciphering the stories behind the data, Letitia Hayes has been forwarding the interests of some of the largest organizations and financial entities in the world, among them Scotiabank, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, and Royal Bank of Canada - one of the largest banks in Canada and the world, based on market capitalization. She’s an international business and financial services sector expert with highly specialized proficiency in data analytics, data governance, banking, and insurance. She has an in-depth knowledge of strategy, risk management, and regulatory compliance, backed by more than 15-year senior management expertise.
While Letitia’s estimable career reflects her breathtaking diversity of expertise, consider this - she’s a multilingual Romanian-born who has lived in half a dozen countries across three continents, so she understands the nuances of different cultures. Her ability to work with diverse groups of people on a range of projects not only bolsters Letitia’s reputation as a leader in the field, but also allows her to engage stakeholders across Canada, the Americas, and Europe to centralize and standardize common activities and drive efficiency across the organization. And underlying it all is a puzzle master who brings together her unique global perspective and arsenal of skills, knowledge, and experience to help companies solve the seemingly impossible and unlock the power of their data - all with the goal of achieving optimal outcomes.
The Top 100 Magazine spoke with Letitia to learn more about her career, her clients, and her impact on the global finance sector.
You have a unique global perspective. Throughout your career, how has that played a role in serving both the companies you worked with and your clients?
I bring a fresh perspective and I’m very client centric. Even in a supporting function, I always focus on understanding the internal client - their stakeholders’ environment and their ultimate “why.” Growing up, I dreamed of experiencing the world, so I chose international business, which I studied for both my bachelor’s degree and later, the MBA. For my first full-time role, I left my country for Vancouver, British Columbia. Life brought me back to Canada after each international adventure, so 10 years later, I chose to make Toronto home. Working, studying, and living in different countries during the formative years of my career had a profound impact on my approach to leadership and how I relate to companies and clients. Lastly, communication is paramount. Being fluent in the local language(s) allowed me to connect directly to people and cultures for a deeper learning experience. It also enhanced my ability to convey complex issues or abstract concepts in a clear and simple manner, allowing me to fully enable my technical expertise.
In many of your roles you served as an in-house consultant. How do you pinpoint the client’s specific needs, their ultimate “why?”
Yes, I can equally bring a distinct in-house expertise or an external perspective. My broad experience is interconnected and generates a deep, multifaceted understanding of the client via three avenues. First, I seek to understand to be able to anticipate. I ask many questions because it’s especially important not to assume. The most obvious questions are usually the hardest to answer because people are so used to their own frame of mind and naturally take facts for granted. Only when you challenge the status quo and listen carefully to what is not being said, you start to put the puzzle together. Second, I like to frame around the root cause rather than symptoms. Lastly, I look for synergies by bringing together people with different expertise to build an integrated solution for a lasting impact. I have helped companies and clients with both designing strategy and the execution, including large transformation projects.
How does your experience come together and what is your primary area of expertise?
Data and strategy - from data analytics to controls, governance, and compliance, exposure to different industries, from strategy to operational frameworks. Within financial services, working with finance and risk data in both first- and second-line roles. Working for Scotiabank, Canada's most international bank, I built cross-functional expertise - from financial analysis and integrating reporting for newly acquired international operations, to building financial models and leading consolidated reporting for the two largest subsidiaries. Building on those early experiences with data and a passion to decipher the stories behind data, I went on to lead the analytics function for a financial services regulator. Realizing that companies have a huge opportunity to transform regulatory compliance costs into strategic investments about data, I returned to the industry side. I currently lead the development and implementation of service engagement models for the Finance & Risk Data Management Office within RBC.
Working for a financial services regulator at a time of major transformation, what was your takeaway?
I was fortunate to be a financial services regulator at a time of major changes in the approach to regulation. My mandate was to build from scratch an analytics function that externally would collect data to monitor the regulated sectors for emerging trends and risks, and internally would transform that data into information in support of evidence-based regulatory decisions. Leading the team whose analysis was driving regulatory actions and was shaping policy recommendations was very rewarding. My public service experience reinforced that the ultimate “why” remains the key: optimal outcomes emerge when stakeholders look for common ground. I was inspired to return to industry to help companies unlock the power of their data.
How has this diverse combination of knowledge, skills, and experiences impacted your leadership perspective and your personal “why?”
Evolving. Just like the environments in which we operate, we are in constant change. To unlock our full potential, we need to first understand who we are and stay true to ourselves. My “why?” To break barriers and leave a legacy; venture somewhere new, find solutions to apparently impossible circumstances, or, my favorite, inspire others to go beyond what they think possible. Amid profound transformations all around us, socially, in business, etc., the purpose of our actions is more important than ever and requires a global perspective for optimal win-win-win solutions beyond self-interest.
Letitia holds an International MBA from Schulich School of Business (York University) in Toronto.
Letitia A. Hayes
Director, Royal Bank of Canada