Sharpen Your Axe: Corporate Social Responsibility

Our panel, corporate and not for profit were similar in their beliefs about the power and necessity of socially responsible organizations.

Hillman asserts “CSR is not new but more and more candidates are looking at the organizations social purpose record before joining them! And staying longer because of their company’s ongoing commitment to doing well by doing good!”

More than 30 Senior leaders joined the conversation about CSR and it’s relationship to attracting and retaining talent.

Jay Rosenzweig, CEO of Rosenzweig and Company and strategic partner of the Bigwin Group with Hart.

Jason Winkler of Deloitte challenges the panel.

Tova White of Coca-Cola and Mary-Alice Vuicic of Loblaw and Companies share some thoughts.

Bassem El-Rahimy (recent graduate of Queen’s University) and “millennial” enjoys words of wisdom from John Hebden of Fusion Consulting.

Laura Dunne of Indigo asks the panel about the importance of CSR to their respective companies.

Sharpen Your Axe: NYC Edition

Last week we hosted and moderated a “Sharpen Your AxeTM” leadership panel in New York City at Soho House. The theme of the event was Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) a topic that itself is not new.
However, the focus of this session was specifically how those companies that actively pursue and achieve great CSR gain a competitive edge in terms of attracting and retaining top talent.

The panel was made up of senior representatives of five companies that, despite being extremely diverse, share the common element of having rich CSR profiles. Leaders (senior HR, CSR and C-level panelists) represented Hewlett-Packard (HP), Avon, Pearson Learning, JPMorgan & Chase and a bespoke safari outlier company, Micato.

Each panelist spoke with genuine passion and pride about what they and their respective companies were involved in from the perspective of corporate giveback. As you might imagine, just like the companies themselves, the range of their activities was remarkable.

JPMorgan & Chase talked about a $100M+ investment in the city of Detroit to revitalize the local economy. Pearson spoke about the synergy between their core corporate mission and their CSR activities surrounding literacy – the two are truly interwoven. Avon has been a long-standing advocate of key women’s issues, supporting the fight against breast cancer, for example, and dealing with the trauma created by domestic violence and working towards its prevention. HP, having more than 250,000 employees around the world, shared a bit about its very individualized CSR approach: each employee was given $25 dollars to creatively micro-invest through a micro-funding organization called Kiva.

Dennis Pinto, CEO of Micato Safaris shared a heart-rending story of a young orphan who came into contact with one of Micato’s leaders (Lorna MacLeod) many years ago in a parking lot in Nairobi. A local schoolmaster had tasked the youngster with raising the 700 shillings (about $12 dollars) required to purchase a uniform and enroll in the school. He had managed to raise only 100 shillings at that point and the Micato representative immediately gave the boy the additional funds. The boy, overwhelmed by the life-changing gift, broke into tears of gratitude (and enrolled in the school.) Micato has subsequently provided funding for a school child in Africa with every safari they sell… But it all started from the organic experience of the little orphan boy in the parking lot.

So what were some of the takeaways from the event?

There were a few…

CSR must be authentic and relevant. The more that internal and external stakeholders feel and believe those key elements in place, the more they will be inclined to participate and engage. Naturally too, the more pride they will have in their company and its involvement. Each of the companies’ participants spoke with sincere passion and excitement about what they were doing. It was not “faked,” nor could it be… They each told stories that inspired and captured the imaginations of the audience and, most assuredly, those of their teams and employees.

In the end, it was all about the stories they shared.

Sharpen Your Axe: Social Entrepreneurism

The Bigwin Group, a global talent management organization, is presenting this session as part of our “Sharpen Your Axe” series to offer a platform for thought leadership among senior executives.

In the last 5-10 years, both individuals and businesses are jumping on the social responsibility bandwagon “doing well by doing good”. Whether the motivation has been simply pragmatic or with the very purest of intentions to positively impact humanity, the net result is the same and extremely positive.

Interview with Hart Hillman: The Impact of Brand on Talent

Branding strategy is key to the success and failure of companies. It can take years to build and due to social media be negatively impacted in a heartbeat. Think of brands that have dealt with major scandals, such as: Volkswagen, FIFA, Bill Cosby, and Ashley Madison. Creating a consistent and compelling company brand in the digital age is more important than ever. While branding practices will always be the cornerstone to attract and retain customers, they also are being used to attract and retain great talent.

Join CATAAlliance’s Chief Business Officer Kevin Wennekes as he interviews Hart Hillman, CEO & Founder of Bigwin Group in a discussion on the importance of brand on talent succession and retention as well as offering details on the upcoming sixth “Sharpen Your Axe” event being held May 26th in Toronto.


The Bigwin Group, a global talent strategy organization, along with co-sponsors Manulife Financial, announces its sixth “Sharpen Your Axe™” event in its series of thought-provoking leadership sessions. This edition is called “Building a Brand from the Inside Out: How brand can serve to attract and retain great talent” and will be held at the Ivey Tangerine Learning Centre on May 26th, 2016. Welcoming a panel of distinguished speakers from internationally recognized brands such as Manulife Financial, Tangerine, Carter’s OshKosh, Samsung Canada, and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), our esteemed panel will not only articulate their respective brand strategies but will also engage in a provocative Q&A in identifying brand and how it gives their organizations strong competitive edge.


CATAAlliance is seeking thought leaders to take part in our newly launched video channel dedicated to addressing key issues related to talent management and acquisition. Take 10 minutes to share your knowledge on trends, best practices, new research findings, or upcoming events.

View the newly launched Talent Matters channel for more information, and download, complete and return this form to Kevin Wennekes ( to take part.

Sharpen Your Axe: Cracking the Code on Innovation

“Innovation is often about provocation,” says Hart Hillman, moderator of the “Sharpen Your AxeTM” series and founder of the Bigwin Group Inc., an executive search and talent management group in Toronto with 21 affiliate offices globally. On September 11, 2015, the Bigwin Group hosted a panel discussion about ‘Innovation and Mobility in FinTech’ at the MaRS Discovery District with top executives from Google Canada, PayPal, Tangerine Bank, TD Bank and the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance

Mobile is getting to a stage of ‘ubiquity,’ notes Alexander Peh, Head of Market Development and Mobile at PayPal Canada. “The barriers to entry from consumers, hardware manufacturers, software manufacturers etc., have dropped down dramatically. Everyone has got them [technological devices, such as cell phones, laptops etc.] and customer expectations are getting higher and higher.”

Sabrina Geremia, Managing Director of Integrated Solutions (Financial Services and Automotive) at Google Canada explains that today there are approximately 5 billion connected devices across the various technological landscapes, and she predicts that by 2020 there will be roughly 25-50 billion connected devices worldwide. “Your cell phone has become the interface for the ‘internet of me’, it has the ability to create searches in seconds, it can determine when you are coming home and turn up the heat for you before you arrive, it can even detect when your husband or wife is in the grocery store so you can remind them to pick up milk”.

Technology startups and financial powerhouses continue to struggle with the age-old debate about what drives innovation and change. The late Steve Jobs suggested that focus groups are problematic because “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. “Ms. Geremia echoes this sentiment, explaining that Google looks to innovate and solve for something that we don’t even know is possible, rather than develop something that is only 10% better than its predecessor. On the other hand, Bob Collymore, CEO of Safari, has argued that “innovation is driven by need, not technology”.

Geremia described a project at Google X in which contact lenses are being designed to monitor the blood sugar levels of those suffering with diabetes. This seamless technology will report data directly to cell phones, which can be set to share the information with healthcare providers. This innovative technology far surpasses existing customer expectations in fact, when asked what advancements they hope to see in the testing process, those questioned reported that they would prefer to test their glucose levels just once a day rather than five times. Case in point; none of those questioned were aware that technology exists that would allow them to avoid the painful process of drawing blood entirely.

Bank noted that, “it’s not good enough to deliver banking services and products in customer-friendly ways, we now have to put the customer in the center and create this engagement where customer centricity is key. We need to join the customer on their journey and not ask them to join us on ours.” For example, TD Bank has developed recognition software that could allow individuals the option to share and customize their home buying experience from their first step onto a building lot to the signing of the final mortgage documents. This project has created value distinction and enhanced the depth of TD Bank’s relationships with their customers.

Organizations such as Google, PayPal, Tangerine and TD Bank recognize that they need to empower their employees in order to attain a higher level of innovation. “The CEO has to walk the walk,” adds John Reid, CEO of CATA. He explains that the top decision makers are perhaps the most important initiators (or inhibitors) of innovation in an organization. Alexander Peh agrees, saying that “amazing technology is still being controlled, guided and defined by humans… innovation is an incredible way to get internal teams to work together. When you can bring together cross-functional teams around something like innovation as a cause, it really brings those creative juices out.” For instance, Nike Inc. made use of cross-functional teams when they launched Nike+ a running shoe which can be connected to a mobile device to act as a digital coach and motivator. The product came to market as a result of a collaborative effort from marketing experts, shoe designers and software engineers.

Rizwan adds that an employee’s day-to-day professional activities may consist of mundane tasks, yet in their personal lives they use ‘super-devices’ with incredible amounts of data and processing power to do creative and amazing things. He explains how TD Bank looks to harness this creativity through ‘Innovation Challenges’ which allot time for employees to apply their creativity and innovation to the financial sectors. In its quest to innovate consumer-friendly products, TD Bank has even created ‘TD Labs’ which brings students with no background in the financial sector into the challenge and adds yet another dimension of creativity.

While technological advancement have increased ease and accessibility, innovation and mobility are not without potential risks, dangers or concerns. Arguably, there are over 37 million Ashley Madison users that question the degree of security and privacy provided by these innovations.

Tangerine Bank has been proactive in its efforts to address concerns like these, travelling the globe in collaboration with other banks to find creative solutions to fight cybercrime. While cybercrime used to be costly and difficult to execute, it can now be perpetrated with a $100 device from a local shopping centre. Ian Cunningham, COO of Tangerine described his most recent trip to Israel where he visited ‘Cyberspark,’ a global hub that looks to mitigate cyber attacks. The centre revealed that one of the largest sources of cybercrime comes from criminal networks that intercept data by replicating authentic reception towers. Fintech companies need to continue to work together to explore and innovate, ensuring that they are leading the charge and staying ahead of those that want to exploit the same technologies.

An innovative idea is only valuable to the extent that it can be turned into something that can be deployed. Through continued exploration of innovation and mobility in FinTech, financial companies can evolve to stay ahead of these attacks. When Thomas Edison was asked how he felt about failing, he reportedly replied, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

Press Release: Bigwin Group hosts “Sharpen Your Axe” on Innovation and Mobility in Fintech


The Bigwin Group Inc., hosted the 4th Session in the “Sharpen Your Axe™” Series on Innovation and Mobility in Fintech
Cracking the Code on Innovation to Attract and Retain Customers

TORONTO, Ontario – September 14, 2015 – Bigwin Group’s founder and CEO, Hart Hillman, moderated a thought provoking panel discussion on ‘Innovation and Mobility in FinTech’ at the MaRS Discovery District, on September 11th, 2015. Participants included over 50 executives from traditional financial institutions, disruptive and powerful technology companies, as well as venture capital firms. These individuals came together alongside a panel of top executives from Google Canada, PayPal, Tangerine Bank, TD Bank, and C.A.T.A. to explore the impact of innovation on technology.

A growing number of financial technology service companies, or as they have come to be known, “FinTech” companies, have entered the market, providing alternatives to consumers by tapping into innovation as an opportunity for growth. Surviving in today’s competitive market requires innovation – not only to respond effectively to present demands, but ultimately in anticipation of the unknown challenges of the future.

Businesses and individuals alike strive towards the innovation challenge, but very few truly stand out. Those that can “think outside the box” apply technological innovation to shape their industries in new and creative ways. Sabrina Geremia, Director of Integrated Solutions and Head of the Finance Group of Google Canada, said that the trend in innovation has moved exponentially more quickly in the past decade than it has in the preceding 100 years.

Rizwan Khalfan, Chief Digital Officer at TD Bank, brings a different approach to cracking the innovation code in the financial sector. In his view, the key to innovation is built on a strong foundation of talent and a winning culture. To that end, employees at TD Bank are given the support along with the freedom and flexibility to explore and create. Another panelist, Alexander Peh, Head of Market Development and Mobile at PayPal Canada, sees innovation as a platform for collaboration. “When you can bring together cross-functional teams around something like innovation as a cause, it really brings those creative juices out.” John Reid, CEO of CATA, contended that the use of external resources fosters innovation, and Ian Cunningham, COO of Tangerine Bank, suggested simply that consumer need provides the fuel – people want to bank when they want, where they want and how they want.

“Innovation is really about provocation,” says Hart Hillman. FinTech companies are reshaping the landscape of the financial industry as consumer demand has called for improvements in the accessibility and efficiency of financial services. In fact, “consumers have seen a surge in ‘FinTech’ developments, from mobile payments and money transfers to crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending sites,” said Hillman. The Bigwin Group is dedicated to sponsoring and promoting innovation and thought leadership through our “Sharpen Your Axe™” series.


The Bigwin Group was created to “re-invent” talent management through creativity and innovation. We offer a wide range of valuable talent management tools to our clients and candidates, and always challenge the status quo. We are not limited to leadership recruitment, offering services that extend to corporate role definition, coaching, strategy, onboarding, and retention. We adhere to three fundamental drivers that underpin everything we do: Purpose, Principles and Promise. The Bigwin Group’s innovation and extraordinary creativity is changing the talent management landscape and positively impacting our clients’ businesses every day.

Laura Palandra
Bigwin Group Talent Management
25 Adelaide St E, Suite 1910
Toronto, ON M5C 3A1
Office: 416-883-2444

CEO Roundtable: Innovation & Discovery


What was the biggest shock of your innovation journey? – Gordon Pitts, The Globe and Mail

“A good business is only as good as the people that are in it. If we want to move forward we have to change our entire behavior platform.”
– John Hebden, Fusion Consulting

“The more change that happens the better you get at it.”
– Peter Aceto, Tangerine Bank

“I try to figure out how to keep people motivated by continuing to find ways to help people grow and challenge them.”
– Tony Lacavera, Globallive

“It involves a lot of story telling, that epic journey where you are going to change the world…people buy into that and it becomes emotional.”
– Michael Serbinis, Kobo

“I like the idea of having guiding principles. I would use this set of behaviours as a competitive platform.”
– Michael Serbini, Kobo

“It is challenging to get the commitment and time from the individuals who you need to make it happen.”
– Jonathan Goodman, Monitor Deloitte

“It’s easy to underestimate how hard it is.”
– Jonathan Goodman, Monitor Deloitte

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
– Jonathan Goodman, Monitor Deloitte

“Innovation is an evolution not a revolution.”
– Robert Boulet, Arrow ECS Canada

“Constantly, look for the change that will bring over time and transform the company.”
– Robert Boulet, Arrow ECS Canada

“The most important thing is understanding each of the stakeholders and what fundamentally motivates them.”
– Andreas Antoniou, El Caballito

“You don’t buy a Ferrari to drive it 200 miles per hour, you buy it to drive it 15 miles per hour.”
– Andreas Antoniou, El Caballito

“I am focused on writing down our mission statement, principles and goals and getting everyone to memorize and embody those things.”
– Andreas Antoniou, El Caballito

“When you make that connection they start thinking and feeling a different way. If the axe swings too far one way you kill entrepreneurism.”
– Larry O’Reilly, IMAX

“The biggest challenge is balancing.”
– Larry O’Reilly, IMAX

“The older generation does not like change, whereas the newer generation is more open to different options and new products. At the end of the day it is all about the trust and the way you treat the people.”
– Anna Galoni, Thordon Bearings Inc.

“Change is always different, but more do-able when there is a unified purpose everyone agrees on.”
– Hart Hillman, The Bigwin Group

“As Simon Sinek says, ‘Great leaders eat last’…people will follow leaders who wear their power lightly and put their teams interest ahead of them’.”
– Hart Hillman, The Bigwin Group