Empowering Women In Business – Catherine Roche

Small Business Canada

BMO Canada

As the Head of Marketing and Strategy, Catherine Roche oversees the bank’s strategic positioning relative to emerging business opportunities, with a view to challenging our business models and pointing the way to strengthened cost efficiency and enriched customer relationships. As a key member of the bank’s executive committee, Catherine is accountable for setting the overall strategic direction for the enterprise and operating groups. She is responsible for developing enterprise brand, customer acquisition, and loyalty strategies to create the right external presence for BMO. Catherine develops, communicates and provides oversight on enterprise brand direction, positioning, promise, attributes and architecture, and ensures consistent global application. In addition, she is responsible for the bank’s centres of expertise in digital marketing, customer growth, and retention analytics and customer insights. In partnership with all lines of business, Catherine helps BMO move forward with clear actionable plans and pace.

Prior to joining BMO, Catherine spent 20 years working with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), most recently as a partner and managing director. She founded and led BCG’s global Center for Consumer and Customer Insight – a functional area of expertise on customer experience and knowledge that crosses all sectors. Adding to this broad and impressive background, Catherine is a published expert in fields such as consumer analytics, data and customer experience.

In 2018, Catherine was selected by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) to join Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winners.

Catherine sits on the boards of Futurpreneur Canada and Toronto Global. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Memorial University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar and graduated with distinction.

In your expert opinion, what do you believe is the impact that women entrepreneurs have on the Canadian economy?

Opinions aside, I think the facts on the impact that women entrepreneurs are having on the Canadian economy do a great job of speaking for themselves. Consider these few proof points as examples:

• We know that women-led businesses contribute $148 billion annually and employ 1.5 million Canadians. (Source: StartUP Canada)

• We know that 50% of all new businesses that are started today in Canada are women-led. (Source: Everywhere, Every Day Innovating Report)

• And businesses started and lead by women entrepreneurs on average create more jobs and have higher survival rates. (Source: Everywhere, Every Day Innovating Report)

June 2018 BMO Celebrating Women awards ceremony in Toronto. From left to right: Andrew Auerbach, Head, BMO Private Wealth Canada and Asia; Catherine Roche, Head, Marketing & Strategy, BMO Financial Group; Jody Steinhauer, president of The Bargains Group; Nadine Artemis, co-owner and creator of Living Libations; Nancy Adamo, president and co-owner of Hockley Valley Resort; Christine Manning owner of Manning Canning Kitchens, Inc.; Linda Lundström, Canadian Fashion Icon & Entrepreneur; Sheri Griffiths, Regional President Greater Ontario Region, Business Banking, BMO Financial Group.

What is the number one challenge that women entrepreneurs face and how can BMO help them?

Research shows that access to financing is often a challenge for women who start businesses. There are sectors in the economy where access to financing has been easier – tech being one of them. But for many sectors where the representation of women entrepreneurs is even stronger in their leadership and innovation footprint is huge, it can be tougher to get access to financing.

At BMO, we’ve been working to address this issue through our own service offerings, but also by elevating the broader public discourse – for example through our recent research partnership with Carleton University and the Beacon Agency to better understand the innovation contributions and support needs of female entrepreneurs.

What was the inspiration behind BMO for Women?

Fostering diversity and inclusion for our employees, clients and the communities we serve is one of our core values, as we believe it is our purpose to boldly grow the good in business and life.

Approximately five years ago, leaders from both our wealth and personal and business banking groups recognized the need to take a deliberate approach to serve our women customers.

They were inspired by compelling data that underscored a huge growth opportunity from better serving the needs of female entrepreneurs.


• Over the next several decades, women will inherit about 70 per cent of the $41 trillion of expected intergenerational wealth transfers.

• According to Statistics Canada, around 47 per cent of all small and medium sized businesses today have at least some degree of female ownership.

• Despite the clear attractiveness of this group, the survey feedback of women at the time indicated that more than 70 per cent of North American women were unhappy with the financial services industry and a strong majority switched their financial advisor following the death of their spouse.

• To our BMO team, that spelled opportunity to deliver a truly better and differentiated service experience for female investors and entrepreneurs – and out of that was born our BMO for Women Program.

How is BMO helping women become successful entrepreneurs?

We are helping women succeed as entrepreneurs in a number of important ways. In June, we announced a commitment to double the bank’s industry-leading support for women entrepreneurss, including  increasing dedicated business relationship managers by 2025.

Access to financing is a critical need for new and growing businesses. BMO is actively addressing that need with strong credit support for female entrepreneurs.

The $2 billion of credit that we announced in 2014, and $3 billion in 2018 – all specifically aimed at the female entrepreneur community – are clear evidence of that commitment.

We are also helping women entrepreneurs with advice and guidance tailored to their needs, and with connection and networking to help them tap into a community of likeminded individuals who are trying to solve for similar goals. It is incredibly important to women entrepreneurs to be able to connect with organizations such as GroYourBiz, WPO. By supporting those organizations as partners, BMO helps deepen and grow those networks. We play a material partnership role in making sure that the networking system is strong and can support women entrepreneurs with their needs.

Last year we partnered with Carleton University, the Beacon Agency and the Federal Government when we released the study called Everywhere Every Day Innovating: Women Entrepreneurs and Innovation. A study that also helped form the women’s entrepreneurship strategy in the 2018 Federal budget.

We are partnering with Women and Gender Equality Canada to provide training to women’s organizations to build capacity for strategic and financial planning.

What is the best advice that you can give to women entrepreneurs when it comes to financing?

Know your numbers. Having a solid business plan and cash flow projection in hand leads to more informed decisions on expansion and business growth.

Have confidence and believe in yourself. You’ve got to convey that belief and confidence in selling your business plan.

Talk to your business banker early – even before you think you may need financing. A conversation will go a long way in ensuring you are prepared when you walk back in to apply for the financing you need. Often your Banker will identify items that you haven’t thought about.

BMO was named for the fourth year in a row in the Bloomberg’s Gender-Equality Index. What does this represent to you?

BMO is driven by a single purpose to boldly grow the good in business and life. At our core, we are focused on driving positive change for our customers, employees and the communities where we do business.

We are proud to be recognized by Bloomberg for 4 years now, and by other organizations including Catalyst – we’re one of only nine organizations to win the award twice. Recently our U.S. BMO Harris Bank was recognized by Forbes as one of America’s best employers for diversity.

It’s an honour for BMO to be included among global leaders in advocating for a more equitable world.

And also importantly, at BMO we see these types of forums like the Bloomberg Index as wonderful learning opportunities for us. There are great companies doing really great things to move us all forward on the subject of gender equality. Seeing the achievements of other companies highlighted in this way alongside ours gives us the benefit of new ideas and inspiration to continue moving our own work on gender equality forward. Such recognitions also serve to inspire organizations to embrace diversity and inclusion in their own workforces.

The last two decades have been pivotal for women entrepreneurs. Today, there are more women entrepreneurs then there were 20 years ago. (Source: Everywhere, Every Day Innovating Report) What do you believe is the main reason?

Women represent 35.6 per cent of all self-employed persons. (Source: Industry Canada 2015)

Women’s motivations to start a business are often related to the types of innovation they create. For instance, women’s entrepreneurial motivations may include rapid growth, a better work-life balance or solving a problem.

Although women are found to often have similar motivations to men when they start a business, such as the desire to create something or become their own boss, women nevertheless show that they are more preoccupied with a work-life balance than men.

An interest in a work-life balance often drives women’s motivation and creates an incentive for innovation. Wanting to make a social contribution and develop an affiliation to broader groups also motivates women more than men when they start a business. Women entrepreneurs want control over their destiny. They want to find their own way and path.

What is the biggest accomplishment that BMO for Women has had to date? What are you most proud of?

We are helping transform the public discourse about women entrepreneurs, keeping the topic at the top of the agenda and top of mind by:

Supporting research that drives action to address the imbalances that systemically exist and partnering with women’s organizations of high caliber to support today’s entrepreneurs and the next generation of entrepreneurs.

What is the main goal of BMO for Women? Where do you see it going in the future?

BMO’s main goal is to be the financial institution of choice for women as investors who are seeking wealth advice, and as entrepreneurs who are seeking business guidance and financing and as an employer of choice for women growing their career.

We have seen a tremendous pick up of engagement in the past year. We have continued to deepen our partnership with organizations such as GroYourBiz and Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and have developed new relationships with organizations that also align to our values such as #movethedial, Women Get On Board and Women Deliver.

We will continue to champion women entrepreneurs within the industry and with the local, federal and provincial governments.

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