Focus On The Future By Charting A New Path Forward

Small Business Canada

CanadianSME sat down with Jason Charlebois and discussed some of the initiatives that Scotiabank has implemented to help small businesses; recently released Scotiabank’s New Path to Impact Report and his advice to entrepreneurs to help their businesses succeed during the pandemic.

Jason Charlebois, Senior Vice President, Small Business, Scotiabank

Jason has held roles in Scotiabank across Distribution, Wealth Management, Marketing, Digital Channels, Contact Centres, Mergers & Acquisitions, Credit Cards and Technology. Jason has his MBA from Queen’s university and was a member of the Governor General’s leadership council. Jason’s current role is SVP, Small Business Banking, Canada.

As Senior VP of Small Business at Scotiabank, what would you say has been the biggest impact that COVID-19 has had on the small business industry in Canada?

This year, Small business owners have obviously faced unprecedented challenges. In our New Path to Impact Report from earlier this fall, two-thirds of businesses reported being in a worse situation, compared to before the pandemic with many citing declining revenues, and their operations being significantly impacted as a result.

As the pandemic has evolved over the summer and now as we head into winter, many businesses are still facing the same challenges, some even more so. With the evolving social distancing and the re-emergence of lockdown restrictions in some jurisdictions, I think the biggest challenge for businesses has been the continuing need to pivot their operations and find creative ways to keep serving their customers and generate revenue.

That’s why we encourage small businesses to seek advice early, as an advisor can look at the business owner’s entire portfolio to see where they might be able to free up capital, better manage cash flow, or take advantage of the growing list of government programs, for example.

What can you tell us about some of the initiatives that Scotiabank has implemented to help businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic succeed during these challenging times?

Something that I’m very proud of is that we were able to keep over 95% of our branches open to help our business owners and banking customers navigate the effects of the pandemic on their business. It’s been very important to us that we continue to be available when our customers need us most, while still keeping our employees safe.

Our dedicated team of advisors provided personalized advice and helped business owners take advantage of the government relief programs like the Canada Emergency Bank Account (CEBA) which the government continues to expand, Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), and bank-led customer assistance programs.

Our support also extended to the community, as we supported the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ (CFIB) grassroots Small Business Everyday campaign, encouraging Canadians from coast to coast to support the local businesses in their community. And we’re continuing that effort with community partners across the country.

In addition, we’re also taking action to increase access to financing and business support for black entrepreneurs and women-led or women-owned businesses. For example, in September, Scotiabank was proud to support the Government of Canada’s Black Entrepreneurship Program. The partnership between the Federal Government, Scotiabank, and other Canadian financial institutions will collectively commit up to $128 million in lending capital for the program’s Black Entrepreneurship Fund.

As part of the Bank’s commitment to empowering women in business, The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ is supporting women-owned and women-led businesses across Canada through three key pillars: Access to Capital, Mentorship, and Education. In 2019, The Scotiabank Women Initiative committed to deploying three billion dollars in capital to women-led businesses in its first three years. The program is two-thirds of the way through that commitment and has engaged more than 2,000 women through our Boot Camps and group mentorship sessions across Canada. Those Boot Camps and mentorship sessions continued virtually this year to ensure continued access to support during the pandemic.

Recently, Scotiabank released their New Path to Impact Report which is a study that reveals how small businesses have been impacted by the global pandemic. What would you say were the most surprising results that the report revealed?

Understanding that many business owners may be in a different position today compared to a couple of months ago, it was encouraging to see nearly 7 in 10 business owners felt better equipped to survive a second wave of the pandemic – which many are now facing – and 1 in 3 was planning to turn to alternate channels to drive revenue for their business. That said, 3 in 10 business owners expected continued financial difficulties in the short term including reduced revenue, less work, lower consumer spending, and slower overall growth.

As case numbers continue to increase once again in certain regions across Canada, small businesses need ongoing support as they continue to face challenges ahead.

That’s why we called for and were happy to applaud the federal government for extending a hand up to small businesses across Canada by offering and extending essential programs like the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). With the recent announcement that CEBA is extended to business owners not operating out of a business account, we hear from customers and the community that business owners are feeling even more supported by their government and we encourage that support to continue.

Additionally, 69% of small business owners have revealed that they feel more prepared and equipped to survive the second wave of the pandemic. What can you tell us about that?

When the pandemic hit it was unchartered territory for all of us, especially business owners. Finding ways to continue to keep their employees on the payroll, drive sales through alternate channels, serve customers through take-out and curb-side pick-up, or shift to working from home. Many have been able to come up with ways to sustain their business through what felt like the worst of it.

As we approach the winter, that sentiment may have shifted, but the knowledge gained from the past few months is valuable in guiding how a business moves forward.

We’ve been working with business owners throughout the pandemic to help them take advantage of government relief programs like CEBA to keep operations going, manage cashflow, explore new channels, like digital solutions, to generate new revenue streams, and provide much-needed financial advice so business owners are able to focus on serving their customers.

On a final note, what advice can you give to entrepreneurs that can help their businesses succeed during the pandemic?

While we cannot predict how the next six months will unfold, now is the time to start focusing on the future by charting a new path forward. Start with a plan, seek advice early from your financial advisor, use the resources available such as government relief programs, take advantage of digital channels to expand potential revenue streams, and be ready to pivot, whether that’s reviewing your business model or finding new ways to offer products or services. Those actions offer the greatest chance of survival in a post-pandemic world.

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