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Giving back to students

SAIT's School of Business launches Executive in Residence program to provide students access to mentorship.

SAIT's School of Business launches Executive in Residence program with Brian Gervais, senior vice-president of branch banking for the Prairie region for TD Canada Trust.

Business students at SAIT now have a unique and innovative way of learning from a high-level executive.

SAIT's School of Business has launched an Executive in Residence program with Brian Gervais, senior vice-president of branch banking for the Prairie region for TD Canada Trust.

The new program provides students with access to a business professional with a lifetime of experience in banking, human resources and finance. The position will allow Gervais to share his advice and wisdom with eager students looking to make a splash as they begin their new careers.

"It's an opportunity to bring some real-life financial service experience into their classroom," says Gervais, adding he is excited about the new program and wants to give back to the school community and the students.

Mentorship is key

"I'll be taking on a number of students in a mentor/mentee relationship and helping them not only with their studies but assisting in any way I can as they go through the program. Hopefully, I'll be able to guide them as they think about their life after graduation in trying to find work. So, I see first and foremost being a mentor to a number of the students and helping them through the program. Then, secondly, being a resource for the faculty as they serve to bring different issues into the classroom."

The Executive in Residence initiative is a way of expanding the reach of SAIT to a broader community as well as bringing additional industry knowledge into its programs. Part of his role, Gervais says, is creating a blueprint for the position going forward.

"Mentorship is critical," believes Gervais, as he will be pointing students in the right direction, helping them avoid mistakes others have made, and providing many resources to aid in their future success.

"I think just the opportunity to be a sounding board for a lot of the students can really help them, and more likely make them successful in the future," adds Gervais.

Gervais is looking forward to working with the School of Business. His foundation for a relationship with the School was first started during his time at TD.

"At TD, we have recruited quite a number of SAIT students through the financial services programs, through business programs and through other programs. The connection really has been through their HR group and placement group."

The human element

Gervais believes the human element is not lost on the retail banking industry. Research indicates that 60% of customers of banks use a branch on a monthly basis. Because of that, students should remember that developing a personal relationship with customers remains an important part of doing business — it's a quality relevant to any business endeavour.

He says the opportunity to start with a blank slate in being the first Executive in Residence at the SAIT School of Business was appealing to him.

"Where I think I can help them quite a bit is not only in bringing the industry knowledge but actually ... open some doors in getting introductions to not only TD but right across all the financial institutions in Alberta and helping them prep for the things they should be spending their time on. I think the practical knowledge of that is probably what's been missing from a lot of universities today."

Gervais has more than 28 years of progressive retail banking and human resources experience. He is a results-oriented executive with broad functional knowledge and demonstrated success as a leader and change agent. His areas of specialties are Branch Banking, HR Strategic Planning, Mergers and Acquisition, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Coaching, Compensation and Executive Recruitment.

Gervais started with TD Canada Trust where he spent the first seven years of his career in branch banking. He has held a variety of senior business and HR roles across Canada and in the United States. He is currently in a senior business leadership role accountable for sales and service leadership within Western Canada — more than 4,000 employees and 205 branches in three provinces and one territory.

He has a BA from Carleton University and a CHRP designation having completed the Advanced Program in HR Management at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

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