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SFU Co-op Student

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the author standing next to Canadian Western Bank logo
The best analogy I have from moving from retail to corporate is that it feels as though I went from being a pawn in a game of chess, to the person who makes the moves.

For three years I worked part-time at TD Canada Trust as a customer service representative and eventually a personal banking associate. My experience at TD helped me tremendously when I started my first co-op term at Canadian Western Trust. During the past four months I have been able to reflect on my experience of moving from a retail banking occupation to a corporate position.

When I declared my concentration in Management Information Systems (MIS) and Operations for my Bachelor of Business Administration, never in a million years did I think that I would find a place in banking. Going into my second year of university, I picked up a job as a teller at TD.

At the age of 18, I faced a steep learning curve with all the banking systems, products and services that TD offered. Not only that, I learned ways to build credit, plan for short and long term goals, and strategies for buying a home and planning for retirement - all while I didn’t even have my first credit card yet! I continued as a teller for two years before I took the next step to become a personal banking associate, where I helped clients open accounts, apply for a credit card/line of credit, and provide advice on long term investments and credit such as mutual funds, GICs and mortgages. While I was doing this part-time, I was learning about business process analysis, project management and information system management in school. I always thought a concentration in Operations and MIS entailed a job in the tech industry- but I was wrong.

I always saw TD as a stepping stone into other careers and industries, and never thought of going past retail banking. I was always “married” to the idea of working in a tech company, but never had a good reason why I wanted to work in one. So when I started searching for my first co-op I realized that roles for project coordinators, and business analysts were being posted for all sorts of companies and industries. That’s when I realized that I could combine the financial knowledge I gained from TD and the academic material I was learning in school to leverage myself as a competitive candidate. This is how I got the opportunity to work at Canadian Western Trust (CWT), a subsidiary of Canadian Western Bank, as an Operational Specialist Co-Op student. 

I am very thankful that my team at Canadian Western Trust and my colleagues have given me support and projects where I feel like I am contributing to the organization. I’d like to share with whoever is reading this what I have learned and experienced working at Canadian Western Trust as an Operational Specialist.

My Initial Impressions

The one thing that I was excited about moving from retail from corporate banking was no longer being in a client-facing role. Working in retail can be exhausting when you are talking to clients and putting out fires non-stop for eight hours. Rather than playing a role in the client experience, I am now a fundamental piece in improving the behind the scenes processes that support the overall goal. I am no longer focused on fixing customer problems, but looking at the organization from a long-term. It’s funny coming from the retail side because I remember as a teller I would always say “the back office will take care of it”, well now I’m in the back office!

What I Miss and Love

Being in this role, I have discovered a few things that I love about corporate banking and a few things I miss about retail banking. It’s true when they say, “you don’t realize how important something is until it’s gone.”

What I Miss: Customer Interaction

The one thing that I thought I wouldn’t miss from retail banking has been interacting with the people. I miss talking to the customers and connecting with people. I always found joy in making someone’s day better or helping them smile with a joke, my service, or a useful banking tip. Funny enough, I’ve bumped into a few customers outside work which has made me realize that the connections we make- no matter where, last a lifetime.

the author's working station with her name tag

 What I Love: 

  1. The Diversity:

Every day I am surrounded by a diverse set of individuals from all walks of life. We have inspiring women in management, people with different ethnic backgrounds and dynamic personalities. Recently we had an event celebrating multiculturalism where we shared different types of foods and played trivia. See the photo below for some of the amazing food we had.

  1. Being a Key Player:

I feel as though I am a key player in the organization. I have been tasked with leading important projects such as mapping out the organization’s workflows and monitoring regulatory compliance. I feel as though my suggestions and feedbacks are highly encouraged and valued.

  1. CWT’s Passion for Growth:

I came into CWT during a time where they were experiencing the most change and growth. Canadian Western Financial Group as a whole, which includes CWT, went through a rebranding of their culture, vision and logo. It has been exciting to see the organization embrace these changes, and I am excited to see its continued growth. Fun fact: As a part of the branding initiative, Canadian Western Bank has launched its first TV commercial ever!

Moving Forward

So far my co-op experience has been nothing but great experiences, great projects and even greater people. I am looking forward to continuing to provide CWT with my perspective and insight in ways they can improve their processes. The best analogy I have from moving from retail to corporate is that it feels as though I went from being a pawn in a game of chess, to the person who makes the moves. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience at CWT, please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Phuong Mai on LinkedIn. Phuong is in her fifth year of studies at the Beedie School of Business. She is concentrating in Management Information Systems and Operations for her Bachelor of Business Administration. She loves helping and working with a variety of people and loves dogs even more than humans.

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