One Step Ahead

While overseeing technology at financial institution Home Trust, Fariba Rawhani keeps a close eye on the ever-evolving industry and helps ensure the relevance of IT for the next generation

“[To see] the company grow and prosper so we can be more innovative in Canada and create meaningful jobs; and as a company, to be innovative as it’s expanding its business horizon. With that comes job creation—meaningful jobs—and to me, that’s very important. We open up room for young people coming out of school while delivering great financial returns to our investors and stakeholders.” (Photo: Christos Kalohoridis)
“[To see] the company grow and prosper so we can be more innovative in Canada and create meaningful jobs; and as a company, to be innovative as it’s expanding its business horizon. With that comes job creation—meaningful jobs—and to me, that’s very important. We open up room for young people coming out of school while delivering great financial returns to our investors and stakeholders.” (Photo: Christos Kalohoridis)

Fariba Rawhani has work to do. Having already built a career that has put her atop the technology industry, she knows she’s still far from the finish line. Today Rawhani is the chief information officer and executive vice president for one of Canada’s top corporations, Home Trust Company. It offers a variety of financial products and service alternatives such as mortgages, Visa cards, and retail credit services to Canadians who may not have traditional credit backgrounds or whose needs are unmet by larger institutions.

Given her more than 25 years of experience in technology leadership, it’s no surprise that Rawhani has been put in charge of such a significant company’s technology function. Prior to joining Home Trust, she did similar work as the chief information officer of CIBC Mortgages and CIBC Retail Bank.

“I have experience in how you establish high-performing organizations to attract the right people, put the appropriate processes in, and—in a CIO capacity—how to really help the strategy of the organization move forward,” she says.

At Home Trust, Rawhani oversees everything from choosing the right technology to ensuring the company has the right architectural blueprints, infrastructure, and project-execution capabilities. “At Home Trust, IT is very aligned with the business units, and ensures that technology enables the business transformation,” she says. “So it’s not that the business relies on IT, but they do [business] through IT.”

One of the biggest challenges that Rawhani faces is making sure she and her team are keeping up with the latest technology trends in a fluid financial industry. “In our industry, many of the business areas are still very traditional,” Rawhani says. “Although the financial industry has reinvented itself and evolved over time, the core business is still similar to what it may have been a decade ago. In the technology arena, for the financial industry, we cannot deploy technology fast enough.”

Building a staff to handle the work while executing a vast amount of initiatives, Rawhani must perform quite the juggling act. “Just fulfilling the demand and being a few steps ahead of where the business is going can be quite challenging for heads of IT,” she says. “Also, people see another company in the industry having certain tools, and they want it too. A medium-size institution like ours has all the same needs of larger financial institutions and more.”

And while others might see it as a challenge to be a woman in a male-dominated industry, Rawhani sees it as an opportunity to mentor and champion aspiring women. “I’ve never found [being a woman in a male-dominated industry] as a barrier to success,” she says. “You just have to learn to work with different approaches, different preferences, and demonstrate as a leader [that you] can bring value and you know what you’re doing.”

Going forward, Rawhani is seeking to extend her tech-industry expertise. She stresses it is important “to make the time to invest in one’s knowledge and the understanding of the technology trends and opportunities, building the connections, expanding [our] networks, and really being involved in knowing what is happening in the industry, and how it can benefit Home Trust.”

Additionally, ensuring that the technology is a major accelerator for Home Trust is on Rawhani’s agenda. Her desire is to see the company reach new heights, and she believes her team can help it get there. “It goes beyond helping people manage our business to helping us open new channels and reach new frontiers,” she says. In doing so, she wishes to provide Home Trust with the tools, processes, and safety nets to enable it to grow and prosper.