Friendly but focused—ATB’s new board chair sets direction

By Victoria Carnaghan 6 February 2019 3 min read

If you ask Joan Hertz her advice on being a successful leader, she’ll give you a short answer.

“Be authentic, be kind, have fun and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.” Straightforward and apparent in her everyday manner, these characteristics will form the foundation of Hertz’s leadership style as she takes the reins as the new Board Chair of ATB Financial’s board of directors.

The Government of Alberta announced Hertz’s appointment to the position in November 2018, following the retirement of former Board Chair Brian Hesje.

But Hertz, whose credentials include a Queen's Counsel (QC) designation and Institute of Corporate Directors, Director (ICD.D) certification, isn’t one to take her responsibilities lightly.

Behind her easy-going nature is a committed professional, who’s clear on how she hopes to lead the board in serving ATB, its customers and the province.

“We as a board want to continue to support and push ATB to be all that it can be,” Hertz said. “We believe ATB has the strongest management team, and as a board, it’s our job to ask ourselves how can we continue to listen to what’s happening out there in the economy and our various sectors and discern that into something useful to bring back to the organization.”

A lawyer by training, Hertz earned an LL.B from University of Alberta Law School and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. This is complemented by her intimate knowledge of ATB, formed through a decade of board service, including as Chair of the Governance and Conduct Review Committee.

Throughout this period, ATB launched some of its most ambitious and successful initiatives to date, including transforming its core banking system and investing in team members as a key differentiator. She believes these changes positioned the financial institution to remain competitive in a rapidly changing world.

“Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to make that long-term decision, and define the behaviours and values that would really launch us into the new economy. We’re still on that journey today.”

It’s a complicated path, one that Hertz believes can only be navigated by keeping the customer at the centre.

“We have to ask ourselves, how can we listen more and how are we going to translate it into what customers need? That’s the hard part that the smart people at ATB are going to figure out.”

ATB board chair Joan Hertz

Joan Hertz, ATB's newly appointed board chair, during an in-depth interview.

A glance at Hertz’s resume reveals an impressive list of achievements and duties. She is a board member for Edmonton International Airports and Covenant Health. She teaches at the Institute of Corporate Directors. She also recently joined the Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) Canada Board as a Public Member.

The energy she devotes to these many roles comes easily to her.

"People say ‘do what you love and it doesn’t feel like work.’ I really believe that. I’m motivated by what I’m involved in, so I enjoy it."

As she dives into this new opportunity, Hertz feels confident she and her fellow board members have the experience and expertise to provide ATB the greatest value.

“There’s a really great mixture of experience and very diverse perspectives sitting around that table. Collectively, we represent a lot of the industries in Alberta—everyday Albertans right up to massive oil and gas companies.”

She’s ready to bring new ideas and a well-informed perspective to the role. And she wants to ensure that people, not just policies, are front and centre.

“I hope that people know the board is accessible, and see us as trying to get out in the community and the ATB branches. We really want to interact with team members and customers—that’s part of our job too.”

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