Ravina Bains, Bank of Nova Scotia

Ravina Bains hasn’t worked in the investment industry for long, but that hasn’t stopped her from making an impact. In fact, Bains’ experience in working and studying mostly outside the financial services sector has been an asset during her time at Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia in building relationships with First Nations communities and integrating the bank’s services for clients.

For these efforts, Bains was named the 2018 recipient of the Investment Industry Association of Canada’s (IIAC) Top Under 40 Award – recognition she believes reflects changing attitudes within the investment industry toward diversity.

“The fact that I won this award and I don’t have a finance background speaks to the movement [within] the industry of embracing diversity of background, diversity of thought and diversity of perspectives,” says Bains, who also regards the award as an example of Scotiabank’s efforts to promote and advance diversity and inclusion within its teams.

The award recognizes talented young professionals whose accomplishments have brought distinction to the industry and their local community. Bains was one of 28 nominees for the award this year. (The award is sponsored by the IIAC, the Canadian Securities Institute, Investment Executive [IE] – all based in Toronto – and Montreal-based Finance et Investissement [FI]. [IE and FI are sister publications].)

Bains, who is 33 years old, joined Scotiabank in 2016 as national director of its Aboriginal financial services division. Earlier this year, she moved into a new role as vice president, commercial banking and Canadian wealth-management sales integration. In both of these roles, Bains has worked to bring financial services to First Nations communities and to co-ordinate the bank’s services in the commercial banking and wealth-management divisions more effectively for the bank’s clients.

Prior to working at Scotiabank, Bains worked for the federal government, developing policy to advance the prosperity of First Nations communities; and for the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think-tank for which she also focused on First Nations policy issues.

Bains’ formal post-secondary education didn’t include finance. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the University of British Columbia (UBC); a master of arts degree in Asia-Pacific policy studies, also from UBC; and a master of science degree in law from the University of Oxford in the U.K. Bains currently is pursuing a PhD related to First Nations issues.

Although Bains is fairly new to the investment industry, she has been interested in financial matters for a long time. As a child growing up in Vancouver, Bains recalls that BNN often was the TV channel her father watched before heading to work in the morning – and that she herself was “fascinated by the [stock] ticker and the red arrows and the green arrows” that would run across the screen when she turned on the TV before heading off to school.

BNN was more than just casual viewing for Bains’ parents, however. As immigrants from India and young parents, Bains says, they turned to the investment industry to help them reach their financial goals and those of their children. The importance of financial advice is especially clear in Bains’ memory: she vividly recalls accompanying her parents to a meeting with their financial advisor. These memories have entrenched her belief in the impact the industry can have on Canadians’ lives.

“For me, the industry, as a whole, is helping to improve the lives of everyday Canadians, of families, of First Nations communities, [and helping them] to realize their goals and aspirations,” Bains says. “So, being a part of that [industry’s effort] and helping other people and clients to achieve those goals is extremely satisfying.”

That belief in the value of the investment industry’s benefits for investors helped motivate Bains to make the jump from the public policy arena to financial services – and to work in Scotiabank’s Aboriginal financial services division. The division serves the needs of Canada’s First Nations population from a retail, commercial and wealth-management perspective – whether that’s meeting individual retail banking needs or helping to finance a building project.

Since Bains began working in this division, Scotiabank received the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (a.k.a. PAR) gold standing from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business in 2017 for the bank’s relationship with First Nations communities. Scotiabank is one of six companies to receive this recognition that year.

Earlier this year, Bains moved into a new job at the bank, this time as an executive in both its commercial banking and Canadian wealth-management divisions. In this role, Bains once again acts as a bridge between the bank and its clients. She works on strategies and processes within the bank that help to bring services from the two divisions to clients.

“We’ve had some really great success stories across the country throughout the year so far,” Bains says, “about the [Canadian commercial and wealth-management] teams working together to help our clients realize their dreams and their personal wealth goal.”

For example, Bains points to an situation in which a wealth- management client wanted to own a business – an ambition the bank was able to help the client realize by connecting the client’s advisor to the right experts in the bank’s commercial banking division.

In addition to Bains’ day-to-day responsibilities, the Top Under 40 Award recognizes her commitment to advancing diversity within the industry overall. For example, Bains has been serving as co- chairwoman of the bank’s commercial banking national women’s group during the past year. The group aims to advance gender diversity within the commercial bank. She also is a committee member of the Impact program, which promotes mentoring and professional development to aid advancement in the bank’s wealth-management division.

Looking ahead, Bains says, she’s committed to the industry and believes there’s opportunity – particularly within Scotiabank – to continue to work with and serve the wider community.

“I definitely want to stay within the investment industry,” says Bains, “working toward not only helping advance the organization from the ‘bottom line’ perspective, but also in terms of supporting the community.”