As digital transformation continues to disrupt the financial services industry, Leanna Falkiner is respected for helping Banks, Credit Unions and Insurers harness that disruption to power profitable growth. She is the Founder and CEO of evoQ International, a strategy consulting firm focused on helping companies across the financial services sector excel in the digital economy. Launching with a mission to go where she was needed most, she landed in the Caribbean. After solving problems for the region’s biggest Banks and Insurers, evoQ expanded across Canada to help clients ignite brands, modernize products, optimize channels and architect growth strategies. In addition to leading her team, Leanna serves on the board of Coast Capital Savings and North York General Hospital Foundation. Leanna has a passion for the outdoors where she enjoys hiking and cycling with her active preschooler.
My first job ever was… Selling newspapers. At 10 years old I was going door-to-door selling subscriptions and collecting monies owed for my neighborhood paper. I made sure that people on my route received their papers on time, plus managed the payments while growing my customer base. A paper route teaches responsibility and was my first exposure to understanding that I love building businesses.
The best thing I’ve done for my business so far is… Assemble an Advisory Board composed of veteran CEOs to guide the growth of my firm. Their input and disciplined approach has been instrumental in shaping my leadership and underpin the value I place on diversity of thought when working with colleagues and clients. I’m fortunate to count these senior strategists as friends.
My boldest move to date was… starting a strategy consulting firm in a highly competitive market. At the onset, I opted to capitalize on untapped potential in the Caribbean where we applied our digital payments expertise.
My proudest accomplishment is…Being a MOM. If you had asked me a few years ago, I probably would have rattled off a bunch of career-related successes and financial wins, but now I measure my accomplishments by the number of hugs and kisses.
I surprise people when I tell them… I’ve never had a cup of coffee — especially as I love to network!
My best advice to people starting out in business is… Build a network of champions. Everyone has a support system, who is in yours? I encourage you to make connections across sectors, disciplines and tenures and nurture these relationships. It’s the quality of these connections that will support your entrepreneurial journey. Your network doesn’t have to be large to be effective. No one makes it alone.
My best advice from a mentor was…Listen for the subtext. It’s easy to focus on driving business results but the real value happens when we take time to reflect on the motives, anxieties and professional pressures influencing our decisions. Emotions are always at play. Be mindful to listen carefully and critically while acknowledging your unconscious bias.
My biggest challenges have been… similar to other consulting firms — challenges like: attracting top talent, struggling to keep pace with emerging technologies or unexpected scope changes. Entrepreneurship has no insulation; we experience every bump.
I overcame it by… Embracing a growth mindset.
“Listen for the subtext. It’s easy to focus on driving business results but the real value happens when we take time to reflect on the motives, anxieties and professional pressures influencing our decisions. Emotions are always at play. Be mindful to listen carefully and critically while acknowledging your unconscious bias.”
The once piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… Embrace uncertainty. All business decisions contain some aspect of risk. Learning how to lean into calculated risk-taking is a skill. It requires you to evaluate the probability of success, identify mitigation actions and assess your personal perceptions, all at the same time. Making decisions with imperfect information can be paralyzing. However, having all the answers is not a prerequisite for success.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… Spend time in nature enjoying a hike, bike ride, swim or soaking up the sunshine and scenery. Connecting with nature’s powers refuels my creativity, provides clarity of thought and nourishes my heart. My best business strategies happen when I am outdoors. Taking this time to reboot leaves me feeling energized.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know that… For over 10 years I was an active disaster relief volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross Society; responding to local and international emergencies like the Walkerton Water Crisis, Pine Lake Tornado, Eastern Canadian Ice Storm and Thailand Tsunami. I have witnessed the best of humanity as communities came together to rebuild and recover from these horrific events.
I stay inspired by… Networking. I’m a natural connector, who subscribes to a pay it forward philosophy, always willing to facilitate a connection, offer a solution, or share a laugh over lunch. The strong, trust-based relationships I have built along the way are the most strategic and valuable asset in my arsenal. I find it energizing to meet and learn about people.
The future excites me because… The sky’s the limit and I’ve only gotten started. Small businesses will continue to fuel our economy. I’m enthusiastic about the forces shaping the future and seizing new opportunities.