Settle For More

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Imagine a newcomer walking into a local branch to set up a bank account and leaving with a job opportunity as well. It might sound too good to be true but that is exactly what happened to Alice Xie, Director, Business Development for Newcomers at RBC when she came to Canada just over a decade ago.

In keeping with its values of diversity and inclusion, RBC has created a specialized team to assist newcomers who settle in Quebec. Its mission is to provide financial education to newcomers about the Canadian banking system, help them build a prosperous future by offering sound advice and introduce them to key community partners to help them get their bearings and transition to a new life in Canada more easily.

This small, agile team, which is made up of newcomers and first-generation immigrants to Canada, offers seminars in several languages (English, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin and Persian), making them accessible to as many communities as possible.

What sets the team apart is a passion for helping others and for sharing values, culture and sound advice for integrating into Canadian society—not to mention a passion for banking, of course.

We sat down with four members of this team to better understand their motivations for working with newcomers. It’s clear that it goes beyond their dedication to RBC, their employer, and is more about social responsibility—a responsibility to others—in Canadian society, where everyone is entitled to the same opportunities.


Photo: Paola Mazzara and Alice Xie from RBC’s Newcomers team

A few words about Alice, Kateryna, Harir and Paola

Alice Xie neither studied nor worked in finance before coming to Canada. She lived in France after leaving her native country, China. An RBC advisor who helped her open her first Canadian bank account was kind enough to inform her that there was an opening in that branch and introduced her to the branch manager. Alice was hired as a Client Advisor thanks to her previous experience in customer service. Since 2013, she has climbed the ranks of the organization, having been promoted to Banking Advisor, Mortgage Specialist and Business Development Manager for the Asian market, before officially heading this special team as a Director, Business Development for Newcomers.

In 2006, Kateryna Chaura moved to Canada with her parents, leaving Ukraine at 19. In 2010, she joined RBC and was the first person interviewed for this special team dedicated to newcomers. After studying immigration, she had planned to leave RBC to work for the government in her field, but circumstances (our dear friend COVID-19) led her to stay at RBC and act on this calling that’s been on her mind for several years.

“I’m on the team because I speak Ukrainian and Russian. I’ve always worked in a Russian-speaking environment. That’s why I can meet the needs of communities in all of the post-Soviet countries. I’m entrusted with people who want to open a bank account,” said Kateryna.

Harir Rabeie feels that Montreal “has helped shape who she is.” She said she wouldn’t be the same person if she’d grown up in her home country of Iran.

“Because I come from a country like Iran, where women aren’t given the same opportunities as men, it gave me an appreciation to have grown up here where I can pursue my dreams and ambitions freely and build a confidence to be my authentic self in all aspects of my life. I try to pass that confidence on to newcomers,” she said.

As a child of first-generation immigrants who came to Canada in the hope of a better life, she understands the difficulties and barriers that first-generation immigrants face. She says she can understand their journey and how hard it can be to integrate into a new workplace. Since 2017, Harir has explored various divisions at RBC, including fraud management and advisory services. Prior to becoming a Business Development Newcomer Specialist, she served as Assistant Branch Manager.

Paola Mazzara was born in Venezuela. In 1992, her family moved to Canada, seeking a brighter future for their children in a safe country.

“My parents are my idols. Thanks to them, my brother and I got the chance to learn new languages and become who we are today. Canada has a wonderful culture and endless opportunities. We were lucky enough to arrive as permanent residents and be welcomed with open arms, which helped us get settled and for which we are eternally grateful.”

From a very young age, as Paola saw her parents flourish in Canada, she knew that she would one day help newcomers integrate into her adopted country.

“Some people leave their families behind, but not us. Of course, we left something behind, but we built a new life. That’s what I want to pass on to newcomers. I tell them that it isn’t easy, but to have a better life, you have to take the leap. You can have it all here. You have the opportunity to work and to get an education, and I had those privileges.”

Since 2012, she quickly made a name for herself in her approach with clients and excelled in several roles at RBC, including as an Expert Advisor, Banking Advisor, Assistant Branch Manager, Team Manager and Advice Centre Coach. She is also active in the newcomer community, which led to her becoming a Business Development Newcomer Specialist.

“This role lets me implement my vision and work with colleagues and partners who share a passion for helping newcomers establish themselves in Canada and guiding them in each stage of their lives.

Photo: Harir Rabeie and Kateryna Chaura celebrating the Persian New Year

Photo: Harir Rabeie and Kateryna Chaura celebrating the Persian New Year

Passion + sharing knowledge = paying it forward

Alice, Kateryna, Harir and Paola share their life experiences and the lessons they’ve learned with their colleagues and clients. They’re role models for success in our society. They also proudly give back what they were given: support, guidance, organizational and social resources, etc.

“I received a lot of support when I was getting settled. So it’s important for me to be able to give back by helping people like me and showing them that anything is possible here,” Alice said. “This is my first managerial role, and I work with a wonderful team. I always tell newcomers that anything is possible here. I found my place here in Montreal, and that didn’t happen to me in Europe. I advise them to apply for jobs, and to look for what they want. They shouldn’t be afraid of rejection. The opportunities are there.”

Another strong value at RBC is encouraging employees to volunteer. The Newcomers team is growing its partnerships with organizations that provide assistance and support to newcomers in order to make a positive difference in their lives. The RBC team can always count on community partners to support immigrants with understanding their rights, gaining knowledge, looking for a job and other needs.

“We don’t just think like bankers. We treat our clients like family,” Alice said. “On the team, we’re open to differences and we try to promote different cultures. We have colleagues from all over the world. Our mission is to build cultural awareness. It isn’t just RBC’s mission; it’s ours as well,” she said. “When you aren’t familiar with other cultures, it can create a distance. But through group activities, immersion and being curious, you can learn about other people’s manners and customs, what’s important to other cultures. It helps us open up and get along better.”

Having these discussions isn’t always easy or straightforward, especially when dealing with war refugees. For over a year now, Kateryna Chaura has mostly been working with Ukrainian refugees, given her language skills. In fact, this has been true since 2014, when Russian–Ukrainian tensions arose. Since Ukrainian and Russian are both spoken in some parts of Ukraine, she’s the ideal person to help refugees. Firstly, refugees don’t have time to learn Canada’s official languages, and secondly, men don’t have the right to follow their families. They’re forced to stay in their country to help their nation win this war.

Much more than webinars, seminars let these families meet other people in their community as well as build new friendships and support networks—all without discussing RBC products. Our main goal isn’t to acquire new clients.

“I always encourage people to interact and keep in touch. Everyone’s welcome, including children. For me, being approachable is what matters most. Naturally, we want to meet people’s banking needs, but helping others is what sets us apart and makes us unique. I remember what my parents and I went through—how we felt lost and how lucky we were. I’m very happy for the opportunity to change lives for the better,” said Kateryna.

And it’s not uncommon to see people grow closer and form deep friendships and support networks, which further underscores this close-knit team’s usefulness.

Tristan Tsui

Photo: Kateryna, Harir, Alice and Paola working at the 10th edition of Le Bal des enfants de l’OSM

The Newcomers team is also available to answer relevant questions about what they can expect in their adopted country and to share relevant information.

“Often, people don’t dare to ask questions. They don’t want to bother people or show that they don’t know something. That’s why we’ve created an environment where employees and clients can be comfortable doing that,” said Harir.

“I want to help them succeed in their new lives in Canada. How important is it to buy a house or to understand the Canadian banking system? I want to share my background, my experience and my knowledge to help them develop and find a job. It’s my success, my mission in life,” Paola said with a cheerful confidence.

Unfortunately, Kateryna’s experience was less positive when she came to Canada.

“When I arrived, there was hardly any support and almost no internet. Some bad people tried to sabotage our chances for success by giving us false information.”

As part of her team’s special commitment, her goal is to provide each person she meets with the opportunity to get settled and succeed.

“I wish them even greater success than mine,” says Kateryna enthusiastically.

All four team members share this same passion and commitment to the community. By supporting others in this way, they not only help RBC grow, but society as a whole benefits from the inclusion of newly minted, well-informed Canadian citizens with an appreciation of their new culture.

A word from our lawyers

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subject matter discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.