In his 2015 best-selling book Weology, Tangerine CEO Peter Aceto offered a look at the people-first philosophy that has helped make his company Canada’s leading direct bank. Tangerine now offers banking services to two million clients across Canada and has been recognized on multiple occasions for its Weology-influenced corporate culture.

Described by Forbes as “one of the most active, authentic, and transparent bank executives on social media” Aceto believes in having a responsive online presence in order to support the company’s philosophy. Peter has relied heavily on social media’s transparency and accessibility to demonstrate Tangerine’s commitment to customers.

ONB spoke to Peter about Weology, social media, why Tangerine invested in New Brunswick, and more.

ONB: Let’s begin with Weology. Why write a book?

Aceto: We are a different kind of bank, built on a foundation of putting customers first and treating employees incredibly well. We feel a leader’s priority should be his or her employees, and if you have happy, engaged employees your customers will feel it. If customers are happy they will refer their friends and family to you, and do more business with you themselves. This makes shareholders happy because you grow and improve your bottom line. 

Weology is a book of ideas, stories, and experiences that I’ve either personally had or learned from other business leaders. It’s all about the things that shape our people-first philosophy. It’s about the notion that being good to your people is good for business.

ONB: As a result of that philosophy Tangerine has been recognized as having one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures. How important is that recognition to you?

Aceto: It’s very important to us. We pride ourselves on building the business to be client-centric in everything we do. I’m not just talking about the contact centres; I’m talking about how we design our website and mobile offerings, and how we approach product creation. If your culture is distinctive like that, and every department is committed to your principles, you can be confident that your team will always deliver.

To be recognized for having a unique culture that directly contributes to the bottom line, and results in highly-engaged employees that give us their best every day, is huge. It leads to people that love being customers of ours. Tangerine customers are the happiest in Canada’s banking industry; over 60 per cent of our new customers now come from referrals. There is nothing more important to us than that number.

ONB: Weology‘s proceeds go towards Tangerine’s Bright Way Forward program. How does that initiative tie into the themes of the book and the company’s philosophy?

Aceto: We think businesses and leaders have roles to play in their communities; our own employees certainly expect our business to give back. We created Bright Way Forward to help build partnerships in several areas. The aim is to help people take positive action in their lives, and give them a sense of belonging so that they feel more empowered to live a healthy life, both financially and otherwise.

We’ve partnered with former NBAer Steve Nash’s youth basketball program. We’ve worked with Steve’s organization and Canada Basketball to help young people learn new skills and build confidence. We also work with several agencies focused on helping Canadians retrain themselves so they can pursue new career paths. Bright Way Forward is huge for us and we are very proud of the amount of time our employees give to these activities.

ONB: In addition to your Toronto team, Tangerine operates a contact centre in Moncton. Why invest in New Brunswick?

Aceto: We have a large and still growing French-speaking customer base. We needed a place where we could offer a great French and English experience for our customers; all of our research pointed us at New Brunswick.

It was more than the bilingual workforce, however. We’ve talked about what’s important to us as a brand and to me personally; New Brunswick fit with our philosophy. We needed a location where we could find great employees we could retain, and that relished the idea of helping people.

I’m Canadian but I spent seven great years in the U.S. with ING Direct USA. We had a contact centre in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and I can tell you that place served our customers as good if not better than anyone. That always stuck with me. When I got to Moncton and started meeting people—before we made any commitment to New Brunswick—I got that same feeling. Just meeting people in the airport and in hotels, it felt like St. Cloud again. It was the right place to invest. The energy and spirit in Moncton are great, and they treat our customers with real care. That’s what we were looking for and that’s what we found in New Brunswick.

ONB: Can you touch on Tangerine’s relationship with ONB?

Aceto: ONB has been a tremendous partner for us from day one. When you begin something new there are inevitably some surprises, and your team has really stuck by us, helping us past any obstacles we faced. Whether it’s been help with recruitment or ironing out any financial obstacles, our partnership with ONB has been a positive experience.

We have a desire to build out our strengths and capabilities in Moncton. The city has proven itself to me, to the company, and to our customers. They’re delivering incredible results and we want to do more here. We’re creating several additional operational functions and really building out the team. There’s going to be several types of roles available in Moncton moving forward. (Careers at Tangerine)

ONB: You are one of the original Social CEOs. Why do you think it’s important for leaders to be active on social media?

Aceto: I recall sitting in a room about eight years ago discussing business trends and drivers. The social media discussion came up and I was quite captivated by it. That night, I created a Twitter account and just started interacting. When I looked at social media—and this was before it really took off—I also looked at our business and the stuff we’ve touched on already. We are built on a foundation of trust, transparency, and openness; social media seemed like a natural fit with that.

We’re a company built on having no brick-and-mortar locations; digital channels seemed like a no-brainer. I had a feeling that our competitors were not going to be able to get there as soon as we could. So we quickly got active in social media, interacting, sharing, and having conversations.

As a business leader, it’s a great opportunity to have daily interactions with both existing and potential customers, and for meeting a variety of people. It allows us to better demonstrate how we think, put customers first, treat our employees, etc. I think it’s important for leaders to represent their brand in public, and in this day and age, that absolutely includes social media.

ONB: Finally, what industry trends are you and Tangerine most excited about?

Aceto: While it’s not necessarily a new trend now, I think what interests me most is that Canadians are more and more comfortable having a relationship with a bank with no physical presence. People are increasingly comfortable conducting business in a non-face-to-face way; e-commerce is increasing significantly for example. As a bank that has dedicated its existence to online and mobile experiences that’s exciting. That general comfort with mobile and the web is an exciting trend that could be a bit scary for some of our competitors with thousands of physical branches.

The way people are making purchase decisions now is another trend I’m watching. People seem to trust marketing messages less and less. They’re looking for businesses and brands they can really trust and believe in, and if you can be one of those brands you will do well. Social media is a way for people to get advice from a lot of people, and learn about good experiences as well as bad ones. If you are dedicated to exceeding expectations, social media helps get the word out quickly.

Written by Jason Boies