Emma Horgan – Questrade Financial Group
However, Horgan, the chief people officer, says the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the factors that’s changed how the fintech operates—and solutions put in place, such as remote and hybrid work, to protect employees and promote public safety are now part of the employee expectations.
Horgan says she—and HR leaders everywhere—are working in changed times. She says attracting and keeping talent requires flexibility in scheduling and office hours while creating a culture and environment where people can truly thrive and feel supported.
“We’re a growing organization, and we want to be a destination for top talent,” Horgan says. “We need to keep growing to meet the needs of our customers. Great customer experiences always start with great people experiences, so we focus on culture and environment.”
A workplace balance
Headquartered in North York, Ontario, Questrade Financial Group provides securities and foreign currency investment, professionally managed investment portfolios, mortgages, insurance, real estate services and more through its companies, Questrade Inc., Questrade Wealth Management Inc., Community Trust Company, ThinkInsure and Zolo.
Questrade has been named one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies for 12 years in a row by Deloitte, twice recognized as one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures by Waterstone Capital and has been designated as one of the greater Toronto area’s top employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc.
Though most of Questrade’s teams aren’t required to be in the office for a set number of days a week, Horgan says the company still values in-person interactions and collaboration. She and her globally dispersed staff of about 50 people, including an internal talent acquisition team, find days when everyone can come together for meetings, team events or to work on projects collaboratively when possible.
“It’s clear that people can be productive while working from home,” she says. “We want people to be able to choose where they work on a given day that meets the kind of work they need to do that day. We also believe in the importance of coming together for team building, and we continue to monitor and assess our practices and policies.”
When employees began working remotely in 2020, Horgan and her team expanded the wellness program started several years before. New online classes and workshop offerings included nutrition counseling, guided meditation, yoga and martial arts. There’s also a weekly Wellness Wednesday email containing details on all upcoming programing, resources and links to wellness-themed blogs.
Horgan and her team added access to the Headspace app and LifeSpeak mental health platform as benefits for employees in 2021. Headspace has features such as guided meditation sessions. In 2022, she increased Questrade’s mental health benefit coverage by giving employees access to mental health practitioners for up $10,000 per year. They also developed team wellness challenges for virtual and in-office activities, such as a weekly running group.
Attracting and training talent
Horgan and her team recruit and hire for positions from executive leadership to entry-level roles, with most openings being for customer service and technology positions.
She says Questrade likes to recruit people who may be taking on their first full-time jobs in customer service and recruit in venues such as college job fairs while also taking applications on the company website. Questrade also has an internship program and offers training programs that are typically four months but can extend to eight, 12 or 16 months, depending on the role.
Horgan launched the company’s leadership training program in 2017 as a program with one-day offsite gatherings and workshops to prepare senior leaders in areas such as cultural leadership, self-awareness, balancing strategic and operational work, and delegation. When the training went virtual, sessions were reduced to two hours, which Horgan says turned out to be very productive and still allowed for interactions and networking throughout company departments.
Leadership training now includes mid-level leaders with a “lead and inspire” initiative that includes kick-off sessions featuring executive leaders. Her team also recently added a “learn to lead” program for new company leaders with self-directed classes and activities and peer forums.
Changing with the times
Born and raised in southeast England, Horgan began working in HR because she was looking for a change from the local newspaper she worked for as sales support coordinator. A friend who worked in a recruiting agency told her of an opening and that piqued her interest in HR.
In the early 2000s, Horgan began working for New York Bagel, which was eventually acquired by Maple Leaf Foods. In 2009, Horgan moved to the Toronto area to become HR manager for Maple Leaf Frozen Bakery. She had risen to become Maple Leaf Food’s vice president of HR and leadership when she joined Questrade.
Horgan has also earned certification from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a master’s degree in HR management from the University of Hull. She also has a green belt in Six Sigma, is certified as a trainer in situational leadership from the Ken Blanchard Cos. and as a facilitator by business consultants CLG.
“The HR profession may have evolved more dramatically in terms of where it came from and is now viewed as a significant strategic enabler in an organization,” Horgan says. “With everything HR leaders have contended with over the last few years, I can say I’ve never been so proud to be part of the profession. It’s significantly contributing to the success of helping people develop personally and professionally.”
View this feature in the Vol. IV 2023 Edition here.
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