Behind the scenes of the Regional Council of Ontario - Christine van Staden

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Behind the scenes of the Regional Council of Ontario - Christine van Staden

            

A series of interviews with our council members,the engines of our organization

 
Christine van Staden
Regional Vice-President, Group Customer
National Accounts, Business Development, Canada Life

Christine has been on council for so long she can’t remember when she started. She has initiated so many projects that we are blessed to have such a dynamic and resourceful element on the council. Christine always brings her energy, positivity, and with her participation, she always sets a good vibe at our council and working group meetings.

Christine has over 30 years of experience in the pension and benefits industry, both in the U.S. and Canada. In her role as Regional Vice-President, Group Customer, National Accounts, Business Development, Christine is responsible for leading the National Accounts Business Development team in selling and retaining both Group Retirement and Savings business and Group Benefits business in the large case segment through the consultant channel. She has a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Business Management from the University of Tennessee and completed her Pension Law Certification with Osgoode Hall. Christine also serves in a leadership capacity with the CPBI (Canadian Pension & Benefits Institute) Ontario Regional Council.  

Interviewer:  Can you tell us about yourself and your role at (name of your organization)?

Christine:  My name is Christine van Staden, and I am the Regional Vice-President, Group Customer, National Accounts, Business Development at Canada Life. I am responsible for leading our National Business Development team which focuses on attracting, winning, and retaining large case business in the Group Retirement and Savings space and the Group Benefits space, and particularly in partnership with the National Consultant Houses across Canada. 

Interviewer:  We would love to know how and why did you get started in this industry?

Christine:  I absolutely LOVE this question because it’s generally completely unique for everyone! It’s just not a career path that you hear children talk about as they’re growing up! You for sure would not have heard me say, “When I grow up, I want to support corporate retirement savings and benefits plans”!!! Rather, most of us have fallen into our path and I am no different! I’m originally from the United States. I joined Kimberly-Clark (K-C) after graduating from university in a role that was very unique because K-C was centralizing their head office functions in one location, and I was hired to coordinate the overall initiative. As a result, I was very fortunate to have worked directly with each Sr. VP of the respective head office areas and I established amazing relationships – especially with the Sr. VP of Corporate Administration (Sr. VP of CA). Once the project wrapped up, he (Sr. VP of CA), opened the door and said I could work in any area within the newly established central administration headquarters. Given my passion for stretching myself, I asked him what area he recommended – knowing that I’d be looking for a challenge. Alas…...his recommendation was the Defined Contribution team with a focus on the Executive plans and shortly thereafter, I was hooked! Subsequently, when K-C outsourced all their DB, DC, and GB plans to Hewitt Associates in Chicago, I went with them! I was quickly asked to take on a first for Hewitt which was the implementation of their first Canadian client, Bank of Montreal, and the introduction of their new flexible benefits plan for their members. This was an amazing experience once again, and it led to Hewitt transferring me to Canada to help launch their Outsourcing business. Now, 23 years later (in Canada), I’ve had the pleasure to extend my career path to include the provider side of the business on both the Group Retirement Savings side and the Group Benefits side of the market.


Interviewer:  Christine, can you tell us how long have you been involved with CPBI and what do you enjoy most about your involvement with CPBI?

Christine:  I honestly am not completely sure how many years I’ve been involved with CPBI, but I believe it’s about ten years. I am a very passionate individual by nature and given the amount of time and energy we all put into our jobs, I was looking for a channel to share my passion in a manner that would allow me to have an impact on the direction of our industry – that channel turned out to be CPBI. I became part of the Ontario Regional Council initially and given that I qualify myself as a “Do-er”, I jumped in heavy! I initially volunteered in a number of areas and then became truly excited about taking the lead on what used to be our “Benefit Ball”, where we came together as an industry to raise money and give back to our community through Crohn's and Colitis Canada. I led that initiative for several years and then turned my attention to leading the planning and execution of our regional conferences. I’ve also been heavily involved at different times in membership renewal efforts and sponsorship generation. I eventually became Vice-Chair of the Ontario Regional Council, then Chair and now I’m serving as Past Chair. Throughout my entire involvement with CPBI, I’ve been able to establish many amazing relationships across the market and especially through our Regional Council as well as the National Board. I have been so proud of our Council and what we’ve been able to achieve in terms of providing ongoing education, accreditation and thought leadership across our industry!
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Interviewer:  What is one of the most exciting things that you see going on in your specific area of expertise right now Christine? 

Christine:  I am very excited that the industry has shifted towards realizing the need to focus on holistic well-being and the interrelated focus required to do so. Quite simply, financial, physical, and mental health are respectively both causes and effects of one another. For example, financial stress can cause physical and mental stress. And yet, physical, and mental stress can also result in financial impacts. As an industry, we’ve grown to recognize that we cannot and should not address each of these areas in silos. The value of a group plan is truly maximized when we realize that individual needs differ significantly at any point in our personal journey based on our unique circumstances. The manner in which our industry has developed solutions and delivered support to address the continuum of group retirement savings and benefit plan member needs has not only followed but is doing so at a pace and manner that is required to keep up in a perpetually changing landscape! I’m so very proud to be a part of helping Canadians live life the way they know it!
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Interviewer:  Can you tell us more of your thoughts and insight on the industry at this time?

Christine:  I believe I’ve covered some of this in my response to the previous question. That said, I will add that there continues to be a very important focus on a couple of key areas that require ongoing attention – specifically the area of equity, diversity, and inclusion across all group plans (retirement savings and benefits) and also Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) on the retirement savings side. The world we live in will continue to evolve rapidly and we are in a position to embrace and support the shifting needs of Canadians well into the future by stretching ourselves beyond normal expectations and holding ourselves truly accountable for continuous, forward thinking and development in areas such as these!

 




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