City Focus: Calgary
Business Chief tours the ‘sunniest city in Canada’ and takes a look at its dominant oil and gas sector, particularly the inroads that industry leaders are making in sustainable energy
Nestled in the south of Alberta and originally inhabited by the pre-Clovis people who had lived there for over 11,000 years, the area that would later be called ‘Calgary’ received its first Europeans settlers in 1873. In 1884, when its population had grown to 4,000, it was formally proclaimed a city and named after Calgary on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. Today, the city encompasses an area roughly the size of New York City, yet, with a population of 1.3 million, only has one-eighth of the density. Previously described by Forbes as the cleanest city on Earth, Calgary also enjoys an average of 2,400hrs of sunshine a year, making it Canada’s sunniest city. Known for its annual ‘Calgary Stampede’, in which more than one million people come together for rodeos, parades and concerts, the city has earned the moniker of ‘Cowtown’ for this Wild West association. Despite this reference to the past, Calgary is actually a very young city: the average age for its citizens is a spry 36.
The city houses the second-largest quantity of corporate headquarters in Canada after Toronto, with over 800 of the largest companies in the country represented there. Holding an overall GDP of CA$125.76bn, Calgary has the highest GDP per capita ($84,630) in Canada, as well as the most millionaires per capita. With an economy primarily centred on the energy sector, Calgary also provides high employment in finance and manufacturing. In 2018, mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction alone contributed $50.9bn to the city’s overall GDP, roughly 44.5% of the total, with financial services contributing another 12.7%. Despite the relative dominance of these industries, Calgary is determined to reduce its reliance on these core sectors and expand its interests. To this effect, the city has started to build a portfolio of more diverse economic activities, including technology, aerospace, retail, tourism and finance.
With a revenue of $46.3bn and providing employment to almost 13,000 people, Enbridge is the largest Calgary-based company currently operating. Founded in 1949 as the ‘International Pipe Line’, the company has grown to be a dominant force in the oil & gas industry. Enbridge has a range of projects across North America, transporting 20% of the gas used in the USA alone. Listed on both the TSX and NYSE, the company was also among the first to recognise the potential of renewable energy. It now holds a portfolio of investments including LNG (liquefied natural gas) and offshore wind farms. Since 2002, Enbridge has committed over $7.8bn to such developments, including 21 wind farms, four solar energy operations, one hydroelectric facility and one geothermal project. The company estimates that it can generate approximately 4,121MW of carbon-neutral energy.
Originally founded in Montreal as the ‘Sun Company of Canada’ in 1919, the company now known as Suncor Energy eventually headquartered itself in Calgary. Turning over a revenue of $38.5bn and employing over 13,000 people, Suncor specialises in synthetic crude produced from oil sands. It is the fifth largest North American energy company and one of the largest independent energy companies in the world. Using revenues generated from its oil sands operations, Suncor has been developing interests in biofuels since 2006. Canada’s largest ethanol factory (the St. Clair Ethanol Plant) produces 400 million litres of product annually from a base of corn. The plant currently employs 63 full-time workers, who extract starch from the corn and turn it into ethanol. Displaying circular economic thinking, Suncor states that waste corn is then used as feed for livestock.
Imperial Oil’s history stretches back to 1880 when it was founded in London, Ontario. Owned by ExxonMobil for 122 years, which still holds a 69.6% stake in the company, Imperial’s 1947 discovery of the Leduc Woodbend Devonian oil reef marked the start of a renaissance for the Canadian oil and gas industry. The company turned over almost $35bn in 2018 and employs approximately 5,700 full-time workers. Imperial considers its long-term focus on research and technology to be a key aspect of its strategy. Among only a few Canadian energy companies that have built dedicated research facilities, the company has both upstream and downstream capabilities. Its findings have included multiple methods for extracting products from oil sands, heavy-duty oil for colder climates, biofuels and a way to recycle asphalt.
With Calgary constituting a hub for the energy sector, the city, in addition to the province of Alberta, has not been idle in championing sustainable power sources and business opportunities. The province’s Climate Leadership Plan includes a 30% increase in renewable-based electricity by 2030 and government investment in new projects and technologies to advance progress. The options available to investors are full spectrum: wind, hydroelectric, bioenergy and solar, with the latter being particularly viable due to the city’s aforementioned status as the sunniest city in Canada.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.