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HomeEquity Bank employees at their new office space.Provided

When COVID-19 lockdowns sent everybody home, it gave HomeEquity Bank (HEB) a chance to reimagine its workplace. The financial institution, which specializes in reverse mortgages, moved its Toronto head office to the Royal Bank Plaza across from Union Station, to give commuting employees an even shorter walk to work.

“We designed it to support hybrid work, to support teams,” says CEO and president Steven Ranson, “so that when people come into the office they can easily meet and collaborate with their teams.

“There are different areas for sharing. We built a big cafe area, with an adjoining flexible training room. We made the space useful and functional. It’s spacious, so you’re not feeling like you’re squeezed in.”

Vivianne Gauci, the bank’s senior vice-president, customer experience and chief marketing officer, describes the aesthetic at the new office as “resimercial,” with a library that has a fireplace and couches “more reminiscent of your living room at home” for quiet work, to encourage employees to move around the office during the day to spaces that suit the work at hand.

“Our employees have adjusted well,” she says, “and I’m very proud that we have this great space that has evolved with our employees to address different needs.”

“It’s actually beautiful,” says Ranson. “It’s spectacular.”

The first thing you see when entering HEB’s new office is a giant wall devoted to the company’s core values. “It’s really a reminder of our values and how our employees demonstrate them,” says Gauci.

“Our employees show our values through our ‘moments worth sharing,’ program, which highlights how staff have connected with customers and made a positive impact on their lives,” she says.

“An employee might find out that a customer loves our product because they were able to put their three kids through school with it, that the oldest is an engineer and the youngest, who has autism, was able to get her plumber’s apprenticeship.

“We shared this with the company and sent a ‘World’s Best Dad’ mug to the customer. It encourages our employees to share ways that they have touched a customer’s life through our product.”

Ranson describes the company’s clients as a very specific demographic with definite needs.

“How do you help people age in place?” he says. “How do they use this equity that they’ve built up?”

He says the company recruits people with a background in financial services, but that isn’t as important as understanding their customers.

“The first or second question I ask anybody that I interview is: ‘What do you know about the product? What do you think about the product?’ Because you want people who think that a reverse mortgage can help our demographic in ways that no other product can.”

Employees and managers reward each other with nominations for annual ‘President’s and Leaders’ Awards,’ with recipients getting cash as well as an extra day off each year. Workplace achievements are recognized with a ‘High Five Award,’ with peer nominations read out at a monthly town hall.

“Our people are doing amazing things and going above and beyond all the time,” says Ranson, “so you want to recognize them for it.”

During the B.C. wildfires, staff in the Kelowna area were given $1,000 to pass on to local organizations that needed funds during the crisis.

HomeEquity Bank’s Community Leadership Program supports community with a $500 charitable donation for volunteers who give 40 hours or more to a cause they are passionate about.

“It’s not just what people do when they’re at work,” Gauci says, “but what they do in the communities where they live and work.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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