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PayPal Canada president Paul Parisi has been named as the new head of the Silicon Valley Bank in Canada.

Silicon Valley Bank has chosen Paul Parisi, an executive with a background in payments technology, as its new head of Canada as the California-based lender gears up to help clients survive the pandemic.

Mr. Parisi joined SVB on Monday after more than three years as president of PayPal Canada. He takes over at a moment when many startups are scrambling to preserve capital as the novel coronavirus increases the use of some technologies but severely undercuts spending on some others.

A Canadian who spent 11 years at American Express Canada, Mr. Parisi is the second person to lead SVB’s Canadian office in its short history as a licensed bank in Canada. Silicon Valley Bank, which caters to startups and entrepreneurs in technology and health sciences, has been working with Canadian clients since 2000. But the bank began expanding its Canadian presence in 2017 and received a licence to lend in Canada in March of 2019. Its roster of clients includes merchant-software provider Shopify Inc., financial technology company Koho Financial Inc. and pharmaceutical company HLS Therapeutics Inc.

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One of Mr. Parisi’s first tasks will be to “really understand how the COVID impact is going to affect where we are and where we aren’t, and where the community needs us the most," he said in an interview. "The need for innovation, particularly as it moves into health sciences, is even greater than it was before.”

Silicon Valley Bank set up shop in Canada with a dozen staff under the direction of its first head of Canada, Barbara Dirks, who left the bank last June. She was named CEO of PACE Savings and Credit Union last month.

Silicon Valley Bank has about 25 staff based in Toronto, with plans to expand further in new offices located in the city’s financial core. Despite the current health crisis, SVB still thinks it is a “perfect time for us to continue to invest in the Canada story,” said David Sabow, head of technology banking for North America.

“We know that Canada’s economic transformation and orientation more toward the innovation sectors is part of a long-term trend, and that’s why we have a long-term perspective around that market, and we’re really excited about the path that we’re on," Mr. Sabow said.

SVB has run up against rising competition as Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, National Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia and Bank of Montreal have all hired technology bankers to try to win more business from early-stage tech companies. Those commitments will now be tested, as some of Canada’s fastest-growing technology startups have been hobbled by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

With US$72.4-billion in assets, SVB has long been a leading lender to the high-tech sector. But the COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll, as the bank’s first-quarter profit fell by more than 50 per cent to US$132-million, from US$263-million in the fourth quarter last year.

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