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Streetwise Head of Silicon Valley Bank’s Canadian division stepping down

The head of Silicon Valley Bank’s Canadian division is leaving the bank for personal reasons less than four months after the California-based lender received a licence to operate in Canada.

Barbara Dirks was named Head of Canada for SVB, as the bank is known, in March of 2018. In an e-mail to industry colleagues on Thursday, she said she plans to “take some personal time to focus on family health issues and to pass the baton as the Head of Canada by resigning the post.” She will leave SVB in the coming weeks after helping with a transition, and a search for her successor is under way.

On an interim basis, John China, the bank’s Santa Clara, Calif.-based head of technology banking, will take a more active role in Canada as head office manager. And Denis Nagasaki, who has been SVB’s director of strategy and operations in Canada, will step into the role of principal officer of the Canadian arm. The rest of the bank’s Canadian team remains in place, according to SVB spokesperson Julia Thompson.

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Ms. Dirks joined SVB from Royal Bank of Canada, where she was a senior vice-president. She also spent 15 years at Bank of Montreal, including a stint as chief operating officer for North American commercial banking. She spent her first year at SVB setting up the bank’s downtown Toronto headquarters with about a dozen staff and securing approvals from regulators. In the meantime, SVB also worked to forge closer ties to a growing ecosystem of technology and life-science startups in a bid to win more of their business.

Silicon Valley Bank to set up shop in Canada

“SVB’s commitment to Canada remains stronger than ever with the expanding Toronto-based team dedicated to accelerating the growth of tech and life-science companies and their investors,” Ms. Dirks said in her e-mail.

Silicon Valley Bank has worked with Canadian companies for more than a decade, offering cross-border services to companies with U.S. operations. But as the pace of growth in the Canadian tech sector has picked up speed, and domestic banks such as Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, National Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal have invested in expanding their technology banking teams, SVB moved north to begin lending within Canada.

The bank has set a target to serve 40 per cent of all venture-backed companies in Canada within a few years. Its existing roster of Canadian clients includes retail merchant software-provider Shopify Inc. and online lender Borrowell Inc. With US$60-billion in assets, SVB already claims to have relationships with half of such companies in the United States.

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