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Peter Aceto, president and CEO of ING Direct Canada, poses for a photo at the company offices in Toronto, Feb. 10, 2011.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Peter Aceto, is president and CEO of ING Direct Canada, with 11,000 employees.



























How do you define success for your company?

We measure success in terms of driving toward our goal. We want Canadians to live a healthy lifestyle, save money in a systematic way.

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How do you strike work-life balance?

I have three young children at home. Balancing a busy work life, and being healthy, and my relationship at home is tough for a CEO. There is always homework and prep for the next day, which happens after the kids go to bed.

I probably once a month ask my wife whether she feels she is getting a fair deal. Her name is Sylvia. I say, "Sylvia, do you feel like you and the family are getting the right amount of me?" I am always adjusting. Some weeks there is travel, which throws off the balance. Juggling the calendar and getting it right for everyone is a constant.

How do you manage your time?

Time management is really key for anyone no matter what they do. I think for me, what is really important is certainly on a Sunday night, I really take a good hard look at the week ahead and the meetings that I have and the activities that are planned, and I really do assess whether I am spending enough time doing the right things. I will regularly reschedule a week just to make sure the priorities I have for the week are the things that I make sure gets done.





What questions would you ask in an interview?

Usually when I interview people, I never spend any time cross examining someone on the resume. That gets done eventually in the process. Figuring out their skills and competency is fairly easy to do. I spend my time focusing on culture. I am very, very clear about the type of culture we have in our organization. I want to make sure every time we add a person, they are adding to the culture. My questions are all around a person's value and beliefs and the things they prioritize in their life.

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When was the last time you were impressed?

I was impressed today by a relatively young manager in our business who was leading a cross-functional team to solve a problem. I was impressed that a fairly junior executive put a team together to get amazing things done that most senior executives can't.

I also read Jack Layton's letter after he passed away. I don't profess to be someone who voted for NDP in the past, but how he carried himself through the election, his commitment to a vision that he had whether you agree with it or not, even in the eye of his passion, is something that is very inspirational. To me that was impressive.

What keeps you up at night?

My kids, maybe. I generally sleep very well.

What skills have best served you?

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A common thing I found in successful people, and I think it's true of me too, is these people have this insatiable desire and urge to learn. They are always exploring, testing, trying, learning from every experience, particularly the bad ones. They are constantly learning. That is the thing that I think has been the primary contributor to my success. I do have this natural love of observing and learning and listening and evaluating how I can do things better if I give a presentation or manage a team or have decisions to make.



How did you get your current job?

There is luck and timing and good fortune. That's involved in everyone's success. Any good leader would acknowledge the role that luck played.

If you weren't doing what you are doing now, where would we find you?

In my heart, I am really an entrepreneur. Doing things that are new and exciting are appealing to me. So something in the entrepreneurial realm, that's probably what I would do. I am also a big fan of sciences.

What was a big moment for you?

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I worked at a law firm and I really never felt like it was a right fit for me. I met a person who was the founding CEO of ING DIRECT in Canada and he shared with me his vision of creating a new business that was exciting for me. The first time in my working career, a real light went on for me. I thought, "Holy cow, work can be fun and exciting and you can help people and add value and still get paid." These things are not all mutually exclusive.



A Stanford business school application reads, what is the most important thing for you and why? How would you respond?

Doing something meaningful. I really want to have an impact on the world. I think that starts at home. That starts with my wife and my children. No better place for me to have an impact on the world than through our children.





What do you hope to achieve?

We have a very exciting business. It's been growing in a wonderful way for the past 15 years, and maintaining what is magical about our business when you are adding several hundred employees every year is certainly something my team and I think about all the time. You never want to lose your pixie dust.



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