Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.
For generations, Alberta’s economy has largely been driven by the oil and gas industry.
But things started to shift during the energy price slump of the mid-2010s, when other industries began picking up the slack.
“There has always been a recognition that economic diversification helps provide more stability in the economy,” says Trina Holland, associate vice-president at ATB Financial. “What is different now is the conditions are ripe for that to happen organically, at a larger scale.”
ATB Financial is a leading financial institution that was started in Alberta and provides expert advice, services and products through its Personal and Business Banking, ATB Wealth Management and ATB Capital Markets businesses.
Holland is the lead of ATB’s business unit, which supports enterprises in Alberta’s diversifying economy. The broadening of the economy, to some extent, has been helped by the energy industry.
“Oil and gas really created a labour force with highly trained, innovative workers with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Holland explains.
Many of those highly skilled, technically proficient workers — who lost their jobs in the energy sector over the past decade — have found work elsewhere in the economy, including financial services, life sciences and technology.
“Those diversified sectors are drivers of economic growth, part of Alberta’s competitive advantage today and even more so in the future.”
Notable among these sectors is technology — from innovations supporting traditional industries such as transportation, agriculture and energy, to pure play technology firms akin to Silicon Valley.
“There are so many exciting things happening, particularly in Calgary and Edmonton, with tech ecosystems that are quickly evolving and maturing,” Holland says.
ATB has strong relationships with this sector, assisting in early-stage to late-round funding — helping tech companies turn great ideas into revenue generators.
“The other side of the tech equation plugs into other industries in the province,” she adds, pointing to ATB’s recent work with a manufacturing company. The Calgary firm recently digitized a significant part of its operations to provide real-time insights into production, sales and other metrics.
“They’ve moved their business from basing projections on historical results — where everything was after the fact — to today, where they can make decisions in real-time based on present conditions,” she explains. “From ATB’s perspective, it’s created a need for increased working capital because the company has expanded its manufacturing capacity.”
Not only do its recent innovation efforts bring the business greater insight into its own needs; the investment in technology gives ATB greater understanding and confidence in the business’s need for additional and flexible lending solutions, Holland says.
Still, diversified growth comes with challenges, including the battle for talent. But Alberta businesses are winning the fight, drawing highly skilled workers from other provinces and countries, she says.
“It’s a pretty great place to work and live,” she says of the province, “so there are lots of companies that have been able to attract workers here.”
ATB’s unsurpassed local market knowledge helps these businesses with understanding and adapting to regional market trends and access to capital. The financial institution also offers other critical financial services such as cross-border payment solutions and managing interest rate risk so companies can quickly pivot to new markets.
“We know drivers of growth in Alberta are changing, and there will be ebb and flow for our clients in that growth,” Holland says. “That’s why ATB’s overarching strategy is being proactive, understanding not just what’s happening today, but what’s going to impact clients long-term.”
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.