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Great Spaces: Scotiabank Digital Factory

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Scotiabank’s digital strategy and innovative Digital Factory amount to more effective teams and an enhanced customer experience

“She attracts talent because she’s a Jedi – and we all want to be Jedi.” Kevin Stewart, VP of Digital Enablement at Scotiabank Digital Factory, spoke of VP of Design Pamela Hilborn.

Hilborn’s name is a familiar one as she led the UX and design team that produced the Kobo eReader, including its extensive suite of software and hardware products. Kobo has a user base of 26 million spanning 190 countries, trailing just behind Amazon and Apple in market share.

Today, Hilborn is at the helm of the Scotiabank Digital Factory “community” responsible for optimizing user experience and design, her expertise and track record a beacon for top tech talent who want to learn from the best. Apart from Hilborn’s Design group, the Digital Factory has five other communities: Engineering, Agile, Analytics, Digital Marketing and Product, each with its own industry-leading head attracting their own high performers.



Recruiting and retaining tech’s best and brightest was indeed a goal when the banking giant envisioned its own digital technology hub. What resulted is an international network of technology experts dedicated solely to digital banking innovation working out of five Digital Factories located in Canada, Peru, Mexico, Chile and Columbia.

In Canada, Scotiabank Digital Factory is housed in a 72,000-square-foot facility at Toronto’s 333 King Street East.

 “Scotiabank Digital Factory is a physical manifestation of our vision of digital transformation,” Stewart said. “We wanted the space to be a lighthouse for the talent who would be engineering this major organizational shift.”

This digital movement, said Stewart, was necessary and inevitable for the highly established – and traditional – institution “to adapt and remain relevant in today’s world”.

Open Office Whiteboard

“Banks are largely protected by regulatory environments. But protection only goes so far; consumers want more,” said Stewart. “Our President and CEO, Brian Porter, himself declared that if we are to achieve our goal of generating 50% of sales from digital by 2020, we needed to stop being a traditional bank that uses technology, and instead start thinking of ourselves as a tech company within the financial services sector.”

With Scotiabank’s desire to change how it worked and served its customers came the knowledge that it needed high-level technology expertise to orchestrate such an ambitious undertaking.

“The experts we’re targeting don’t necessarily want to work in a bank. We need to articulate we’re different so we can attract this talent – and we need to provide a physical environment that will allow them to do their best work,” explained Stewart. “If we are to become a tech company, we have to organize ourselves like one.”




The process began in October 2015, when the Scotiabank team visited Silicon Valley, New York City, even Europe, to tour banks, tech firms and startups, and gather design ideas.

“We learned that we couldn’t just take what works for other organizations and plop it into ours,” explained Stewart. “We needed a thoughtful approach to best-in-class thinking and apply it to our long-term objectives.”

Scotiabank also needed a space.

“The biggest requirement was size,” Stewart said. “We mandated between 60,000 to 100,000 square feet on one floor. Office towers offered 20,000 square feet maximum, so choosing that option meant locating on several floors and cutting up our ecosystem.”

Tim Bristow, Senior Vice President and Sales Representative with Colliers International Toronto, in conjunction with Scotiabank’s Director of Executive Office Leasing, identified the Scotiabank team’s ideal facility.

Open Meeting Area

“Scotiabank Digital Factory is occupying Sun Media’s former Toronto head office,” Bristow explained. “Postmedia had recently acquired Sun Media, and we knew Postmedia, also a client of ours, might consolidate their operations within their existing head office at 365 Bloor East, opening up space for Scotiabank Digital Factory at 333 King Street East. Colliers secretly toured Kevin and his team around the facility. In the meantime, we helped Postmedia secure additional space at 365 Bloor East, and worked with them to extend the sublease terms and remove first rights of refusal for 333 King Street East; we also worked with the building’s existing tenant, George Brown College, to have them relinquish the space to Scotiabank at expiry. The deal was complicated and had to fall into place through a series of domino-like condition structures.”

“Being able to locate on one floor is a massive win for us as we were told it wasn’t possible,” Stewart said of the successful outcome.

In addition to meeting the size requirement, Scotiabank Digital Factory’s location is advantageous: within an up-and-coming neighbourhood with popular establishments such as trendy cafes and restaurants close by, and the financial district, home of flagship Scotia Plaza, a short walk away.

With the ideal space secured, Stewart and his team focused on design, a process that spanned nine months, more than double the original time allotted. The team then needed to regain ground – and some. Thanks to 200 construction professionals working around-the-clock five days a week for 16 consecutive weeks – and countless sleepless nights for Stewart, no doubt – the project was completed in a mere four months.

Scotiabank Digital Factory officially opened in January 2017.



To say the result was well worth the effort is an understatement. A true embodiment of innovation and thoughtful design, Scotiabank Digital Factory has shattered all notions of how a banking facility should look and how its teams should function. Teamwork, creativity and efficiency are key to the bank’s approach to digital transformation, and its new workspace clearly reflects it: Individual cubicles have given way to an open layout complete with collaboration seats, an analogue collaboration booth, even a digital collaboration table for enabling screen-sharing. In total, the space incorporates 365 workstations (broken up into 250 collaboration seats, informal desks and closed-off meeting rooms), as well as a dozen phone booths for personal or private calls. 20,000 square feet of whiteboard interspersed throughout the organization enable effective brainstorming. The design also allows Scotiabank to extend its collaborative approach beyond its internal teams: Employees use the two meeting rooms right off the lobby for user testing, essentially co-creating with customers throughout all phases of product development.

While the bank has traditionally been divided into business lines, Scotiabank Digital Factory is organized by skill set or “communities of practice”, accelerating knowledge transfer and professional development.

Shared Working Space

Common areas embody a certain theme and serve a specific purpose: The “Rotunda”, a central gathering space, is ideal for team huddles and client tours. “The Plant”, with its abundant greenery and natural light, facilitates quiet thought and work. The plush, speakeasy-themed “Vault” is the perfect venue for team celebrations. Should employees crave a tasty meal, they need not look further than “Southside Betty’s”, their world-class cafeteria offering gourmet fare prepared by Google Canada’s former sous-chef. And when they find themselves in need of an energizing break, employees can visit the games room featuring jumbo-sized, wall-mounted board games, air hockey and ping pong tables, and a bowling alley.

The Digital Factory also offers amenities and services one would not expect to find within a workspace, such as a state-of-the-art gym offering fitness classes, and The Gear Shack, its version of the Apple Genius Bar, where employees can get their tech needs met, from replacing a tablet charger to updating an operating system – all with zero downtime.



Scotiabank’s departure from the traditional bank mindset – and design – is yielding great returns. The Digital Factory’s layout has brought about a tangible shift in how people interact and work. Beyond changing its physical space, Scotiabank has changed its culture.

Employees working out in the open, even face-to-face, is increasing personal connection while having a substantial effect on overall accountability, according to Stewart. “We are in a high-pressure, highly visible environment where your contributions impact others’ work very quickly. There’s a level of responsibility, transparency and urgency that wasn’t there before.”

The way it has assembled and organized its specialized communities allows the organization to respond to fluctuations in project requirements in real-time, upgrading or downgrading team levels as required for maximum efficiency.

Open Meeting Space

The organization is seeing productivity gains, thanks to its in-house services and amenities that save employees from leaving the premises, be it to grab a quick coffee or get a gadget fixed.


Scotiabank has also optimized its process and approach to customer needs. “The way we work and initiate a project or change is different,” observed Stewart. “We used to adopt the ‘waterfall’ approach of taking requirements upfront, and building solutions based on these requirements, along with fixed cost and resources. Now, our workflow is more dynamic and fluid, with the customer at the forefront, setting our priorities. The way we are set up allows us to be as nimble and quick as how customers’ opinions change, so we are able to deliver exactly what the customer wants and get returns early in the process.”

Scotiabank is just getting started. Harnessing key learnings and best practices from its five Digital Factories and cascading them throughout its network will only serve to elevate the bank’s digital capabilities, bring it increasingly closer to its 23 million customers worldwide – and put it ahead of the competition.

As Scotiabank strives to continually enhance customers’ banking experience, it is on a constant lookout for the brightest minds to take its digital platform to the next level. “We want people who take pride in their work and skillset, and in providing value. We want those who work not just for a paycheque, but for the ultimate goal of being the best at what they do. And we are committed to providing the right tools, environment and leadership to get our people to that level.”

And while it’s highly unusual for a bank to use its workspace as a lure for top talent, Scotiabank Digital Factory is proving to be a top recruiter.

Aspiring Jedi are encouraged to apply.