– Words by Lauren Kramer Photography by Lia Crowe
From her office at BlueShore Financial’s headquarters in North Vancouver, Diane Dou can see Vancouver’s famous Lions Gate Bridge and her adopted city of the past 23 years. As the credit union’s chief experience officer, she leads its Wealth Management, Solution Centre and branch network strategy and operations.
It’s a broad role that calls for a strategic mindset, innovative thinking and a compassionate leadership style, but Diane loves her work and is excited about the future of BlueShore.
Her life has changed significantly since she first left China for Vancouver in 2000. In her late 20s at the time, Diane had little grasp of English and no friends or family in Canada. She rented a room in a basement and spent her first eight months trying to find work.
“Travel wasn’t foreign to me because I’d worked in the airline industry in China,” she reflects. “But I realized quickly that traveling somewhere as a visitor and moving to a place to build a new life are two entirely different things.”
Diane began to settle down after she secured a job as a software engineer and data architect at HSBC. Over the next three years, she realized her preference was business rather than information technology. So, when a manager gave her a chance to transition from one to the other, Diane jumped at the opportunity. In her new position, she used banking transaction data to form a customer engagement strategy.
“That was a breaking point in my career—the realization of how powerful technology could be for the banking industry,” she said. “I realized I could add value, influence and deliver impact on something I was passionate about, and my career took off quite quickly.”
Diane’s passion involved using customer transaction data to reveal the emotional side of finance management and using this information to design and implement banking solutions that would help manage customers’ journeys and their life events more effectively.
“Financial services is an emotion-driven industry,” she reflects. “It’s a business about compassion and helping people manage their financial health and wellness—one of the most intimate and foundational things in life. But the industry as a whole is more focused on transactions, efficiencies, revenue and profit building. Most banks forget to examine the pattern of struggle and success that customers go through.”
With her background as a data architect, Diane could easily read the financial transactions to trace the emotional journey the bank’s clients were taking. She made it her mission to create strategies that could help customers navigate that emotional journey and create positive impacts in their financial lives. She continues this mission today at BlueShore Financial.
As a woman, particularly a Chinese woman, on the rise in the banking and financial sector, Diane quickly attracted attention. Chinese media requested interviews, asking her to share her story of success in a new country. Diane complied but tempers the narrative by pointing out that she counts herself extremely lucky.
“The leadership I worked under helped me by giving me the opportunity to spread my wings,” she notes. “There are many talented immigrants in this country, but people don’t always recognize their potential or give them a chance to shine.”
Diane is remarkable among those immigrants for her tenacity and determination. While working at HSBC, she studied for a Master’s degree in business administration at Simon Fraser University—pregnant with her son at the time. It was a challenging experience that required juggling work and study with the demands of marriage, and she admits it was tough to keep all the balls in the air at once.
“When you’re chasing your career and figuring out who you are in a new country, you become a different person,” she reflects. “I came from a traditional Chinese background where women tend to focus on the home, and as my career took off, it impacted my marriage.”
Diane became a single mother when her son was two years old. But nothing slowed her down.
She spent 16 years at HSBC, eventually becoming chief operating officer for the company’s retail banking and wealth management division. She made the transition to the credit union sector when she joined Prospera Credit Union, and later served as Ernst & Young Canada’s western Canada market leader for financial services, where she led the consulting practice for regional banks, credit unions, private capital firms and wealth management firms.
In early 2023 she joined BlueShore Financial where she drives the retail and wealth management strategy for the credit union.
“My job is to lead the distribution channel that delivers specific results according to our clients’ needs,” she explains. “My role is all about the client experience and the type of experience we can offer clients to support their life stage, financial needs and aspirations. We design a premium experience and curate it to suit each individual with the goal of building financial health, financial well-being and financial resilience into people’s lives.”
BlueShore’s branch experience is uniquely inspired by the West Coast, using music, lighting, décor, aromatherapy and even a concierge to foster a Zen-like experience across its 12 branches, which are spread between Vancouver, Burnaby, the North Shore and the Sea-to-Sky Corridor.
As she embraces her new position, Diane has high ambitions.
“I want BlueShore to continue to be known as one of the few financial institutions that are focused on emotional banking,” she says. “But it’s also crucial that BlueShore is very cutting edge and innovative in how we deliver an experience in both a physical and a digital space. We aim to treat people the way they want to be treated.”
That’s a message that Diane brings into her volunteer work, too. A longtime volunteer in vulnerable communities that include women and girls suffering from domestic violence, refugees and other less fortunate populations, she volunteers for multiple non-profit organizations located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This summer, she is cooking and serving free lunch at the Union Gospel Mission with her son.
“I firmly believe one should lead by example, with compassion,” she says. “I want my son to understand that we have a privileged life, and that we should use that privilege to help others.”