SVB says it remains committed to Canada as Barbara Dirks steps down

Barbara Dirks

Barbara Dirks, head of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) in Canada is stepping down from her role just four months after the bank was able to open its first Canadian headquarters.

Appointed as SVB’s Canadian lead in March 2018, Dirks spent the past year and a bit preparing the Toronto-based office.

As first reported by The Globe and Mail, and since confirmed by BetaKit, Dirks is leaving her position for personal reasons. She stated in an email to industry personnel on Thursday that she needs 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.” According to The Globe, Dirks will help with a transition and is set to leave SVB in the coming weeks.

While a search for her replacement is underway, Dirks’ responsibilities will be handled in the interim by John China, president of SVB Capital, who will resume his role as head office manager in Canada, SVB told BetaKit. Typically based in California, China ha sbeen with SVB since 1996 and manages SVB’s eight US regions, overseeing venture capital and private equity services, corporate venturing, early stage banking services, and more.

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Denis Nagasaki, director of strategy and operations for SVB Canada, who joined in 2018, will take on the role of principal officer for the Canadian division. A spokesperson for SVB, Julia Thompson, told BetaKit that China and Nagasaki had already been involved in the Canadian expansion “all along.”

Thompson also noted that both Win Bear, head of business development in Canada and Tony Barkett, managing director of SVB Canada, recently relocated to Toronto to join the local office. While both have reportedly been working on the Canadian expansion since SVB decided to make the move, it was within the last couple weeks that both officially moved to Canada as additional feet on the ground.

Establishing the Canadian team

Appointed as SVB’s Canadian lead in March 2018, Dirks spent the past year and a bit preparing the Toronto-based office after Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau authorized SVB to establish a lending branch in the country. Dirks worked on building out the Canadian expansion and team and it was announced in March 2019 that the bank had been granted a license to operate in Canada.

Earlier this year, Dirks spoke to BetaKit about SVB’s plans and strategy in the coming years. She noted that since receiving its license the bank has been able to hire people on the ground in Canada and is focused on building out its team, which currently stands around a dozen employees.

“It’s putting more relationship managers in market and not just in the younger tech accelerator kind of companies but in corporate finance area, in life sciences, and in our global funds,” Dirks said at the time. “We will look to expand in Canada, when and how many people, not exactly sure. But we first want to make sure that our headquarter offices are well established, at the same time setting up our banking function, making sure that the processes are really strong.”

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She stated that hiring and building out the team will continue to be SVB’s focus as it looks to become more highly engaged with the Canadian tech ecosystem. She also pointed to verticals that SVB Canada may be interested in growing in the region including energy, robotics, payments, and digital health verticals.

BetaKit reached out to SVB for comment regarding its plans now that Dirks has stepped down and Thompson stated that SVB’s “our plans are exactly the same and our commitments to the market remain unchanged.”

Prior to joining SVB, Dirks served as the senior VP of network and advisor strategy at RBC, in the field of personal and commercial banking. Previously, she was chief operations officer of the North American commercial banking group at the Bank of Montreal, where she worked in various roles for 15 years.

SVB has already been providing Canadian companies with venture debt for at least 13 years, including CareGuide, D2L, Freshbooks, Lightspeed, Drop, and Shopify, on a cross-border basis through its US operations. SVB has previously stated that it will continue to provide additional cross-border banking services to Canadian companies that have, or seek, a US presence.

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Senior Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.

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