By Lauren Strapagiel
Four Ryerson MBA students have won $20,000 and recognition for the university in the 2009 RBC Next Great Innovator Challenge.
“I’m so proud that we’re from Ryerson and we won this,” said Omega4 team member Jonathan Chiriboga, 26. “There are some schools that see us as a second-rate school.”
Chiriboga, together with Binh Lu, Carey Gibson and Suzana Fabian, took the grand prize in the competition, beating out contestants from the Rotman School of Management, the Schulich School of Business and the University of Waterloo.
This is the second year in a row Ryerson students have won, and the third year of the competition.
Contestants were asked to, “Suggest an innovative concept, product or process from another region or different industry that Canadian financial services providers should adopt.”
For their entry, Omega4 proposed the Lifelong Electronic Oracle, or L.E.O., a personal virtual financial advisor.
L.E.O., also the name of RBC’s feline mascot, would be able to provide personalized answers to customers on RBC’s website in their own language, plus have the ability to quickly connect them to in-branch personnel.
Gibson, 37, said that the team was looking to bridge the gap between the customer and the bank.
He said they wanted to focus on young people and busy professionals who already do a lot of banking online.
They also wanted to eliminate some of the pitfalls of current customer service practices, such as frequent PIN inputs online.
“They did a terrific job of picking client oriented innovations,” said Tim Hanlon, manager of technology innovations at RBC.
He said that interactive services like L.E.O. are the direction customer service is moving towards in all industries. Hanlon said in the last two years, both of Ryerson’s winning teams stood out for their diversity and excellent presentations.
“The students really engaged with the process and the competition,” said Hanlon. “Not just to win, but to do good work.”
Hanlon said Ryerson’s faculty was also a great aid to the contestants, Omega4 entered the competition for their class Global Technology Marktes taught by professor Ron Babin.
Babin, along with associate dean James Norrie, helped the team add some falir to their presentation. Instructor Julia Smith helped the team move past their first idea of creating a YouTube-style site with instructional videos.
Gibson hopes their win will show off Ryerson’s strong graduate programs, something he thinks the late Ted Rogers would have appreciated.
He remembers when Rogers held an MBA appreciation day and took the time to speak one on one with MBA students.
“He really said that he had a special in the heart for Ryerson,” said Gibson.
“We’re just so proud that as an MBA program we’re doing so well,” said Chiriboga. “It’s another notch in our belt.”
Omega4 has some advice for any students looking to defend Ryerson’s honour in next year’s competition.
“Pick good people to work with. Understand each others strengths and encourage those strengths,” said Lu, 33.
“Dont let the money be your focus, that’s going to distract you,” said Chiriboga. He said the future contestants should think of the prize as the icing on the cake, and to focus on the journey.
“Do it for Ryerson!” added Gibson.
The Omega4 team members divvied up the prize money evenly, with each person getting $5,000.
Lu plans to put the money back into tuition, while the recently married Chiriboga is putting the money towards buying his own house.
Registration for this year’s competition begin in September. Interested students looking for more info should go to rbc.com/innovator.