The Canadian - Member Profile: Donna Carter

The Canadian - Summer 2016. Vol 16. Issue 03.

Member Profile - Donna Carter: PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE

By: Jeff. W. Richards



An extensive career in financial services with Manulife has taken Donna Cotter across Canada to Hong Kong—and now Tokyo. We asked her a few questions about her new position in Japan and getting involved with the CCCJ.

Where in Canada do you hail from?

Donna Carter: I grew up in North Bay, Ontario, a small city about four hours north of Toronto. After graduating high school, I went to university in Waterloo and Ottawa.

How long have you been working in Japan and what brought you here?

DC: I arrived in Japan in April 2015. I had been working in Hong Kong for more than five years when the opportunity to transfer here came up. Japan is a highly coveted posting, but there aren’t many opportunities for expats to come here compared with other countries, so I felt very fortunate and jumped at the chance.

You’re currently with Manulife. What’s your role with the company and how long have you been with them?

DC: Currently, I’m the vice president in charge of strategy and business development. I’m responsible for developing and overseeing the execution of our business strategy in Japan. I’ve been with Manulife for almost 14 years, and have worked across Canada, Hong Kong and Japan.

What do you find most challenging about your current position?

DC: I’m a firm believer that business strategy has to start with the customer. Coming in, I had to try and understand how Japanese consumers think and behave— especially as it relates to financial services. It’s been fascinating, however. And it reinforced for me that businesses cannot just assume that a strategy or model that worked in one market will work in another.

What do you find most rewarding about it?

DC: First, what I do can have a significant impact on our company results. Japan is a very important market for Manulife, so when we succeed here, it has a global impact on customers, staff and shareholders. Second, I love learning about different cultures and trying to understand what makes a culture and its people the way they are. Through my job, I have the opportunity to delve deep into certain issues— such as retirement and the aging
population—that I find really fascinating. People are the same yet different everywhere. And third, done right, strategy considers all aspects of a business to find what propositions have the greatest chance of success in the future. It’s about balancing vision, competitive differentiation and customer value with economic value, operational practicality, market forces and risk management.

Manulife has been a long-time sponsor of the CCCJ. How would you like to see the chamber evolve?

DC: Canadian chambers of commerce around the world have a reputation for being very active members of the communities in which they operate and are often disproportionately large compared to the size of Canada. The CCCJ has an opportunity to be this in Japan as well. In Hong Kong and Indonesia, for example, the Canadian chambers of commerce are amongst the largest in their communities, have members from all over the world and host some of the largest events of the year.

How could the chamber support your work or your company’s objectives?

DC: The chamber should continue to provide a platform for its members to explore and discuss timely and relevant issues with other Canadian and Japanese companies and peers. As it expands its membership, the CCCJ will become increasingly valuable to companies like Manulife since it’s better able to explore a range of topics with a membership that has diverse views.

What chamber activities have you been involved with?

DC: I’ve supported the chamber with participation in trade mission events and events exploring diversity issues in the workplace.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

DC: My 9-year-old twin daughters keep my husband and I busy on weekends. When not keeping up with them, we like to explore Tokyo and beyond. In the winter, skiing in Japan is fantastic!

Tell us one thing people would be surprised to know about you...

DC: Growing up, I was a competitive figure skater. This kept me busy before and after school for most of my school years.

What’s your favorite Japanese saying?

DC: I’m still struggling with my Japanese, but I like the phrase shouganai (“it can’t be helped”) because I think it gives very interesting insight into a uniquely Japanese attitude. This is something that we see very little of in the West, where people typically want to feel like they have control over all aspects of their lives.


The Canadian - Summer 2016. Vol 16. Issue 03.

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