Ping Pong Playing CEO
It’s never an exact science figuring out which students will become leaders in their fields, but if Rania Llewellyn (BComm’94, MBA’96) is any example, there could be a positive correlation between how well undergrads plays table tennis and their career success.
“I was a pretty good ping pong player even before I came to Canada,” says Llewellyn with a laugh over the phone from her office in Toronto. Once arriving at Saint Mary’s from Cairo in 1992, she became an even better player, winning more than her fair share of matches against friends at the Tower’s tables. Today, the mother of two is President and CEO of Roynat Capital, a Scotiabank subsidiary that provides non-traditional financing solutions to Canadian mid-market businesses.
Now maybe it’s a coincidence that an excellent recreational table tennis player became a successful banking executive, but then again, there’s something to be said for the value of exploring what’s outside the classroom.
“My key advice to students is to try to get involved in on-campus things,” says Llewellyn. “It creates opportunities for people to start thinking strategically, thinking differently. University is not just about the classes you take. It’s the experience, it’s the journey.”
She was born in Kuwait, but in 1987 her family moved to Egypt, where she eventually finished high school and began studying business administration at the American University in Cairo. In 1992, the family moved to Halifax and Llewellyn enrolled at Saint Mary’s. Four years later, she had a Bachelor of Commerce degree and an MBA in her hands. After working briefly in a coffee shop, she got a job as a teller at a local Scotiabank and soon joined the Commercial Banking Center in Halifax. She later moved to Toronto with her husband, Sean (who is also a Saint Mary’s alumnus and works at Scotiabank), to work with the corporate bank at Scotia Capital.
Over the next few years she held progressively senior roles and played a critical role in launching a multicultural banking business platform. In 2010 she joined Roynat Capital as Senior Vice-President and head of their distribution network where she oversaw the Canadian sales team and set strategies to achieve growth targets and business objectives. A year and a half ago she became President and CEO.
Llewellyn says she might not have been as successful were it not for the guidance of two key professors at Saint Mary’s. One was Dr. Julia Sagebien, who taught marketing.
“Her teaching was a life-changing experience and a critical part of my training, in terms of the importance of marketing and understanding your consumer,” says Llewellyn. The other was Dr. Mahmoud Moh’d, who taught her corporate finance. “He was really instrumental in me coming back and doing my MBA. He was the one that got me interested in corporate finance, analyzing companies and figuring out enterprise value and looking at cash flow.”
“One thing I tell all students is to be passionate about what you do because then you’ll do well at it,” she says. “It’s also important to meet as many people as you can, get yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone.”
A few trips to the ping pong table might just help, too.