Keynote Speaker

Catherine Philogène, CIM, RIPC

Vice President, Product Management, RBC Global Asset Management Inc.

Catherine has over 20 years of experience in the investment funds industry. At RBC Global Asset Management (RBC GAM), she is responsible for the execution and communication of new product initiatives within the individual investor business. Catherine is also a passionate champion for Responsible Investment and works closely with the investment and distribution teams on initiatives related to the integration of Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) factors and Socially Responsible Investing (SRI).

Prior to joining RBC GAM in 2009 as a Portfolio Specialist covering a number of strategies including fixed income, ESG and SRI, she spent seven years at Phillips, Hager & North in their direct-to-investor business.

Active in her community, Catherine is Vice-Chair of the Whitby Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Committee and a member of the uOttawa Toronto Alumni Council connecting with students interested in a career in finance. She also helps lead an RBC partnership with the Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), and for the last two years has been mentoring newcomers to Canada.

In 2019, Catherine was shortlisted for the Diversity Ambassador of the Year at the inaugural Women in Finance Awards Canada.

Catherine has a Master of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music and Bachelor of Music from the University of Ottawa. Catherine holds the Canadian Investment Manager (CIM) designation as well as the Responsible Investment Professional Certification (RIPC).


Janet L. Ecker, C.M., ICD.D, former President & Founding CEO, Toronto Financial Services Alliance

Janet L. Ecker is the former President and founding CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA), a concept she turned into an influential public-private partnership dedicated to building Toronto as an international financial services centre. With government and industry support, she also established the Global Risk Institute in Financial Services to leverage the sector’s global reputation for stability, as well as the Centre of Excellence in Financial Services Education to capitalize on the region’s talent advantages. The Centre was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a best practice in collaborative public-private partnerships.  

Under her leadership, TFSA also led several other successful collaborations among governments and the financial sector, including Canada’s bid to become the North American trading hub for the Chinese currency, the Renminbi and the first public-private sector pilot projects in work-integrated-learning and cybersecurity.

A former Minister of Finance for Ontario, Canada’s largest province, and the first woman to deliver a budget in the province, Ms Ecker also delivered significant public policy reforms during her political career as Minister of Education, Minister of Community and Social Services and Government House Leader. Before entering public life, Ms. Ecker was the Director of Policy for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the doctors’ regulatory body and was the first non-physician to hold the position.

A frequent public speaker and media commentator, she currently sits on a wide range of public and private sector boards, agencies and government advisory committees and is a Senior Fellow of the C.D. Howe Institute and a member of its National Council.

In 2016 she received the Order of Canada for public service, in recognition of her contributions in the financial sector and in her political life.  She also received the “Excellence in Leadership” award from the Transformation Institute for Leadership and Innovation in 2014, a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for public service in 2012 and was recognized as one of the “Most Influential People in the World’s Financial Centres” by Financial Centres International in 2010.  She also received one of “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award” from the Women’s Executive Network and the Richard Ivey School of Business in 2003.  Ms. Ecker is one of the founders of Equal Voice, a national, multi-partisan organization working to elect more women.


Hon Scott Brison P.C., Vice-Chair Investment & Corporate Banking at BMO Capital Markets

The Honourable Scott Brison joined BMO as Vice-Chair, Investment & Corporate Banking in 2019. As an elected Member of Parliament, Scott served the constituency of Kings-Hants (Nova Scotia) who elected him to Canada’s House of Commons seven consecutive times over 21 years. During that time he served in government for seven years holding key roles, most recently as President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government from 2015 to 2019, Minister of Public Works and Government Services from 2004 to 2006, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with special emphasis on Canada-U.S. relations from 2003 to 2004.

In June 2020, Mr. Brison became Dalhousie University’s eighth chancellor.

Mr. Brison is a member of the Trilateral Commission and was named by the World Economic Forum of Davos, Switzerland, as one of its "Young Global Leaders." In August 2010, he was awarded the Order of San Carlos by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe in recognition of his contributions to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Mr. Brison serves on the board of Bond Resources Inc., the Canada-China Business Council, the Dalhousie University Board of Governors, the Macdonald Stewart Foundation, CJPAC, the advisory board of the Canadian American Business Council and previously served as Chairman of SeaFort Capital Inc.

Mr. Brison earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Dalhousie University. He has completed the Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st Century Executive Education Program at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

Alex McCann

Executive Director of ONSIDE

Alexandra “Alex” McCann is the Executive Director of ONSIDE, the Organization for Nova Scotia Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship, a not-for-profit organization leveraging collective impact to foster a prosperous Nova Scotia through inclusive innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE). Born out of a two-year long engagement with the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), ONSIDE aims to convene, connect and catalyze the IDE ecosystem in Nova Scotia.  

Previous to this role, Alexandra was the Chief Operating Officer for Dockside Investcoa Nova Scotia-based portfolio management company; as well as the CEO for Baie Run Pet Products, a natural products start-up, focused on pet wellness including, omega3s and supplements sold in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, Alexandra has been an Investment Attraction lead for Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) covering clean tech, ocean tech, life sciences, as well as bioresources, agri-foods and seafoods. She has also held positions with the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im Bank) in Asset Management, as well as the Office of Renewable Energy & Environmental Exports, focused on global infrastructure, structured and project finance.   

Alexandra McCann holds an MA in Pacific Asian Studies from the University of London, School of Oriental African Studies (SOAS) and a double BA from the University of Virginia in Asian Studies and AnthropologyAlex is a Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) and a member of the Board of Governors at the University of Kings College. Alex is also on the board of the Inspirit Foundationwhich promotes an inclusive and pluralistic Canadaboth on the Equity Committee and the Impact Investment Committee. Alex is obsessed with saving handwriting, enjoys travel, politics, and sampling all of Nova Scotia’s culinary delights! 

Martha Casey

Chief Executive Officer, Volta

Martha is Volta’s Chief Executive Officer. Martha joined Volta in 2018 as Chief Operating Officer. Before Volta, Martha was the Chief of Staff and Executive Director in the President’s Office at Dalhousie University, where she was the project manager for Nova Scotia’s participation in the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program and worked with stakeholders from across the province to support inclusive economic growth. She also worked in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration over two terms before returning to live in Halifax. Martha has held leadership roles in organizational change, project oversight, and economic development. She currently sits on the boards of directors for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and has volunteered with a number of organizations aimed at building confidence and competence in girls, supporting new immigrants’ entry to the workforce, and economic capacity building. Martha holds an MPA from New York University, an LLB from Dalhousie, and a BA from Bishop’s University.

Panel Moderator: Alyse Hand, Anchor, Global News

A proud Maritimer, Alyse has worked in television for over a decade as a reporter, producer, anchor, co-host, and weather anchor. Alyse spent the majority of her career at CTV Atlantic, before stepping away from television to take on a public relations role in 2018. She returned to the airwaves in 2019 as co-anchor of Global News Morning.

Alyse was born and raised in Bedford, N.S. She studied at Dalhousie University and Acadia University before settling in at Nova Scotia Community College to pursue broadcast journalism.




Workshop Leaders: Diversity Stream





Rohini Bannerjee,
Professor, Saint Mary's University

Dr. Rohini Bannerjee, born and raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, daughter of immigrants from Himachal Pradesh, India, is an Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies in the Department of Modern Languages & Classics at Saint Mary's University. Rohini is a woman scholar of colour who serves as a Faculty Member in the Asian Studies and Graduate Women & Gender Studies programs and as Graduate Coordinator for the International Development Studies program. Rohini’s primary research focuses on the literatures and cultures of the Francophone Indian Ocean. She is currently President of the Saint Mary's University Faculty Union and Vice-Chair of Senate.



Loreli Buenaventura, Head of Learning, Talent and Diversity & Inclusion for HSBC Canada

Loreli Buenaventura has advanced the inclusion goals of leading Canadian organizations at the community, national and global levels, including KPMG, Scotiabank and RBC.  She also helped launch TRIEC’s Mentoring Partnership Program – recipient of the Canadian Urban Institute Award for Leadership in City Initiatives, and often draws from her seasoned early career in media and public relations.  Currently, Loreli is Head of Learning, Talent and Diversity & Inclusion for HSBC Canada and an Associate with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI), working with HR and business leaders to integrate inclusion, innovation and diversity of thought as a strategic advantage.

An inspired collaborator, Loreli specializes in inclusive leadership development, change management, innovation and inclusion communications, the latter based on an established early career in media and public relations. A seasoned bilingual speaker, she is recognized for dynamic presentations that have motivated audiences to catalyze for positive change. As a freelance writer, her works have appeared in The Globe and Mail, CBC Radio and Body and Soul magazine. Loreli holds a Masters of Arts degree in Sociology and Equity Studies from the University of Toronto and is a professional coach currently completing her Accredited Coach Certification with the International Coach Federation. 

Loreli is also passionate about holistic health and in aligning individuals to their life purpose. She is one of few practitioners in Canada certified to provide health and lifestyle counseling in Ayurveda – one of the world's oldest medical and healing systems which dates back to India more than 3,000 years. Originally from Winnipeg, Loreli currently resides in Toronto where she also supports the overall health, life and career goals of students and clients alike through her private practice in Yoga, Ayurveda and professional coaching.



Beth McCormack, MBA
Academic Chair, NSCC

Beth McCormack is currently an Academic Chair with the School of Business and Creative Industries at NSCC’s Ivany campus. Prior to this role, she was a Community Innovation Lead where she had the opportunity to work with local companies and assist them with exploring opportunities to work with NSCC in a variety of capacities including applied research, training, student and graduate employment and more.  Beth was also the Industry Liaison Officer and Manager of Entrepreneurship at NSCC.  

Previous to her work at NSCC, Beth assisted entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia with the start-up and continued operations of their businesses and has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs in a variety of fields including food services, legal, accounting, trades, animal care, health and wellness and more. Beth also has 10+ years’ experience working in corporations including Emera and Imperial Oil.  

Having been raised in in an entrepreneurial family in rural Nova Scotia, Beth has since gone on to obtain an undergraduate degree in Business from Acadia University and an MBA from Saint Mary’s University.  



Eni-Oto Toluwani Familusi, MFIN

Eni-Oto is the host of The Walk Through podcast. After graduating with Master of Finance program from Saint Mary’s university, Eni-Oto has been educating herself to ensure she stays relevant by taking Wall Street Prep courses. She is passionate about volunteering and currently, she volunteers as a student Ambassador at BNI: Business Network International, Bedford And Beyond chapter.

Workshop Leaders: Venture Capital and Financial Technology






Ellen Farrell, PhD
Professor, Sobey School of Business

Dr. Ellen Farrell is Professor in the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University, and Co-director of the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship & Innovation (MTEI) degree.  She is a scholar, a professor, an entrepreneur, an investor, a recipient of venture capital, and a creator of theory-backed action plans.  Having studied at the University of Nottingham, her research specialties are in venture capital and entrepreneurial ecosystem network theory. 

Dr. Farrell is one of the six-person founding team for the Master Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation, SMU’s Venture Capital Program, and the undergrad Entrepreneurship degrees at SMU.  Her work with business angels, leading a team of scholars in a network theory overview of knowledge creation and venture capital in the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the same time the region was recognized as the world’s leading ecosystem in the Activation Phase by Start-up Genome in 2019.  Her current work with high-performing women seeking venture capital is expected to change the way entrepreneurship is taught. 

Ellen is most recently recognized for leading the Venture Grade: Student VC Fund to a first place tie, and a second-place finish (undergraduate students) at the international Venture Capital Investment Competitions in Boston.  Students beat Yale, Dartmouth, Babson, NYU, Tufts and MIT. 

She has been the recipient of the Reverend William A. Stewart Medal for Teaching Excellence, SMU’s top teaching award, and she was twice recognized as one of the top-five mentors in Canada awarded by the Business Development Bank of Canada. 

Ellen is an evangelist for an entrepreneurial economy in the Atlantic Region by initiating key conferences such as the Early Stage Venture Capital: Workshop for Policy Makers and numerous Entrepreneurial Ecosystem conferences that spawned insight and change in the region.


Danielle Brewin Graham
Principal at Sandpiper Ventures

Danielle is a co-founder and Investment Principal at Sandpiper Ventures, the first all women-founded VC fund in Canada, unlocking women's capital for women-led teams. She is also a Venture Partner within the Archangel Network of Funds. 

Danielle has been active in the tech ecosystem, first as a consultant for Deloitte and then as the Women in Tech Manager for Communitech and Market Readiness Fund Manager for OCE. Danielle founded the Fierce Founders programs, the first female-focused accelerator and bootcamp series in Canada. 

Danielle holds a Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Wilfrid Laurier University, a Masters of Arts (M.A.) from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from Trinity College, University of Toronto.   


Eva Lau
Founding Partner, Two Small Fish Ventures

Eva is a well-respected entrepreneur-turned-investor and one of the few women leading a venture fund in Canada. She is the Founding Partner of Two Small Fish Ventures, a venture fund that invests globally in early-stage, transformative tech companies with strong network effects. 
Before starting Two Small Fish Ventures, she was Wattpad’s Head of Community and Content. She helped nurture and scale Wattpad from its infancy to become one of the largest online communities with tens of millions of monthly users around the world. With a sharp focus on investing companies with strong network effect as their defensibility, Eva has created the ASSET framework that many entrepreneurs and accelerators have adopted in their developing business strategies. Eva is regarded as an expert in this area. 

Eva is also involved in many incubators and accelerators, such as Creative Destruction Lab at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery, Ryerson’s DMZ, University of Waterloo’s Velocity and Techstars.? 

Eva has a bachelor degree in Industrial Engineering from University of Toronto and an MBA from Schulich School of Business. 


Holly Foxall, MTEI'20
Peer Ledger Inc.; Founder, We Worthy Women

Holly Foxall is an optimist and a feminist, and believes that her time and energy is best spent working on initiatives that have a positive impact on the world.? 

Holly graduated from Queen’s University with a B.Sc. in Environmental Science, and recently completed a Masters in Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation at Saint Mary’s University, where she wrote her thesis on gender and entrepreneurship funding. Holly currently works at Peer Ledger - a female-founded technology start up that helps companies track and report human rights initiatives, climate change metrics, and responsible sourcing along their supply chain. 

Holly is incredibly passionate about gender equality and women empowerment, and is the co-founder of a non-profit called We Worthy Women. With a community of over 10,000 members, We Worthy Women encourages individuals to empower themselves and each other, and highlights issues that are relevant to the rights of women and girls around the world. We Worthy Women was started with the understanding that the empowerment of women through full and equal participation and representation has a direct impact on the sustainable growth, prosperity, and peace of a society.? 

Holly is excited to continue pursuing her passion for gender equality and women empowerment through research and community-based initiatives at We Worthy Women and beyond.? 


Mrugakshee Palwe
CEO and Co-Founder, Atlantic Blockchain Company Inc.

Mrugakshee is a Tech Entrepreneur and the co-creator of Go Full Crypto. After graduating with a computer science degree in 2018, Mrugakshee knew that entrepreneurship was her calling. She started a company in November of 2018 that led to the formation of Go Full Crypto in 2020 - a financial technology product simplifying the adoption of cryptocurrency. 

Stephanie Fitzner

Stephanie Fitzner
Consultant, Operations Transformation, Deloitte

Stephanie is a management consultant in Deloitte's Operations Transformation practice in Halifax with experience in the finance industry, including corporate banking, portfolio management and venture capital. She has worked with a range of financial services and public sector clients to help them develop strategy and improve operations.

Stephanie received her Bachelor of Commerce with majors in Finance and Economics from Saint Mary's University in 2018.

Stephanie is also a board-member for Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia and gives voice to JA Alumni and current participants.

Workshop Leaders: Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental / Social / Governance





Meghan Brodmann, MBA'20
Consultant, Common Good Solutions

Meghan Brodmann is a Consultant at Common Good Solutions, a social enterprise based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. She works firsthand with clients to build capacity and develop purpose-led solutions through business and community developmentMeghan is passionate about social enterprise and social innovation’s potential to transform systems and create a more just world. She has supported a variety of organizations that seek to have positive social impact, including the United Way as a Youth Board Member, Net Impact as a Chapter Leader and has been actively involved with planning the Sobey Women in Business Conference! Meghan holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Development from Dalhousie University and an MBA from Saint Mary’s University.  


Sarah Chapman
Global Head of Sustainablity, Manulife

Sarah Chapman has just assumed the role of Global Head of Sustainability at Manulife. Formerly, Sarah was a Director within Deloitte’s Sustainability and Social Impact advisory practice, and led the National Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability team within Deloitte Canada. With extensive experience across the US and the Asia-Pacific region, Sarah specializes in building innovative purpose-driven, social impact strategies and programs that create shared economic and societal value. Sarah has a PhD in Corporate Responsibility, Social Impact and Shared Value. She is on the Board of Volunteer Canada and serves as the Co-Chair of the Canadian Council of Volunteering. Sarah also chairs the Toronto Impact 2030 Council.   


David Upton
CEO, Common Good Solutions

David Upton is the CEO of Common Good Solutions and Social Enterprise Institute, businesses that support entrepreneurs, organizations and governments make their mark on the world, helping them achieve their ultimate social, cultural or environmental impact. He works with community partners and stakeholders to build capacity in the social enterprise ecosystem provincially, nationally and internationally and believes social enterprise has the power to change the social fabric of communities for the better.

In his more than 30 years working with community-based organizations, David co-founded Common Good Solutions, became a founding member of the Social Enterprise Network of Nova Scotia, and was appointed as a member of the national Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy Co-creation Steering Group. He is a member of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Social Innovation Committee, and has taught social finance as an adjunct faculty member in the University of Fredericton MBA Program. 



Alexandra McCann
Executive Director, ONSIDE

Alexandra “Alex” McCann is the Executive Director of ONSIDE, the Organization for Nova Scotia Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship, a not-for-profit organization leveraging collective impact to foster a prosperous Nova Scotia through inclusive innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE). Born out of a two-year long engagement with the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), ONSIDE aims to convene, connect and catalyze the IDE ecosystem in Nova Scotia.

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