Quarterback model supports enterprise digital initiatives at Royal Bank of Canada

Model makes the process streamlined and efficient for business partners

Quarterback model supports enterprise digital initiatives at Royal Bank of Canada
Alison Wilkie leads the Digital & Ventures legal team at RBC

As Royal Bank of Canada increases its portfolio of digital banking products, the bank’s Digital & Ventures legal team has developed a unique model for working with digital teams to ensure new projects can be brought to market as quickly as possible. The “quarterback model” allows a single lead lawyer to be embedded in the project team throughout the life of the project to provide a single source of legal expertise.

The assigned quarterback participates in planning meetings, sprint reviews and refinement sessions throughout the life of the project, allowing them to work closely with the team and identify legal issues as soon as they arise.

“We’re really focused on taking all manner of traditional banking products and transforming them to ensure we can deliver them in a digital way,” says Alison Wilkie (pictured above), senior counsel, RBC law group, and leader of the six-person Digital & Ventures legal team. This transformation process addresses a wide variety of traditional banking products, from client onboarding and account applications to credit card applications.

The quarterback is also able to bring certain issues to a subject matter expert within the legal team when necessary, if specific advice is needed for a complex privacy matter or a marketing issue, for example.

“The projects tend to be quite complex,” says Wilkie. “Our business partners find the model is really efficient because it streamlines the team that needs to get involved so you don’t need to have five lawyers on a project, for example.” Through this model, subject-matter experts are able to focus on issues specifically focused to their expertise, without the need to attend every meeting.

Wilkie says the quarterback also benefits from this model as it allows them to develop expertise in new areas.

The Digital & Ventures legal team – which recently formed when lawyers from the ventures team joined forced with lawyers who work on digital initiatives to pool their expertise – also focuses on emerging technology, including AI regulation and the growth of digital assets. In addition to monitoring Canadian developments in AI regulation, the team also monitors the potential impacts on Canada of regulations in other jurisdictions.  

“Our focus is on ensuring that RBC tools that incorporate AI are flexible so we can adapt to regulation as it develops,” says Wilkie.

Wilkie’s team is also part of a cross-functional team at RBC that meets to talk about industry developments and different market approaches in terms of digital assets. The team is currently working on a risk framework to help RBC’s business partners as they consider potential projects and evaluate opportunities in the digital asset space.

The Digital & Ventures legal team is also working on a wide range of other initiatives including digital ID and open banking, as well as monitoring data and privacy issues.

“We are really fortunate to be part of an organization that recognizes the need to have lawyers available to help with emerging legal risks,” says Wilkie. “We’re really focused on working collaboratively and sharing learnings with other colleagues because digital legal skills are going to be a part of every lawyer’s toolkit as things develop.”

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