Arkadi Kuhlmann says his journey towards success began at Western University many years ago and the skills and knowledge he attained on campus has carried him through his life and his career.
“A new chapter in your journey in life begins and I wish for you to embrace it with hope, dreams and above all humility,” says Kuhlmann, who was then Chairman, President and CEO of ING Direct USA. “Everyday events in our lives will change our journey, shape our journey and bring us stories which shape our lives and, in turn, define our humanity. Leave society in a better place than you found it.” In 2012, he founded Zenbanx, a financial technology company that offers a mobile multi-currency account for people who live, work or travel across borders.
Kuhlmann spoke to about 600 graduates from the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies, the Faculty of Law, the Ivey Business School and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry (DDS) at the June 18, 2010 afternoon session of Western's 295th Convocation.
The university conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) upon Kuhlmann in recognition of his contributions as one of the world’s most important business thinkers, putting forward new approaches to business strategies and management.
Kuhlmann is an imaginative and creative leader whose intuition and marketing genius helped transform the banking industry around the world. In his leadership roles at ING Direct in Canada and the United States, Kuhlmann has made an outstanding contribution to business by challenging the existing banking industry and showing drive and determination in the face of adversity.
Initially, he occupied teaching positions at Ivey and McGill University, but he soon joined the Royal Bank of Canada in 1977, becoming a Vice President by the age of 33. After graduation, his experience included both high-level corporate and academic positions.
He also served as President of North American Trust and Chief Executive Officer of Deak International Incorporated. In June 1996, Kuhlmann joined ING as President charged with starting up the first ING Direct in Canada. Following this successful launch, he embarked upon the launch of ING Direct USA in September 2000.
Kuhlmann also plays an active role with several charities. He served as Chair of the Board with Plan Canada (formerly Foster Parents Plan Canada), and was Honorary Chair of the More Than Houses Campaign for Habitat for Humanity. He also currently serves as Chair of the ING Direct Kids Foundation and is the ING Direct US ambassador for ING Chances for Children.
In her citation, Ivey Dean Carol Stephenson called Kuhlmann one who champions taking the road less travelled and challenging the status quo.
“Through teaching and mentorship in the classroom, business and life, Kuhlmann has inspired people to look for different opportunities and follow the less beaten path to career and life success,” says Stephenson. “A significant element of Kuhlmann’s legacy and impact on the world is the reminder that businesses and individuals need to give back to society.”
Kuhlmann told graduates life is a journey of learning and taking chances, and encouraged them to stay true to their values and never to sell out, as real success will only come from giving back at every opportunity.
“You have finished your studies here at Western and are now ready to make that chapter happen for yourselves,” he says. “You now have the tool kit to fulfill ideas and ambitions. May you stay curious in life; passionate about the opportunities; never stop dreaming about the impossible; forget not what lessons you have learned from these great faculty members; and, I trust you will meet tomorrow’s sunrise with a lot of confidence.”
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