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Meet our leaders: a conversation with Peter Jaeggin

The summer of 2018, First National welcomed Peter Jaeggin to its leadership team. A 23-year technology industry veteran, Peter leads our Information Technology group as Vice President. Given the important role he plays, we thought it was an opportune time to learn more about Peter and the defences First National has mounted to protect First National and its data from cybercrime.

Peter, why did you choose to join First National?

I chose First National because it’s a leader in the mortgage industry. I know the industry well, but from the perspective of working as a vendor rather than working at a financial institution. I thought it would be an exciting professional challenge to switch sides.  

Where did you work previously?

Before I joined First National, I was at Newton Connectivity Systems and its predecessor company, Marlborough Stirling Canada, for 14 years, most recently as VP Technology & Operations. During my time there, I was fortunate enough to be involved in, and gain hands-on experience in, many IT functions, from infrastructure and network management to application development; to wear many different hats, including business analyst, developer, and project manager; and to be able to engage with the mortgage lender and broker clients that we served.

Now that you are at First National, what are your goals?

My priority is to ensure First National remains at the leading edge, not the bleeding edge, of technology in our industry. That means staying ahead of our peers but doing so without resorting to the use of unproven technologies.  We are, after all, a large financial institution that hundreds of thousands of customers and partners rely on and we have to apply a due amount of caution while continuing to innovate for our customers.  

Is the First National IT team able to fulfill this mandate?

Absolutely. We have a great team of very capable professionals – systems administrators, application providers, programmers, QA and a well-staffed and motivated help desk – all backed by a proven structure that is running quite smoothly.  What we look to do going forward is to harness the power of the team, which now numbers close to 70, to become an even stronger partner to the rest of the business. Satisfying business needs, staying current and moving ahead in the technology arena – and doing so safely – are all part of our mandate and I’m confident we will deliver.

You mentioned the importance of safety, which leads to the fact that October is National Cybersecurity Month. Why is there a month devoted to this topic?

To bring awareness to the fact that there are a lot of bad actors out there; criminals who are intent on stealing personal information, hacking systems and committing fraud against our customers and First National. Remember cybercrime is a relatively new problem and it’s absolutely essential to be well versed in the best security measures and ever vigilant if we are going to thwart these criminals.

What is your objective in marking this occasion with the broader First National team?

I think it’s vitally important that we all recognize not only what technology can do for us but what it can do to and against us. We conduct so much of our lives electronically now and it’s easy to become complacent, to let our guard down, to click on an attachment without thinking, or to set up a weak password, and the consequences can be devastating. If your personal information is compromised, there is no telling what a bad actor may do when they are able to impersonate you at will. So part of our objective is to raise the alert level but also to share professional advice on the vital defence measures we need to take at home and at work to protect ourselves.

Cybercriminals are presumably becoming more sophisticated. looking ahead, is it realistic to think we can protect ourselves?

Yes it is, but it’s a constant battle in which you have to remain hyper-vigilant because someone is always trying to find a way around your defences. It’s a cat and mouse game but the good news is the IT industry is constantly investing to stay ahead, as is First National.

Based on your experience, how do you rate First National’s cyber-security preparedness today and are there some messages you would want customers to know about your approach?

Our systems are strong, we take every precaution to secure our customer’s information and we definitely do everything we need to do to remain safe and this includes acknowledging that threats are ever changing, and we have to change and enhance our defences to stay ahead. To reinforce our efforts, we subscribe to a service that keeps us in the know about emerging threats so we can adjust our defences accordingly. I would say to customers that they can have the utmost confidence in our approach because our reputation and livelihood depends on protecting their information.

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