Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Thomas Benjoe is helping to shape one of the most important growth sectors in Saskatchewan’s economy – Indigenous business development. Benjoe was 17 when he read a magazine profile about the CEO of a successful First Nations investment company in Manitoba. “I want to be that guy,” he remembers thinking. “That company was building wealth for communities, and its success inspired me to want to work and support our communities in the same way.”
Benjoe is the president and CEO of File Hills Qu’Appelle Developments Ltd. (FHQ Developments), which was formed through a limited partnership agreement of the 11 First Nations communities that make up the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council in Treaty 4 territory.
FHQ Developments was established in 2010 to contribute to its partners’ long-term economic independence by investing in business ventures and supporting community economic development. FHQ Developments’ companies now generate over $35 million in annual revenues, with interests in construction, drilling and a hotel located beside the Living Sky Casino in Swift Current.
Benjoe graduated from First Nations University of Canada in 2011 with a Bachelor of Administration degree. While there, he served as vice-president of Finance for the First Nations University Student Association, and as president of the Business Students’ Society. He also helped develop an entrepreneurship camp for Indigenous youth who had no previous exposure to business or a university campus.
Benjoe had several job offers before he graduated, but choose to join the Aboriginal Banking unit with the Royal Bank of Canada. Besides achieving spectacular growth in his client portfolio, Benjoe has also worked to develop new products and services for First Nations and helped strengthen the bank’s Aboriginal strategy.
“ His humble leadership, passion and respectful manner in all aspects of his life inspire me. ”
He was on a path to a leadership role at RBC when members of the FHQ Developments Board of Directors approached him about becoming the company’s president and CEO. One of his first tasks was to improve the way the company structures new partnerships and investments.
Leanne Bellegarde, who has served as a director on the FHQ Developments board with Benjoe, heartily endorses the recognition. From the outset, she recognized him as one to watch. “He struck me from the first impression as a well-grounded, thoughtful leader from my home territory.”
Bellegarde, who is director of Diversity and Inclusion with the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, adds that she has benefited from having Benjoe as her millennial mentor. “ His humble leadership, passion and respectful manner in all aspects of his life inspire me. ”
Benjoe was recognized in the past with a Young Humanitarian award from the Canadian Red Cross and was a member of CBC’s Future 40.
Away from the office, Benjoe and his wife Dana have three children: Patience, Thomas Jr. and Evelyn. He does the beadwork for his family of Powwow dancers, keeping alive a tradition handed down from his great-grandmother. Patience is already a champion dancer. “It’s important that my family be part of Powwow and other traditional ways,” he says. “I’m encouraged to see other people – including recent immigrants – come out to a Powwow to learn about the Indigenous people of this territory and discover who their neighbors are.”