Visionaries

2016
Arkadi Kuhlmann

Arkadi Kuhlmann Founder and CEO, Zenbanx Arkadi Kuhlmann’s vocation and avocation have been to reinvent and revitalize consumers’ relationship with their money.

Arkadi introduced the world to direct banking with a simplified customer focus when he founded ING DIRECT Canada in 1996, creating the brand strategy, recruiting the senior leadership team and growing the bank during 1996-2000 to a successful market position while serving as the bank’s President and CEO.  He then repeated this process in 2000, founding ING DIRECT USA and led its growth to become the nation’s largest savings bank and number one direct bank, with more than $84 billion in deposits and 7.8 million customers.  Arkadi executed his vision to create a retail-focused bank that offered an easy-to-use savings, checking, mortgages, and investment products direct to consumers. His customer strategy led to fanatical loyalty and industry-leading customer promotion scores and branded him affectionately as the ‘CEO of Savings.’

Following the sale of ING DIRECT USA, Arkadi set out to fill the “white space” that he saw in mobile banking for customers with global connections and needs. In 2012, Arkadi founded Zenbanx, a simple and secure mobile solution for saving, exchanging, sending or spending currencies internationally and domestically, and began creating the next generation of global, mobile banking.  With the launch of Zenbanx in Canada in Q1 2015, and Zenbanx in the United States in Q4, Arkadi officially assumed the moniker “CEO of multi-currency saving.”

Earlier in his career, Arkadi engineered an organizational and systems restructuring as the President of North American Trust, a turnaround project under the ownership of North American Life. The execution of Arkadi’s tactical business plan along with new product development resulted in a transformation from a $10M operating loss to a $17M operating profit.

Prior to North American Trust, Arkadi served as President and CEO at Deak & Co. and Deak International for a period spanning 1985-1993.  Deak provided merchant and investment banking services, and through Deak International provided foreign exchange and precious metals trading and refining services.  Arkadi reorganized Deak International’s operations, launching a revitalized company in April 1986, and expanded the company from 52 to 192 branches worldwide and 350 to 1,500 employees, achieving revenues of $1B wholesale and $2.5B retail, and income of $70M.  Arkadi oversaw the successful divestiture of Deak International in 1990. 

From 1977-1984, Arkadi served as Vice President, General Manager and Manager of Royal Bank of Canada in its Corporate Cash Management and Commercial Banking Marketing divisions. Before that, he served briefly as a consultant for the banking industry and as an Assistant Director of the Institute of Canadian Bankers. 

In addition to his corporate successes, Arkadi demonstrated his passion for teaching as a professor of International Finance and Investment Banking at the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the author of Rock then Roll: The Secrets of Culture-Driven Leadership and The Orange Code: How ING DIRECT Succeeded by Being a Rebel with a Cause, as well as several books on finance and numerous business cases. His thoughts on banking, leadership and innovation have been published in major newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and New York Times.

Arkadi received an M.B.A. and an Honors in Business Administration degree from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. In 2010, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) from the University of Western Ontario for his contributions to the world of business strategy. 

Arkadi has served on the Ivey Advisory Board beginning in 1997 and served in a Chairman role from 2004 to 2013. He was recognized with the Ivey Distinguished Service Award in 2007 for his contributions to the school. Arkadi also serves on the Boards of the Council for Economic Education, Sindeo, and Payoff.

During his career, Arkadi has been honored as American Banker’s 2006 Innovator of the Year and the recipient of ING Business Award (Revenue Growth Category) in 2005, Delaware Business Leader Award in 2006 and 2008, Habitat for Humanity Leadership Award in 2007, and the inaugural Netherlands American Foundation’s Ambassador C. Howard Wilkins Jr. Award in 2007. In 2010, Mr. Kuhlmann was honored with the Council for Economic Education’s Visionary Award for his life-long advocacy in teaching adults and children about responsible money behavior. 

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