Indigenous business success motivates outstanding young alumni

Posted: September 4, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Thomas Benjoe, president and CEO of File Hills Qu’Appelle Developments Ltd (FHQ Developments), will be presented with the U of R’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award October 5.
Thomas Benjoe, president and CEO of File Hills Qu’Appelle Developments Ltd (FHQ Developments), will be presented with the U of R’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award October 5. U of R Photography

Thomas Benjoe is helping to shape one of the most important sectors growth areas 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 to himself. “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 the long-term economic independence of the partners 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.

Leanne Bellegarde, who has served as a Director on the FHQ Developments Board with Benjoe, heartily endorses the URAA award. 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, so it doesn’t surprise me that the Alumni Association has figured that out, too!” 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 graduated from First Nations University of Canada in 2011 with a Bachelor of Administration degree. While there, Benjoe served as vice-president Finance for the First Nations University Students’ 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.

Before Benjoe graduated he had several job offers 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.

He was on a path to a leadership role at RBC when members of the FHQ Developments Board 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.

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. He does the beadwork for his family of powwow dancers, keeping alive a tradition handed down from his great-grandmother.

The University of Regina and the Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of our most accomplished graduates through the Alumni Crowning Achievement Awards (ACAA), one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on distinguished University of Regina alumni. Join us on October 5th at the Hotel Sask to celebrate five outstanding alumni.