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"Seminar on Visible Minorities, Toronto"

Remarks to The Conference Board of Canada
Wednesday October 19, 2005
Written by Bill Hatanaka.

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Thank you Judith. Good morning Ladies & Gentlemen. I'm delighted to be here because this is an important discussion.

If you'd allow me, I'd like to start off by sharing a couple of personal perspectives to illustrate my deep interest in promoting diversity.

Like many people in this room I live in a highly diverse family. I'm a Canadian of Japanese, French and Scottish heritage. My wife is a Canadian of Irish descent.

We have two teenaged sons - which as you know is probably a diversity category all on its own. We also adopted twin 6 yr old daughters who are of Chinese heritage.

Through the adoption of the girls we have witnessed the joy of having a community embrace and welcome their arrival.

It has also brought us into contact with new communities: parents of twins; of adopted children; of parents of children from China.

So my redheaded Irish Canadian wife is in fact the visible minority member in our family.

From a perspective of religious affiliation our family has a diversity that includes Catholicism, the United Church, Buddhism and Shintoism.

I was born in Bathurst, New Brunswick to a Japanese Canadian mother and a father of Scottish and French extraction.

Because of my dad's untimely death shortly before I was born and my mom's subsequent remarriage 5 years later to my adoptive father - who is also a Japanese Canadian, I was brought up in a totally Japanese Canadian household.

Over the course of my life I have personally experienced the joy of living in a generally comfortable society but I have also witnessed through the eyes of my family, vivid moments of racism, prejudice, intolerance and exclusion. I've learned about the evacuation and internment of Japanese Canadians to camps in the interior of British Columbia during World War II.

The confiscation of homes and property, family members being forced to use the horse stables at Hastings Park as temporary homes before being shipped to those internment camps. Fishing boats left for years to rot. And there's still unresolved pain in the Japanese Community 60 years later.

So I have lived and thought about diversity for my whole life and, like many people in this room, on a personal basis I have a vested interest in this country's positive evolution towards a more diverse, egalitarian and inclusive society.

At TD, diversity is also part of my job.

As an organization, a diverse employee base at all levels is something that we are totally committed to. As Judith said, many organizations have made impressive strides, but more needs to be done.

At TD, we already attract a significant number of visible minorities to the bank -- more in fact on a relative basis than any of our competitors.

Now, its time to take the next step to forge the pathways for many of these individuals to emerge as our leaders in businesses within the bank, based on merit.

This is a priority for our leadership team and is one of the reasons we sponsored the Conference Board research Judith talked about -- and this seminar.

Judith and her team have asked me to talk about three aspects of leadership at TD in maximizing the talents of visible minorities:

  • What's driving leadership action
  • How our leaders are playing a role internally in communicating the value of diversity and
  • What we're doing in the community.

In the interest of full transparency, this is not intended to be a commercial for TD, nor do I claim to be the authority on Diversity.

I do, however, have the privilege of Chairing the Diversity Leadership Council at TD and diversity is as much a priority for me as running the Bank's Wealth Management organization. But this is a long journey and while we've made progress, we still have a long way to go.

Our mission is to be "the better bank" and that means striving for continuous improvement and making a commitment to lifelong learning. So we are happy to share our perspective with you and what we're learning as we go forward.

At TD, to be effective, any major initiative that we undertake must be sustainable. To be sustainable, the initiative must be responsive to the needs of our key stakeholders, namely:

  • Our shareholders
  • Our employees
  • Our customers
  • And the communities that we serve

Therefore, every major undertaking is put through the following screen:

  1. Does the initiative facilitate an environment within which all employees feel that they can maximize their potential?
  2. Is the initiative focused and measurable?
  3. Does the initiative make good business sense?
  4. Is the initiative responsive to the needs of our various constituents?

Our approach to Diversity has taken these factors into account.

Essentially, our diversity initiative is about making a paradigm shift which establishes a new understanding between a willing organization and a willing set of future leaders (including those from visible minority groups), a shift which creates cultural alignment between the firm and those same leaders, ultimately creating an organization that is more powerful, more flexible and more sustainable.

Corporately, it's about attracting and keeping the best talent available, maintaining a meritocracy and having access to the most diverse and creative thinking possible. That means you have to genuinely acknowledge, value and honour the differences that people from multiple cultures can bring.

It's about having a reason for existing as an organization that resonates with our customers, our employees, our shareholders and the communities we serve, and remaining relevant in a changing world. It's a practical on-going change management initiative.

I think it's probably fair to say that, like many other firms, at one time we thought that increasing numbers of visible minorities in leadership positions would occur quite naturally over the course of time. The accepted theory was that as more people from visible minorities graduated, we would bring them on board and they would naturally progress upward in our organization. And maybe, in another 10 to 15 years that may happen.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interact with a class of 200 business students at York University's Schulich Business School.

This audience was a mix of young men and women of many cultures and religions, primarily visible minorities. And it struck me, virtually shouted to me, that this generation has already resolved the diversity challenge we face in organizations today.

They already live and work together in harmony. They are the face of the future business elite of Canada.

But it isn't the norm in many organizations today.

So, now we must create the pathways that will enhance the opportunity for the current and this next generation of leaders to ascend to key positions based on merit and ability, not colour of skin or ethnicity.

To do this we need to create a level and transparent playing field for all aspiring executives.

That doesn't mean everyone must be the same, although empirically, during the hiring process, people will hire people that they are "comfortable" with, which more often than not means "like them".

So our quest means finding alternative pathways for members of visible minorities who may not have attended the same schools, or grown up in the same neighborhoods or had the elite club memberships on a multi generational basis.

The definition of a level playing field for us is meritocracy, where the rules of the game are transparent, where the game is available to all willing and capable participants, and where best in class results are rewarded through advancement up to the next level.

But to get to that point means doing two things. It means applying a strong and active focus to the opportunity and removing the formal and informal obstacles that get in the way.

Often these obstacles aren't tangible. They are subconscious behaviors and assumptions that are taught and reinforced by the dominant culture.

As long as you have a Caucasian dominated leadership team that inadvertently reinforces that model - and I say inadvertently because I don't think you'll find anyone who is actively against having a more diverse organization - little will change.

But when there is the magic moment when a group of leaders come together who are not prepared to accept or perpetuate the old model, who start to drive change and who are willing to be fully accountable for the results. The paradigm then begins to change and now we switch from the why to the how.

Leadership and Accountability

At TD, that point has registered at the highest level of our organization. Our Board of Directors and our CEO have taken a critical interest in diversity as a sustainable competitive differentiator.

This is accountability at the top and it sends a very strong message to the rest of the organization that diversity matters.

In addition, our Diversity Leadership Council members are the top leaders of our organization. We meet at least once a month to set the Bank's Diversity agenda and to drive key diversity priorities, through 5 sub committees that cut across all business lines.

One year and three year objectives are assigned to each priority. The DLC reports on these deliverables to our CEO and he uses them to report on our progress to the Board of Directors.

One key priority for the Council is the advancement of visible minorities at the Leadership ranks.

Recognizing that the leaders have time consuming jobs already and that you can't change a paradigm off the side of your desk, we've also appointed Gerard Etienne as our Vice President, Diversity. You're going to meet him later today.

Gerard brings us huge expertise in the area of diversity. Part of his job is to keep it at the front of the leaders' agenda.

He'll be giving us counsel and helping us with our communication efforts and our initiatives inside and outside the company.

On Communication

Creating a culture that welcomes and actively develops people from visible minorities is a change management initiative. When you read literature about change management, one of the key success factors is effective communication.

Communication is not just about the formal things like papers, memos and emails. Rather, how your organization is structured, what your policies and practices are, how people, especially the senior leadership team, behave speaks louder than any piece of paper.

So you can get up in front of an audience and make a statement about Diversity and everyone will applaud - because who could be against it? You can send a memo mandating action and people will nod.

But if your structure and performance measurement systems don't reinforce it, if your hiring practices don't say you mean it, if your training programs don't teach people how to adapt, then you'll never have a sustainable program.

Throughout my career I've been fortunate to have had people from all walks of life, coaches, teachers, and business mentors who've believed in and encouraged me. People who have taken the time to help me crack the code, understand protocol, and the cultural peculiarities of small and large organizations.

For a young executive that's often the difference between getting ahead or simply treading water.

It's far too easy for aspiring leaders to make early mistakes, to be overlooked, to inadvertently send a negative message through mannerisms, to breach protocol or to misinterpret an event.

Indeed the road to advancement is often fraught with peril for all young executives but has been exponentially more so for members of visible minority groups.

Leaders at all levels of every company need to understand and accept different ways of exhibiting intelligence, competence and leadership itself.

To use an example from my own background, in the Asian culture, equally so in Canadian Asian terms - young people are taught to listen first, assimilate and then respond. This is a sign of politeness or deference to a person of authority.

In the Japanese culture, in a business meeting, it would not be unusual to witness the senior partner at the table close his eyes during a presentation. In North America that would be considered impolite. The presenter would think he's lost his client's attention. But in Japanese culture it's a sign of very deep and respectful consideration of the idea being presented.

Contrast that with our North American culture. This is a culture where we are taught and told to "speak up". Here it is often OK to interject mid sentence, and the one who talks most, generally gets most attention, and is often thought to be the smartest. In Japanese culture, that person would be considered disrespectful.

So, we have to come to terms with the fact that people from different ethnic backgrounds can think differently, and act differently, and have different expectations.

In fact, that's one of the most interesting and exciting aspects of building a more diverse organization - the access to new ways of thinking and solving problems. If we can make that adjustment, then we can tap into a very rich vein of creativity and innovation.

And that's what I mean when speaking about alignment between the evolving culture of a large organization and the members of visible minority groups who aspire to the ranks of Senior Management.

External Leadership

On the external front, hiring is also a critical part of increasing the number of visible minorities in senior leadership positions.

We are working to broaden our access to pools of talent to hire from. Here in Toronto we work closely with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council. We sponsor their activities and we also hire qualified new Canadians through them. This is a win/win for all involved. We get the benefit of great new talent and they get that all important Canadian experience that can facilitate a career opportunity in this country.

In addition, participating in events hosted by members of visible minority groups can let ethnic communities know they matter to you, and it also offers useful learning opportunities.

As an example, we financially support the Dragon Ball Fundraiser for Yee Hong Community Centre, the South Asian Heritage Festival, and Black History Month among others.

Indeed a new pillar for our TD Bank charitable donations committee is being formed around initiatives supporting Diversity, which will further align our internal resources. We also support Passages to Canada, a national speaker's program of community leaders who have immigrated to Canada and go out and talk to schools and community groups. Another of our involvements is in the New Pioneer Awards. It recognizes first generation Canadians for their personal, business and community accomplishments.

We're active in public policy debate through the Conference Board's research and these seminars and through The Learning Partnership's study of changing student demographics on the public education system.

So what does our experience so far add up to? It adds up to recognizing that you have to change your cultural paradigm, and that it's as compelling and important an initiative as any other business issue you face. It takes top leadership commitment and accountability to get traction and critical mass to have sustainable change.

It takes communication in word and deed both inside and outside the organization. And it takes an understanding that the opposites of prejudice, racism, intolerance and exclusion are acceptance, understanding, accommodation and inclusion. That's what embracing diversity is all about. That's what these seminars are all about. This is a journey that won't be completed in a few short months. It will take time to create fully inclusive organizations. But this is a path we must all take, not just for our own organizations but for Canada's future strength and success.

Thank you. I'd be pleased to answer questions.


Executive Headshot :  Bill Hatanaka
Bill Hatanaka
Former Group Head Wealth Management, TD Bank Financial Group and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, TD Waterhouse Canada Inc

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