"Keynote Address to Centennial College's Faculty"
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I am delighted to be here today at Centennial College to exchange with you some of my personal thoughts on sustainable diversity and also to talk about the journey that TD has embarked upon.
I want to start by saying I lived in Scarborough during my childhood, and my parents still reside here. Growing up in this community, I learned about the values of hard work and sacrifice from first generation Canadians of multiple heritages who dedicated themselves to building a foundation for their family’s future.
So not only do I have a strong connection to this richly diverse community, but I also have a great appreciation for the integral role Centennial College plays in it.
From what I understand of the journey you have been on in the past few years, it seems like there could not be a more appropriate context for a discussion on diversity.
To begin, if you will allow me, I’d like to take a moment to share my personal perspective to illustrate my deep interest in diversity.
Like so many of the students and staff who are part of Centennial College, I have a highly diverse family life.
I was born in Bathurst, New Brunswick to a Japanese Canadian mother and a father of Scottish and Métis heritage.
My mom is a lovely, articulate woman. She is also a paraplegic and has been in a wheelchair for most of my life. And, while this doesn’t mean I am an expert on physical disability, I do have a first-hand perspective on what these folks face on a daily basis and the challenges that many people face just to be able to get out of bed.
Because of my dad’s untimely death shortly before I was born and my mom’s subsequent remarriage five years later to my adoptive father – who is also a Japanese Canadian, I was brought up in a completely Japanese Canadian household.
My wife is a Canadian of Irish descent.
We have two sons age 21 and 22 – which, for those who have sons that age know, is a diversity category all on its own.
We have also adopted twin 8 year old daughters who are of Chinese heritage.
So my redheaded Irish Canadian wife is in fact the visible minority member in our family.
With the adoption of our 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.
From a perspective of religious affiliation, our family has a diversity that includes Catholicism, the United Church, Buddhism and Shinto.
Throughout my life, I have personally experienced the joy of living comfortably in society.
But I have also witnessed through the eyes and the stories of my family, vivid moments of prejudice, intolerance, exclusion and involuntary relocation.
However, rather than presenting these stories to me as pure tragedies, I have been taught by my parents to see them as triumphs of the human spirit and of the tenacity of people in overcoming significant obstacles.
So I have lived and thought about diversity for my whole life and, on a personal basis, I have a vested interest in this country’s positive evolution towards a more diverse, egalitarian and inclusive society.
And I’m very proud to say that for so many reasons, diversity is also tremendously important to TD Bank, in fact we believe that it’s essential to our long term success.
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 Global Wealth Management organization.
The focus originates with our CEO, Ed Clark and resonates throughout the entire Bank.
Our mission is to be “the better bank” and that means striving for continuous improvement and making a commitment to lifelong learning.
So I am 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:
And the communities that we serve
Therefore, every major undertaking is put through the following screen:
Does the initiative facilitate an environment within which all employees feel that they can maximize their potential?
Is the initiative focused and measurable?
Does the initiative make good business sense?
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 and employees from all walks of life, a shift which creates cultural alignment between the firm and those same individuals, 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 and backgrounds 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 rapidly changing world.
It’s a practical on-going change management initiative.
Being a Bank, we went about this in a business like manner.
Identified burning platforms, establishing sub committees, 3 year goals and one year deliverables.
TD’s diversity initiatives have focused on five priority areas:
- expanding leadership opportunities for women;
- expanding leadership opportunities for members of visible minority groups;
- enhancing and promoting an inclusive environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered employees;
- building an agenda for people with disabilities;
- and serving diverse communities.
And we are now moving into a sixth priority area of focus – expanding opportunities for Aboriginal Peoples.
Naively, our early thinking was that it would take an enormous amount of energy to mobilize the troops around this initiative.
Instead we were met by an amazing uprising of support and encouragement by thousands and thousands of our employees throughout Canada and globally.
So these past few years have borne witness to enormous passion, discussion and debate as we collectively work to embed the best aspects of diversity into the fabric of our organization.
And we have made significant progress in each of our initiatives, touching all aspects of our business.
To give you a sense of what this means I’ll share a few examples:
Creating an inclusive environment for all employees:
- we’ve significantly increased the number of individuals with physical disabilities building productive careers at TD;
- we’ve almost doubled the number of members of visible minority groups at the VP and above level;
- we’ve increased the representation of women in leadership from about 22% to 30%;
- And we’ve doubled membership in TD’s Pride Network.
And as part of our effort to make banking with us more comfortable, and to create an exceptional customer experience, we’ve equipped all our 2,500+ ATMs across Canada with audio functionality to assist people who are vision impaired and we also have wheelchair accessible ATMs.
So we’re making tremendous progress in moving towards our goals. We are succeeding, but don’t yet consider ourselves “successful”.
Our focus for the next three years is to take our organization up to the next level of inclusiveness and sustainability.
At what point does business and the real world start to link up and intersect?
When do interests of large institutions such as TD start to become congruent with society at large?
Personally, I think it is around the concept of “human potential”.
I believe that we must work to build a Canada within which every man and woman is able to strive to reach their maximum potential, whatever that potential may be.
Where no barriers, no obstacles, no ceilings of any kind will get in the way of anyone (male or female), who has: the ability, the desire and the values to move forward in their chosen endeavour.
To achieve this, business is only one part of the equation – our educators and the educational system are important allies.
TD, and businesses at large, are the grateful beneficiaries of the human capital you are working so diligently to develop.
It is extremely energizing to see the tremendous work that Centennial College has been doing in the past few years.
It’s evident you are embracing the opportunity to create an inclusive environment for students.
Clearly, your college understands the essential role that you have to play, and you’ve articulated it through your Signature Learning Experience: “upholding equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice.” I love these words!
I look at Centennial and I see an institution that has asked itself the hard questions that every organization should, examining how it measures up on the diversity issue and what it must do to propel itself forward.
You are doing your very best to live your mission -- to equip your students with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to pursue “the world of work and life and participate in transforming lives and communities.”
So, despite my own personal exposure to the issue of diversity, and my professional experience at TD, I find myself somewhat humbled in presenting to an organization that is doing such critical work in truly breaking down barriers and creating opportunity for people of different backgrounds, affinities and circumstances.
That being said, as you pursue this journey, I would say to you that it is not supposed to be easy; if your experience is anything like ours, it won’t be accomplished overnight; and the path won’t always be clear.
Because the truth is, that we are all coming up the learning curve together. And I think that’s what makes this so powerful.
This grand endeavour of creating an environment in which all can succeed, regardless of gender, colour, creed, sexual orientation or physical ability is most certainly a journey.
It can’t help but be that way, given that we are coming from different places, in our beliefs, experiences and cultures.
The road to success is seldom straight and mine has been no exception. It has been a long and winding road to get here, from growing up in Scarborough, to becoming a professional football player, to working in progressively more senior positions at brokerage firms, and then transitioning to banking and wealth management through a competitor, and finally to TD.
I have failed as often as I have succeeded.
But throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to have had people – not just the grand icons of the business world – but also people from all walks of life: coaches, teachers and neighbours who’ve believed in and invested in me.
People who have taken the time to help me crack the code, understand protocol, and the cultural peculiarities of small and large organizations and various other walks of life.
It’s true that organizations like Centennial College have an important formal role to play in ensuring graduates are well prepared to be productive participants in the work force, whatever their chosen capacity may be.
But there is an equally powerful role that each of us can play, and that is to be personally engaged, to be a passionate participant, to be someone that others can count on.
Taking the time to provide one-on-one coaching, to help a student understand a cultural nuance, or to navigate social dynamics can make all the difference. These soft skills are just as important, sometimes even more important, than the knowledge and technical skills required to succeed in today’s workforce.
My message to my children is a simple one: “The world would be a better place if everybody had someone they could count on. Be that someone, be committed and expect commitment in return.”
Your actions as individuals and collectively as staff and faculty show you have an understanding, that the opposites of prejudice, racism, intolerance and exclusion are acceptance, understanding, accommodation and inclusion.
Your collective actions are opening the door to the infinite possibilities of human potential.
That’s what embracing diversity is all about.
It will take time to create these fully inclusive institutions, but this is a path we must all take, not just for our own institution, but for Canada’s future strength and success.