Luke Visconti: How does diversity management help TD Bank reach an increasingly diverse footprint, both in and outside the United States
Bharat Masrani: Within TD, this has been a very strategic initiative that started many, many years ago. Obviously, diversity is the right moral thing to do. But it is the right business thing to do as well. We are in the people business, and in the people business there’s a war for talent. This is a phrase that you’ve probably heard from many executives, from many companies, that what makes the difference is talent in an organization. If that is correct, which I firmly believe it is, then why would you not want to have the best talent that is available out there Therefore, if you have problems with diversity, then you are probably not attracting all the talent pool that is available out there. And generally, if you have a problem with one particular group, chances are pretty high you’re going to have a problem with some other groups as well. And if your tendency is to hire people that look like you, there’s a good chance you’re probably precluding 80 percent, 90 percent of the talent that is available there. That is a very important component from a business perspective.
Secondly, especially in our business, it is critical that we reflect the communities we serve—by way of people, by way of employees, as to how we project ourselves. Because frankly, your consumers and customers want to be served by people like themselves. So it is critical that we have a diverse employee base that is reflective of the communities we serve.
And lastly, I firmly believe that if you have a team that has good diversity in it, you’re going to get higher-quality decisions. These are individuals who, because of their life experiences or their gender or whether they’re a visible minority or not, will just bring a different perspective to the table. And once properly discussed and looked at, you’re just going to get a better-quality decision.
Visconti: Research shows that some diverse teams perform at a lower level than heterogeneous teams. Your bank has a very friendly and outgoing culture. It’s very different than where you normally go, in anything retail or banking. How does your culture at this bank and how you lead make those diverse teams perform at the higher level
Masrani: Now we’re talking general leadership attributes. Frankly, I’m just part of the overhead and I don’t create anything for the bank—what gets created here, where the real work gets done, is within my teams. And so part of my job is to make sure that people perform beyond their natural inclination.
Generally, individuals create their own governors, their own biases—I’m not going to work after 5 o’clock, or I cannot be available on a Sunday, or whatever. My job is where people have created these natural governors, how can they consistently breach those and perform beyond their natural inclination Because I firmly believe that all of us have the same level of intelligence—it’s our own prejudices or biases that we create, these governors [that hold us back]. My job is in how do we make sure that all these individuals perform on a consistent basis, beyond their natural inclination.
Then you bring the diversity lens on them and you say, “Well, if you firmly believe in diversity”—and I do, because I see that in my own team, people who report to me. When I see the quality of decisions coming, the quality of discussion taking place, I can explain a lot of it because of the diversity there. For example, I wouldn’t necessarily think about some of the points raised by a woman on my team. That is just not going to happen. So I see the quality of decisions.
When you marry those two—if people are performing beyond their natural inclination and you’re fostering an inclusive culture, which is very much part of our mission statement at TD—you are in a win-win situation. You are going to find a high-performing team that is making better decisions, higher-quality decisions, and frankly, they’re performing beyond their natural inclination. And if that’s the case, you have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Visconti: You’ve taken a visible role as a corporate leader and a proponent of diversity and inclusion within your organization. What factors in your personal and professional life contributed to your support of diversity and inclusion
Masrani: I’m a minority, so people ask me, “I know you’ve been with the bank for many, many years and you’ve done well, but what about your personal experiences Have you found an environment that was not welcoming, or were there internal barriers that were not removed Or did you find in some of the jobs you did that perhaps it was not as inclusive as you might have wanted” I try very hard to think back in my career within the bank, if there have been experiences like that, if I’ve encountered those problems. And frankly, I can’t think of one.
But having said that, I know this is a problem in society. Just to give you a sense, I was born in Africa, of East Indian heritage. My community—we were a minority group—we became refugees, and the only reason we became refugees was because of the color of our skin. So from a societal perspective, I have experienced that, as to what this means, what it creates, and the discord it creates in people. I’m very sensitive from that perspective as to why it is important from a moral perspective, and in my case, I happen to be in a business where it also is a business imperative. That’s how I would bring it together as to why this is, from my own personal experience, so important.