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“It is an economic imperative to make diversity happen. Enough talking about it.” with Ellen Glaessner and Tyler Gallagher

Another issue is that you hear talk from many organizations that diversity is something we are going to benefit from in the future. But, it’s now. Those who leverage the benefits of diversity now will be the winners going forward. I want every company to feel threatened if they don’t have the diversity they need. […]


Another issue is that you hear talk from many organizations that diversity is something we are going to benefit from in the future. But, it’s now. Those who leverage the benefits of diversity now will be the winners going forward. I want every company to feel threatened if they don’t have the diversity they need. It is an economic imperative to make diversity happen. Enough talking about it.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ellen Glaessner, General Counsel for TD Bank, where she manages the Bank’s U.S. Legal team. Previously she served as Managing Counsel for Retail Businesses for the Bank. The Retail Businesses include Card, Corporate, Commercial, Retail, TDAF, and Wealth. Ellen joined TD Bank in January 2013 to assist the TD U.S. Wealth business launch its new Wealth offering. Ellen was promoted in 2014 to manage both Retail and Wealth legal issues. Ellen was promoted in 2016 to manage legal issues for the Retail Businesses. Ellen has over 25 years of legal experience within the financial services industry. Previously, she worked for Chase, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, and ING, assisting firms to develop and grow Wealth and Retail securities businesses, focusing on brokerage, investment advisory, insurance and deposit and lending offerings. Ellen graduated from Wellesley College and earned her JD from Columbia University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or takeaway you took out of that story?

I was a young associate at a law firm. A firm-wide meeting was called to discuss dissatisfaction among associates. The people in the room were not particularly diverse — about 150 white men, a few women, two Blacks, two Hispanics, no out LGBTQ2+. During the discussion, the Head of the Firm announced, “You will be happy to know that we have no diversity issues!”

I looked around the room in disbelief. How could he even say that with a straight face? I was shocked that I worked for a company that was so clueless about what diversity really means. It led me to believe that my diversity may not be valued as highly as I had thought. And I wanted to work in a place where my skills as well as my unique perspective as a woman would mean more than just a token number on a head count.

It led me to take a long hard look at my career plans. I mean, when you are a lawyer just starting out in a firm, you believe that it’s your future. However, I soon learned that that experience at that meeting was a symptom of a larger problem.

The reality I faced was that at that time, law firms were not hospitable to women and those with families. I was looking for an opportunity to build my skills as a young attorney with a ready-made family with three stepkids. I was looking for a rewarding work/life balance and I realized in that moment that I wasn’t going to find it there. I did not leave right away, but within a year I had moved to the banking industry.

The career breakthrough came by realizing that I could not change the place where I was working, and that I would have to make a change. I would need to leave to find a place and an industry that was welcoming to me and I found that in the banking industry.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I have had the opportunity to work at a number of financial institutions before coming to TD Bank, and what really differentiates TD is how invested we are in our people. It was something that took me by surprise when I first joined because I had never seen it demonstrated so clearly before in my career.

I had been at TD for about a year, and attended a team meeting, where several hours were dedicated to personal development and growth. The format encouraged people to continually learn and provided tips to advance in their own careers. At first, I wasn’t that engaged. I was happy doing what I was doing and didn’t think it really applied to me. But the more I listened the more I realized that I could be doing more to challenge myself and that TD would support me in that journey. It was a great surprise. In that moment, I began to formulate a plan to build skills and advance in my career in ways that I would never have dreamed of if TD Bank and my management had not pushed me.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Last year, I took a hard look at the structure of the legal team and determined that the traditional practice of aligning lawyers directly to product teams was not serving emerging needs as the bank worked to compete in the digital economy.

Our talented lawyers, especially more junior lawyers, wanted opportunities to expand their skills and work on cutting-edge issues. I decided to get creative and look for ways to train our lawyers to adapt to more agile practices and expectations from our business partners.

For one, we created agile task forces composed of lawyers from across the legal team to address cross-business topics: the customer experience, fair banking, cybersecurity, and digital. These groups are innovating to find legal solutions to customer pain points, prepare our Bank to respond to cyber events, deliver fair treatment, and provide consistent advice on digital matters.

We also restructured to add a new group dedicated to addressing issues raised by the emerging digital economy. Among other things, this team focuses on the online, mobile and telephone channels, supports technology, data, innovation and payments, and supports marketing and social media.

These innovative initiatives will strengthen our ability to address risk, enhance how we service customers, and develop our talented team.

Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

I’m not sure whether Wall Street and Finance have changed all that much, actually. We are not seeing change in terms of absolute numbers such as diverse members of the C-suite, and I wonder if there has been an actual shift in creating cultures of inclusion.

I can tell you that in my own experience, we are making strides at TD. I sit at a senior leadership table with much greater gender balance than I have seen elsewhere. Our head of Corporate and Specialty Banking is a woman — as is our head of IT and HR.

There’s still a lot of work to do. At times, it seems organizations give lip service to diversity and inclusion because they know it’s the right thing to say instead of actually embracing the benefits of a diverse workforce. I am so lucky to work for an organization that is on the leading edge of this transformation.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe that the more diverse representation we have, the more we’ll see progress. When you start putting diverse people in positions of power, you’ll see change. To do that, we need to hold our leaders accountable to demand that we interview diverse slates of job candidates.

And while diversity is important, inclusion is equally important. You can’t just hire diverse people; you need to provide the support and resources they need to succeed. The worst case is that if you hire diverse people and don’t give them a supportive structure and they fail, people can point to that as a failure of diversity efforts.

Another issue is that you hear talk from many organizations that diversity is something we are going to benefit from in the future. But, it’s now. Those who leverage the benefits of diversity now will be the winners going forward. I want every company to feel threatened if they don’t have the diversity they need. It is an economic imperative to make diversity happen. Enough talking about it.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

I advised my adult children from when they were little about many things related to being responsible with their finances. You have to start these habits early.

Some simple tips I would offer are:

· Save something every time you get a paycheck. If you make saving a habit, it becomes easier to make sure you are saving enough for emergencies, retirement, etc.

· The power of compound interest. It is so simple but so important: by starting early and saving routinely, you make your money work for you. Example: if you save $5,000 every year starting at age 20, by the time you are 60 years old, you will have more than $800,000 (actually $820,238) if you earn 6% on your money. Without the 6% compound interest, you would only have $200,000. Your money earned by compound interest is more than 3X the money you saved.

· Make a budget! Make a budget! Make a budget!

· Want versus need. When making financial decisions, think of it in terms of a “want” or a “need”. Cover the needs and save for the wants.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

People are familiar with the saying “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote is a guiding principle for me at work and beyond, and guides how I interact with TD’s customers and employees on a daily basis. One of the things I value about TD is how we focus on how people feel, when we talk about delivering legendary experiences to our customers, our colleagues and our communities.

All that to say that I value people. I value their contributions. I value them as individuals with different wants and needs and abilities. As I have progressed through more senior roles, I really try to take that to heart, especially around helping people build their careers. I believe in honest and direct feedback. I believe in supporting people with the right tools and environment to excel. At the end of the day, I want the people I interact with in my personal and professional life to know that I care.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would give a nod to all my managers. The ones who were not good taught me what not to do. But the most powerful managers believed in me and invested in me. Even when I thought I couldn’t do something, they pushed me and gave me concrete feedback on how to get better.

Feedback is one of the most vital stepping stones on our journey to success. I am grateful that my boss, (Ellen Patterson, Group Head and General Counsel, TD Bank Group) gives me honest feedback. It’s helpful, timely, but sometimes it’s hard to hear. It can be hard for a manager to deliver too. Yet, I always step back and really think about how the feedback can help me do my job better.

In order to “pay it forward” I try to model the behavior what I learned from my boss. I am careful to give honest, constructive feedback. I think about the feedback a lot, and I plan ahead. I always want to make sure that the delivery of any feedback is constructive. I let the person know that I am fully invested in their success by offering constructive feedback. If the conversation might be difficult, I script out exactly what I plan to say to them.

By preparing in advance, I can challenge myself: Am I being specific in the examples that I give? Is my feedback clear? What objections do I think I may get and how will I respond? I have learned from my boss that honest feedback can be a real path to growing and learning and being better than you may have expected. It is a key way to leverage the best that your team can be.

Thank you for all of this great insight!

About The Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and Dubai focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. In addition to his role with Regal Assets, Tyler is a regular contributor to Forbes, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and Authority Magazine. Tyler has also been featured in many news publications and has been a guest expert on “The News with Ed Shultz”. Tyler is a proud member of the Forbes Finance Council a private invite only-group of hand-selected industry leaders.

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