CEO Spot­light: CIBC’S Vic­tor Dodig

CIBC’S CEO ex­plains why he be­came chair of Canada’s 30% Club, and what his bank is do­ing to at­tract — and keep — top fe­male tal­ent.

Rotman Management Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Beatrix Dart

CIBC’S Pres­i­dent and CEO ex­plains why he be­came chair of the 30% Club and what his bank is do­ing to at­tract — and keep — top fe­male tal­ent.

BEATRIX DART: The 30% Club started out in the UK in 2010. What made you want to be a part of it here in Canada?

It was ac­tu­ally you who called me and said, ‘Vic-VIC­TOR DODIG: tor, what they are do­ing in the UK would be great for Canada; but we need some profile for it: Would you be will­ing to sign on as Chair?’ And I said, ab­so­lutely. A month af­ter I started at CIBC, we had a big kick-off on In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day. The team from the UK came over to share their learn­ings to date, and from that point on, we have done things in our own Canadian way.

Talk a bit about how you tweaked the Club’s man­date to re­flect the Canadian en­vi­ron­ment.

The fo­cus in the UK is on FT 100-listed com­pa­nies. We cast a sig­nif­i­cantly broader net, to cover pro­fes­sional ser­vices firms — law firms, ac­count­ing firms and ex­ec­u­tive search firms — as well as listed com­pa­nies. If you look at CIBC’S proxy state­ment on boards — which re­flects the On­tario Se­cu­ri­ties Com­mis­sion’s gen­der di­ver­sity ini­tia­tive — our chair­man called for us to have a min­i­mum of 30 per cent women on our board, as op­posed to sim­ply aim­ing for 30 per cent. Our word­ing was very spe­cific from the start, and we have now reached 35 per cent.

The two women we added most re­cently were tech­nol­ogy ex­ec­u­tives, one from Sil­i­con Val­ley and one from New York, both with an Amer­i­can per­spec­tive as well as a tech­nol­ogy per­spec­tive. It’s all about bring­ing tal­ented peo­ple to the ta­ble with di­verse ex­per­tise.

The sec­ond thing we did was to im­ple­ment a tar­geted ap­proach to the ad­vance­ment of women in our C-suite. We’ve

added more women to our ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, and we now have a ro­bust suc­ces­sion plan in place. I ac­tu­ally just re­viewed it in terms of iden­ti­fy­ing the women and men that we be­lieve can suc­ceed — and how can we make this more of an im­por­tant item with the Board, so that three years from now, peo­ple aren’t ask­ing, ‘What hap­pened to all the women?’ For some time, we were so fo­cused on strate­gic is­sues that that we missed the whole gen­der piece in a big way. As a re­sult, for women now in their 30s and 40s, there has been a generational gap in terms of suc­ces­sion plan­ning. But as in­di­cated, we are work­ing to ad­dress this.

We’ve got an in­ter­nal group here called Men Ad­vo­cat­ing for Real Change, which is a lead­er­ship pro­gram we set up with Cat­a­lyst to un­cover the un­con­scious bi­ases that peo­ple bring to the ta­ble and to cre­ate aware­ness about the im­pact of priv­i­lege on ‘leveling the play­ing field’. In try­ing to sen­si­tize peo­ple and awaken them to the in­hibitors to cre­at­ing a more di­verse work­place, we’ve worked mainly with men, be­cause we rec­og­nize that if men don’t em­brace this ini­tia­tive — and they cur­rently oc­cupy well over 80 per cent of ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions in Canada — change will sim­ply not hap­pen.

If it’s just white men and women run­ning the show, that’s not di­ver­sity, ei­ther.

A lot of male ex­ec­u­tives say, ‘Of course I want more women on our se­nior lead­er­ship team; I just don’t know how to get there’. How are you go­ing about it at CIBC?

As in­di­cated, we now have a proac­tive suc­ces­sion-plan­ning process in place, so we can iden­tify fu­ture lead­ers early on. I also have monthly lunches with six to eight pre-boarded women ex­ec­u­tives; I haven’t tar­geted our vice-pres­i­dents yet, so I’ve got to get to know them bet­ter and en­able them to cre­ate a net­work amongst them­selves. That way, when there are op­por­tu­ni­ties, we can say that we’ve ac­tu­ally met these in­di­vid­u­als, and that they truly are ca­pa­ble — be­yond what is listed on their CV. If you look at our statis­tics over the last 12 months, 100 per cent of our board ap­point­ments and 50 per cent of our ex­ec­u­tive ap­point­ments have been women.

A big part of this is mea­sure­ment. I’m a big believer that if there is no con­crete plan to get there, there is no hope of achiev­ing any of these goals. Just talk­ing about it and hop­ing that ‘next year, things will change’ won’t work. To be clear, this is­sue is purely busi­ness: We will build a bet­ter bank­ing busi­ness by hav­ing more di­ver­sity.

It’s great that you view this as a busi­ness im­per­a­tive — and that it’s not just be­ing ad­dressed for ‘so­cial good’. Have you started to see some busi­ness im­pact?

I have. If I think about the se­nior women at CIBC and the im­pact they’re hav­ing, it’s amaz­ing: Peo­ple like Christina Kramer, our Ex­ec­u­tive Vice-pres­i­dent, Re­tail Dis­tri­bu­tion and Chan­nel Strat­egy, who is re­spon­si­ble for lead­ing over 21,000 sales and ser­vice em­ploy­ees; Veni Iozzo, Se­nior Vice-pres­i­dent, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Pub­lic Af­fairs; Sandy Shar­man, Ex­ec­u­tive Vice-pres­i­dent and Chief Hu­man Re­sources Of­fi­cer; and Laura Dot­tori-at­tana­sio, Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive Vice-pres­i­dent and Chief Risk Of­fi­cer. I won’t go into the spe­cific de­tails of their ac­com­plish­ments, but I know for a fact that they have added a whole new level of ex­cel­lence and en­gage­ment to our cul­ture. The fact is, bank­ing should not be a white man’s cul­ture: It should be re­flec­tive of what is go­ing on in the out­side world.

With re­spect to di­ver­sity, I think the next chal­lenge for every­one will be, How di­verse is your work­place? Be­cause, if it’s just white men and women run­ning the show, that’s not di­ver­sity, ei­ther. I’m very mind­ful of that, as we look at who our next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers will be.

Banks and pro­fes­sional ser­vices firms are lead­ing the way on this; but com­pa­nies in sec­tors like tech­nol­ogy and nat­u­ral re­sources might not have made these ad­just­ments yet. Do we need to nudge them? Do we need quo­tas?

My opin­ion is that there are no pros to quo­tas, be­cause what hap­pens is, the women who ad­vance in that way al­ways feel like they’re there be­cause of the quota — and every­one else thinks the same thing. This cre­ates a very neg­a­tive force around what we’re try­ing to achieve. There are more pos­i­tive ways to make progress. Tar­gets, in my view, are a good thing, but en­forced quo­tas are not.

The fact is, ev­ery com­pany is at a dif­fer­ent stage of de­vel­op­ment, and some of them have a more ad­vanced ap­proach to gov­er­nance than oth­ers. If you look at the TSX 60, I’d say it’s fir­ing on all cylin­ders — or most cylin­ders — when it comes to good gov­er­nance. That in­cludes a fo­cus on suc­ces­sion plan­ning and con­sid­er­a­tions around di­ver­sity and say-on-pay. Smaller mid­cap com­pa­nies face chal­lenges in terms of their re­sources, and as a re­sult, many are not fo­cused on their tal­ent pool. They of­ten don’t know where to get started — and be­cause many of them are in the nat­u­ral re­source busi­ness, which has been bur­dened by sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges since the fi­nan­cial cri­sis — they don’t con­sider this to be a pri­or­ity.

Should we have more pa­tience with these com­pa­nies?

Ev­ery­thing takes time, and in my ex­pe­ri­ence, any­thing that you try to force-fit will fall apart over time. I be­lieve that these busi- nesses can have an im­pact with­out the gov­ern­ment telling them what to do.

In The Wealth of Na­tions, Adam Smith de­scribes the in­vis­i­ble hand, and many peo­ple think of it as a eu­phemism for, ‘Let the mar­ket de­cide’. But the mar­ket can de­cide things in a very wrong way some­times, when it comes to peo­ple. When I was at busi­ness school, one of the books I read was by Al­fred Chan­dler, a noted Amer­i­can his­to­rian who wrote a book called The Vis­i­ble Hand. His whole ar­gu­ment was that, if J.P. Mor­gan didn’t ex­ist as a per­son, af­ter the rail­roads went bank­rupt, and didn’t try to re­or­ga­nize it all, the free mar­ket would not have done it in the way it should have. Like­wise, with Al­fred Sloan at Gen­eral Mo­tors or Henry Ford at Ford. It wasn’t the free mar­ket that made these com­pa­nies great, it was great lead­er­ship that took the ini­tia­tive to do some­thing dif­fer­ently.

Back then, it was much more fo­cused on man­u­fac­tur­ing, but as our econ­omy be­comes more ser­vice-ori­ented, the greater fac­tor in­put is the in­tel­li­gence of your peo­ple rather than the raw power of phys­i­cal labour. If you look at how to suc­ceed in that kind of en­vi­ron­ment, di­ver­sity of thought and di­ver­sity of back­ground help in a very big way.

As its ti­tle in­di­cates, the 30% Club aims to have at min­i­mum that many women in se­nior roles and on boards. Based on what you’ve seen, what will be the big­gest chal­lenge to get­ting there?

For us, a big part of it is convincing tal­ented women that they can suc­ceed here: They can have a fam­ily and a ro­bust per­sonal life and suc­ceed pro­fes­sion­ally. In many cases, they don’t be­lieve that, be­cause they’ve never received the right level of sup­port or men­tor­ship. In­stead, they hear things like, ‘Six weeks af­ter giv­ing birth, you’ve got to be back in here and give us some face time’. That is just not the case: Com­pa­nies need to get bet­ter at giv­ing other em­ploy­ees op­por­tu­ni­ties to tem­po­rar­ily fill these roles, and then step back when the as­pir­ing fe­male ex­ec­u­tive is ready to come back. It re­quires a mind­set shift.

Why do you de­vote so much of your own valu­able time to this is­sue?

There are a few rea­sons. First, when I was at busi­ness school back in 1993, I edited a book on work­place di­ver­sity, which was used in the first year busi­ness ethics course at Har­vard. So, this is some­thing I’ve been think­ing about for a very long time — and it went be­yond just gen­der di­ver­sity. It was also about peo­ple of colour, work-life bal­ance, em­brac­ing the LGBTQ com­mu­nity — the book cov­ered many el­e­ments of di­ver­sity in the work­place.

The sec­ond rea­son I wanted to get in­volved is my own sense of per­sonal re­morse. My wife is a highly ed­u­cated, tal­ented woman who ba­si­cally gave up her ca­reer to move to Canada with me

and have a fam­ily. I feel like this could have been han­dled bet­ter. She is now think­ing about what she wants to do next, and I’m en­cour­ag­ing her; so the is­sue has per­son­ally touched me.

The third thing is, I have a daugh­ter, and I al­ways tell her, ‘Never rely on the per­son you may part­ner up with or marry to be your eco­nomic pil­lar; you have to be in­de­pen­dently suc­cess­ful’. Cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple like my daugh­ter is ex­tremely im­por­tant to me.

Talk a bit about the role of male lead­ers in mak­ing ‘the di­ver­sity div­i­dend’ a re­al­ity.

First of all, they have to lis­ten to the facts. A lot of peo­ple have a pre­con­ceived no­tion that this is all a ‘so­cial engi­neer­ing project’, or a pet project for some com­pa­nies. They have to se­ri­ously ab­sorb how this will pos­i­tively im­pact their busi­ness. So, I would say, im­merse your­self in the facts, and as good busi­ness peo­ple, start bring­ing this mind­set into your busi­ness plan as a strate­gic im­per­a­tive. Launch pro­grams, es­tab­lish tar­gets, start iden­ti­fy­ing tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als early on, and add this as a key di­men­sion of your suc­ces­sion-plan­ning pro­gram.

Is there a real-life story that in­di­cates what this mind­set looks like in ac­tion?

I know lots of young women who work on our cap­i­tal mar­kets floor, who are in here ev­ery Sun­day, work­ing all day. I have told them di­rectly, ‘You don’t have to be here seven days a week in or­der to suc­ceed!’ I want them to rec­og­nize that face time is not the only way to move ahead at CIBC. Work­ing smart and dili­gently, and gain­ing re­spect for what you do is what is im­por­tant. But, it can’t just be me; all of our lead­ers need to be say­ing, ‘You can ad­vance your ca­reer with­out work­ing 70 hours per week’. As I in­di­cated ear­lier, we are liv­ing with the bag­gage of some of our past de­ci­sions, but 20 years from now, this will be a much more bal­anced or­ga­ni­za­tion than it is to­day.

What about your own work­ing habits? Are you set­ting an ex­am­ple?

This year, I have ac­tu­ally made a huge ef­fort to be home at least two nights a week: Fri­days for sure, and one other day. I’m re­ally try­ing to change my habits, be­cause I don’t think be­ing at the of­fice all the time is a smart way to work.

What will suc­cess look like for the 30% Club, 10 years from now?

I be­lieve that 20 years from now, we will have fe­male CEOS lead­ing at least 25 per cent of Canadian com­pa­nies. But we all have to be mind­ful of how this ecosys­tem works: Every­one has to start now, look­ing at their pipe­line and who they are hir­ing. If we all started do­ing that im­me­di­ately, that would also in­di­cate suc­cess to me. My dream is for Canada to have more com­pa­nies with 30 to 50 per cent fe­males on their boards than any other coun­try in the world. I be­lieve we can be a world leader in this re­gard.

In my view, the big­gest chal­lenge right now is that there is too much fo­cus on ‘the per­cent­age of women in se­nior roles’. I worry that not enough at­ten­tion is be­ing paid to the pipe­line. What is your take on that?

I agree, and it is the rea­son that we are proac­tively en­gag­ing with our tal­ented pre-ex­ec­u­tive em­ploy­ees, to make sure that they don’t leave our work­force. First of all, we iden­tify who they are; then we cre­ate in­di­vid­ual train­ing pro­grams and tal­ent pro­grams for them and make sure that they move across the bank and get a di­ver­sity of ex­pe­ri­ence.

For this past sum­mer’s re­cruit­ing, we looked at the num­ber of women in our cap­i­tal mar­kets busi­ness — which has al­ways been more un­bal­anced than our re­tail busi­ness — and we made sure that 50 per cent of our re­cruits were women. The fact is, lots of women are still self-se­lect­ing out of in­vest­ment bank­ing — so we al­most have to re­cast the in­dus­try and say, ‘This is not your fa­ther’s in­vest­ment bank!’ We need to change some of the work­ing norms in this in­dus­try, be­cause lots of men are now say­ing, ‘I don’t want that 70-hour work­week life­style any­more’.

What would be at the top of your wish list for lead­ers to start do­ing, to­mor­row morn­ing?

I would ad­vise all lead­ers to take a close look at their tal­ent strat­egy, and make it part of their busi­ness me­chan­ics. This should not be seen as a ‘philo­soph­i­cal is­sue’; it has to be in­te­grated into the run­ning of your busi­ness. Talk is cheap: You have to take ac­tion and make things hap­pen. That’s what we are try­ing to do.

Bank­ing should not be a white man’s cul­ture: It should re­flect what is go­ing on in the out­side world.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.