June 9, 2014

Using a Diversity Lens Helps Scotiabank Succeed

Bank uses a variety of opportunities to tap into immigrant talent and therefore grow their business.

“It makes keen business sense for us to have a diverse workforce that reflects the communities in which we operate” says Pankaj Mehra, Director,India,South Asia the Philippines Markets at the bank. “For that reason, we are country and duration [in Canada] agnostic when it comes to recruitment.”

Mr. Mehra says the bank is deliberate in monitoring and implementing various recruitment, talent management, career-planning, and training strategies to tap into this pool of talent and provide a welcoming environment for newcomers.

One such channel to attract talent is the International Associate Development Program (IADP), says Fabiola Sicard, the bank’s director of multicultural banking. Designed to be the entry point for starting a career in international banking, this two-year rotational program offers six-month stints in different areas.

“The program is designed to build your leadership skills and create relationships with people across the many departments that support and conduct business on an international scale,” says Ms. Sicard, who herself is an alumna of the program.

Coming from Mexico, she is sensitive to the challenges newcomers to Canada face.

The rotations, special projects and organized events of the program enables a participant to get opportunities like interacting with senior international banking executives which they wouldn’t get otherwise, says Ms. Sicard.

Stephen Bagnarol, head of wholesale banking responsible for developing the Peruvian market, is another big supporter of IADP. “Being able to rotate through different areas of the bank provided the necessary on the job skills as well as a wider base of head office contacts. These were key when I was later sent out into the field to take on more responsibility,” says Mr. Bagnarol.

He pointed out that mentoring is one of the important elements of the program. “It was very motivating to have various leaders in the bank interested in your professional development. Lastly, your other teammates in the program are a great support base as you grow in the organization. There were six of us in the program at that time, and we all still keep in touch.”

Networking Beyond Boundaries

Other professional development initiatives at the bank also support designated groups like the bank’s Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement. HOLA’s flagship program, Dia de la Hispanidad, showcases Latin culture and gives Latinos an opportunity to network with colleagues.

Another of HOLA’s programs, the Lunch & Learn series, brings together employees from across the bank to meet and discuss their work in a manner they would otherwise be too busy for. HOLA also participates in the annual Networking Beyond Boundaries event at which established Latino professional associations and employee resource groups from large corporations connect with transitional or immigrant Latinos.

“The objective is to create a sense of community within the bank and also to promote the professional development of the Hispanic community,” says Ms. Sicard who is helping foster links between Latinos and non-Latinos through HOLA. It’s not a group just for Hispanics, she says. “If others want to learn Spanish or share knowledge of the Latin American market, they too can benefit by joining the group.”

Given its wide footprint in Latin America, the bank has programs to teach Spanish to its non-Latino staff. In Canada the bank has a database of languages its staff knows that is defined according to their proficiency levels. “At present we speak 53 languages. We make sure customers know which languages staff can speak if at least two at a branch are fluent in one,”  says Ms. Sicard.

The number of languages spoken should come as no surprise for a bank whose diversity and inclusion journey began in 1889 when it first opened a foreign branch in the West Indies.

Scotiabank recruiters also conduct workshops at various job fairs to help newcomers with cover letters, resumes and job search strategies. Its career micro site connects them to its community partners for training and development opportunities.

Tips for employers

  • Recognize talent based on what they can bring to your organization immediately and in the future.
  • Design entry point programs that build leadership skills and create relationships with people across the many departments in your organization.
  • Encourage staff to become volunteer mentors in the community. It will provide them a professional development opportunity and serve as a platform to share their knowledge and give back to society.
  • Offer or partner with specific initiatives aimed at newcomer job seekers. You would be pleasantly surprised by the hidden nuggets of talent.  Conduct workshops at various job fairs to help newcomers with cover letters, resumes and job search strategies. Connect them with community partners for training and development opportunities.
  • Support designated groups to create a sense of community and help foster links between them. End result: everyone benefits.
  • Maintain a database of languages your staff speaks and define their proficiency levels. It helps to communicate in the language of your customers.

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