How bank is fostering better relationships with its Black customers

VP lifts the lid on its efforts to build diversity and inclusion with new strategy

How bank is fostering better relationships with its Black customers

Al Ramsay, TD’s Vice President and Head of LGBTQ+ and Black Customer Segments, has been working on diversity and inclusion at the bank for 17 years, but is excited to be rolling out an even more ambitious initiative.

“When I started at TD in 2005, walking into an organization as a queer Black man for the first time, I felt a sense of belonging and really confident in my abilities because the organization told me that I was valued, even with my diversity,” Ramsay told Wealth Professional.

Now, he wants to create the same experience for TD customers, colleagues, and community. Ramsay was hired to foster better relationships with the bank’s diverse and Black communities, so started knocking on doors to find out what the Black community, in particular, needed to make TD their go-to place.

He’s been partnering with many groups since and started a New-to-Canada campaign with atypical marketing to support the diverse Black community. While he made some progress, the summer of 2020 events, including George Floyd’s death, he said, “really highlighted the fact that yes, we have done a lot of work over the years, but now we need to really push it further in an accelerated fashion.”

The new Black Customer Experience Strategy that TD just launched aims to accelerate progress with all of the bank’s constituencies – customers, Ramsay’s colleagues, and the community.

“What we’re trying to do here, at TD, is put a stake in the ground to say including these diverse communities is not just the right thing to do, and an HR imperative, it makes good business sense, and not just from a dollars and cents stance, but to also hire the best and brightest from these communities,” he said.

“We need to do more to support the Black community in delivering all we have at the TD bank, from credit to advice. So, we’re designing a holistic strategy that’s not just a tactic. It’s fully funded and good for employees, right across the country, from coast to coast to coast.”

TD launched a dedicated team that Ramsay leads, which listened more deeply to customer, colleague, and community concerns. It plans to look, from end to end, at the process of how it can better support the Black community. It’s examining the bank’s products, policies, and procedures, to identify the “pain points” for the Black community. He said it’s sharing some cautious optimism about what’s happening, but wants TD to help to empower it to make financial decisions for its families and future. TD now is delivering financial education and seminars to the community, so “we can really deliver the whole TD bank to our customers.”

One of the pain points he’s heard from customers is “sometimes the experience isn’t the greatest when they interact with us at the branch level, and that’s something we’re taking very seriously”. TD now has a dedicated internal committee looking at that, but it’s also worked with the Black community to design some anti-Black racism training that everyone at TD needs to take. It’s also providing frontline advisors with more specialized and on-going customer-centric training to “make sure that we alleviate those pain points from our customers”. TD is also looking at how it can attract more Black advisors so the community can work with them.

Ramsay wanted to improve his colleagues’ experience, too, so TD launched a Black employee network that now has mentorship programs, career planning, and networking events, “so anyone, including Black colleagues, can achieve their full potential and feel a sense of belonging at the TD bank.”

He also involved 100 colleagues in producing ideas for the Black Customer Experience Strategy to “really deliver the entire bank to the community”.

Last fall, TD Bank Group announced that it was donating $10 million over five years to the Black Opportunity Fund. That’s one one of the largest donations to the $1.5 billion fund that its team of Black Canadians is establishing to help small business, charities, and the community dismantle structural barriers to Black economic success.

Ramsay is leveraging the best practices and learnings from the Black Customer Experience Strategy to help other groups, such as Indigenous, LGBTQ2+, and women entrepreneurs.

“We’re really excited on our journey right now,” he said. “And Black History month is the perfect time to mark what we’re amplifying in working with our community.”

Ramsay is seeing other banks embrace more initiatives, but encourages advisors to, too.

“The biggest message for advisors is this is just good business practice in building your book and servicing your clients. The Black community is a very diverse community, but the Black and other diverse communities are great customers,” he said.

“You can differentiate yourself in the community if you’re a great advisor and you can connect authentically with our community. We will give you credit, and you can be successful in being a fantastic ally serving a wide-range customer base. So, you can definitely accelerate and grow your business while working with different communities.”