Newspaper article The Canadian Press

TD's Clark Says Embracing Diversity Is Good for the Soul, but Also Business

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

TD's Clark Says Embracing Diversity Is Good for the Soul, but Also Business

Article excerpt

Clark says embracing LGBT good for TD

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OTTAWA - TD Bank chief executive Ed Clark says being a champion of social issues is not something rewarded "just in heaven" but also benefits the bank's bottom line.

The bank executive, who gave a key speech at the WorldPride Human Rights Conference in Toronto on Wednesday, said TD awoke to diversity issues about a decade ago and has since become a major advocate for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and sponsor of 42 pride festivals across North America.

In an interview before the speech, Clark said he has not tried to calculate whether his bank's public advocacy on the issue has won him more customers than it has lost him, but thinks overall it has been good for TD (TSX:TD).

"I don't know and I don't care, to be honest," he said. "People are trying to build great institutions that will last 100 years, (so if) somebody says, 'Well, I'm going to take my money out if you sponsor pride parades,' you say, 'Take it out.'"

Over time, creating an institution that is on the right side of history and creates a welcoming, open culture for people of different sexual orientation and ethnic groups is a positive, Clark added.

"There are rewards not just in heaven, but eventually in the shareholder, if you run an institution that people say, 'I love their employment brand, they create a different atmosphere.'"

He noted that TD is among the most profitable financial institutions in the western world in terms of shareholder returns.

Clark said he consciously began trying to make the culture at TD inclusive for all employees when in 1994 he offered same sex benefits to his employees. He was shocked when only 55 signed up, a startlingly low number for an institution with 55,000 employees.

That's when he realized people were afraid to reveal who they were.

"That was a profound, upsetting event for me. I said, 'Wow, it probably also means there are also a lot of other prejudices sitting out there that we're not really dealing with,' and so I made a personal initiative that we are going to change the culture."

He met with some resistance. Clark recalls in his speech that one executive told him the bank was losing customers to rivals because it was so openly supportive of gay issues. …

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