Marketing the Rainbow
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This case study is largely based on a personal interview with Al Ramsay, Senior Manager of Customer Segments and Strategy (Diversity), February 8, 2010.
TD Bank Financial Group is 2nd largest bank in Canada. Headquartered in Toronto, with offices around the world, the group offers a full range of financial products and services, including retail products.
TD is a good example of how a Diversity policy is applied both internally and externally, in one comprehensive program. “We don’t just look at diversity from a community and customer standpoint, we look at it holistically,” says Al Ramsay.
”TD has gotten a lot of accolades, awards, recognition and press, but I feel humbled because the driving force for diversity initiatives is our employees; they’re the ones trying to make a change in the organization.” 90% of TD executives have taken diversity training in the past few years - that’s over 6,000 of our middle management. A big part of that training is about sensitivity, cultural competencies and how people are afraid to address different cultural differences because they’re afraid of saying the wrong things,” says Ramsay.
“Overall, TD Bank is going beyond funding cultural activities - their employees are learning how to walk in other people’s shoes. “There’s a beauty of different cultures and some people don’t know it. Our job is to bridge that and to integrate this society and the internal population at TD. For example, being gay is not an issue, that doesn’t define who you are. That’s what we want to become. It’s how we do business - it’s us.”
"We know that fostering true diversity is a journey. But the strategic payoff, in the end, is business sustainability. In 2008, we began to form our diversity strategy for our growing U.S. operations. We have established a new three-year action plan for 2012-2014, including our priorities for the year."
President and CEO Ed Clark and the Senior Executive Team have made Diversity a strategic business priority and are playing a very direct role in driving the agenda forward. It evolves around three cores: employees, community and consumers. On their website the CEO states: “Our commitment to diversity is fundamental to how we want to do business today and in the future. We want our bank to be diverse and inclusive: a place where employees, customers and clients feel comfortable and supported in all their diversity. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s also about driving better business. As the demographics of society change, we need to continually evolve to ensure that we embrace and reflect all communities.”
TD is more an urban than other banks, so has a more direct involvement in communities like the LGBT. The Diversity Strategy includes 5 groups:
1. Visible minorities (mostly ethnic – the influx from immigrant is 250,000 a year, and the leading cause of population growth in Canada)
2. Persons with a disability (facilitating accessibility, among other things)
3. Aboriginals (1 mln)
5. LGBT, which TD calls LGBTA (the "A" stands for Allies)
As to the LGBTA population, the website states: “Offering a supportive environment for LGBTA is another priority area for TD’s Diversity Leadership Council. Among our initiatives in this area:
• In several major cities, TD has partnered with LGBTA associations, such as the Quebec Gay Chamber of Commerce, to meet the specific needs of business in these communities.
• We have year-round advertising campaigns to reach the LGBTA community in various mainstream and target publications, portraying TD as a welcoming bank. As one example, in 2008 TD Insurance Home and Auto placed ads on several LGBTA-oriented websites, including xtra.ca, fugues.com, voir.ca and hour.ca, and in LGBTA-oriented directories such as index.ca, gaycanada.com and the Quebec Gay Chamber of Commerce. To date TD Insurance is the only insurance company that has addressed this market in this manner, making the campaign a Canadian first in the insurance industry.”
“We are proud of our progress in creating an inclusive and welcoming workplace for LGBTA employees. In fact, employees are applauding our efforts - as indicated in internal surveys and anecdotally - and TD has received significant recognition, including a number of external awards . Among the initiatives:
• Employee Pride Network, which acts as a feedback mechanism to shape the strategy, and allows employees to share ideas and experiences. There are local networks in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and London. Over 1,000 employees (out of 50,000) have joined the network since it started in 2005.
• Annual receptions: TD organizes annual employee Pride receptions in communities across Canada, which are hosted by various members of our Senior Executive Team, including the President and CEO. In 2008, more than 800 employees and community partners attended. All TD employees are welcome to participate whether they are members of the LGBTA community or peers who want to show their support.
• Recruitment: To attract talent from this community to our organization, we participated in the Rainbow Network’s job fairs. TD was presenting sponsor of Out on Bay Street, an MBA conference for LGBTA students in Toronto.”
The efforts do not go unnoticed: in 2008 TD was named “Best Investment Advisor/ Firm” and “Best Bank” by readers of Xtra!, Canada's online source for gay and lesbian news.
The strategy is primarily aimed at brand awareness, and does not directly result in business or more customers. Hence, marketing campaigns are not measured that way.
The policy is based on their own research, which showed a number of areas to focus on: youth (Youth Line, Jer’s Vision), AIDS (St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, Casey House Hospice, SNAP!, a photography auction organized by the AIDS Committee of Toronto, and Maskarade, the masquerade ball fundraiser in Montreal), arts.
TD has been lead sponsor of the Prides in Toronto (one of the largest arts and culture festivals in Canada and one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world), Montreal and Vancouver for 5 years (and London since 2008). Their sponsorship is quite comprehensive, with a float in the parade, billboards, flyers, but also grass roots: sponsoring of sub-events (like a reception), and encouraging a volunteer program by employees of the bank. Because TD sponsors some major musical events, like the Toronto Jazz Festival, they also (partly) focused the Pride sponsorship around that theme - having a stage presence at performances, etc.
Previously, they “only” sponsored AIDS- funds and events: such activity is indirectly supporting the gay community, but to sponsor Pride brought their policy out in the open. The initial, minimal resistance soon tapered off (one reason being the social “status” of LGBT in Canada, and the lack of a massive right wing, conservative movement like in the USA), and the bank has now managed to play a leading role in this field.
Over time, TD has supported many events within their Diversity Strategy, including Vancouver’s Korean Heritage Day Festival, Toronto’s IRIE Music Festival and the 20th Anniversary Gala Celebra¬tion of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP).
Later a more gender focused policy was set up, with a first lesbian campaign being finalized early 2010.
In 2009 TD Canada Trust, as Title Sponsor of the GLBA of British Columbia, offered small business customers the opportunity to purchase or expand commercial real estate through a Canada Small Business Financing Act Loan at a preferred rate. However, this offer was not limited to the LGBT community, it was merely facilitated via its association.
In 2009, the company’s annual inclusiveness survey was conducted. “89% of employees say that we’re an inclusive environment - that number climbs,” reveals Ramsay, who says that the percentage in 2007 was 86.
TD more recently expanded their diversity initiatives into the United States. “In the U.S., TD Bank has been named as one of the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Best Places to Work’ for 2010, a list of the top businesses that support equality for our LGBT employees,” adds Ramsay.
TD Bank was "incredibly proud to be a Platinum Sponsor for WorldPride" in New York. WorldPride includes the Pride March, the Human Rights Conference and the TD Bank Employee Summit Events. The bank said the were committed to marching forward with the LGBT+ community, and to "opening doors for everyone to have the opportunity to succeed with confidence in a changing world".
This article was last updated Dec 10, 2020
Over the years, Pride was celebrated in several cities with the presence of sponsorship of TD Bank, like the first Canadian Pride Month in 2016.
As they are also active in the US as "America's most convenient bank", many of these were souht of the Canadian border. For instance with a VIP lounge at Long Island Pride in 2016, Miami Beach Pride 2018, where there was a pre-parade VIP party at TD Bank with Gus Kenworthy, Capital Pride in DC in 2018, where TD won the award for Best Decorated Float Contingent and 27 other Parades in the US.