When The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ expanded its focus to include Global Banking and Markets (GBM) last year to help support women in their career trajectory, there was a clear need.

Although progress has been made over the years, women remain underrepresented in the C-Suite and the boardroom and The Scotiabank Women Initiative for GBM rolled out bespoke programs such as board preparation courses for clients, aimed at building up the pipeline and correcting the imbalance.

The past few months have shown that SWI’s mission to elevate women is even more relevant.

Not only are women being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the resulting economic turmoil, but diverse perspectives in the boardroom are essential for better decision-making as companies navigate through the crisis.

It is ever more important to help women move forward in their careers, said Loretta Marcoccia, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Global Banking and Markets.

“It's critical that we continue to be in front of them with ways they can continue to build their knowledge, as well as opportunity,” said Marcoccia, who is also the Executive Sponsor of SWI for GBM.

Two-year anniversary for SWI

In December 2018 the Bank launched SWI, a comprehensive program that supports women-led and women-owned businesses through its three pillars: Access to Capital, Mentorship and Education. It was founded by Tangerine Bank CEO Gillian Riley, who while working in Commercial Banking saw firsthand the hurdles that women entrepreneurs had to overcome to secure funding. Riley now serves as SWI’s Executive Sponsor.

Since the launch, SWI has deployed two-thirds of the $3 billion committed toward women-owned and women-led businesses in its first three years, has engaged with more than 2,000 women through over 100 Un-Mentorship Boot Camps and Mentorship sessions, and ramped up its offerings to support women during the pandemic. The initiative has also collaborated with more than 15 organizations including Disruption Ventures, Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, Réseau des Femmes d'affaires du Québec and MNP.

Building on that success, SWI expanded to GBM in December 2019 to help women clients to reach the next level of their careers. Its programming falls under three pillars: Advisory, Education and Innovation.

Under its Education pillar, the Initiative last year began hosting a series of training sessions facilitated by Scotiabank professionals on topics ranging from cybersecurity to payments modernization. The aim of the Learn, Engage And Partner (LEAP) series is to boost women clients’ knowledge and provide an opportunity for them to network with other women in similar industries or roles.

SWI for GBM is also looking to drive change through the services and products it offers clients. The work in its Innovation pillar builds on the Bank’s success in having established a Diversity and Inclusion office within its wholesale banking division, the first Canadian bank to do so.

Helping women become board ready

Also, as part of its Advisory pillar, SWI aims to open the boardroom doors to more women with its Good Corporate Governance Program, designed and facilitated by Julie Walsh, Scotiabank’s Senior Vice President, Corporate Secretary and Chief Corporate Governance Officer.

The inaugural program, held earlier this year, ran sessions on topics including how to approach boardroom directorships, how to contribute once you are on a board, and the latest trends in corporate governance. The aim of the program is to help demystify aspects of the boardroom, build up women’s competencies for a board seat, and prepare them for success once they are at the table.

“We have a wealth of experience that's quite unique in the corporate governance office on what good looks like in the boardroom, and in different environments,” said Walsh. “And we were able to leverage this in a different way for our women clients’ benefit.”

One participant, Sarah Joyce, Senior Vice President, Ecommerce for grocery-store chain Sobeys Inc., said the “top-notch” curriculum deepened her knowledge in many areas, including board dynamics and the importance of doing due diligence on board culture and fit when selecting a board to join.  

“The best part of it for me was the opportunity to bring a group of strong-willed, like-minded women together who are at similar stages in their careers and have a forum to openly talk about issues and decisions and future career paths,” said Joyce.

Online format has increased participation

The inability to interact in person due to the pandemic has forced the program to go online for both its Good Governance Programs and LEAP sessions, which has allowed more women to participate because it is easier for them to attend, said Marcoccia.

The corporate governance training program can also be launched even further afield much faster, including into the US and Europe, if done virtually, she added.

“Now, we're looking at the opportunity of taking this global, where that wouldn't have been possible without the circumstances the way they are,” Marcoccia said.

The Scotiabank Women Initiative for GBM also helps clients who are looking to diversify their boards. The Bank has compiled a list of more than 100 board-ready women, some of whom joined the first cohort of the Good Corporate Governance Program.

Countless studies show that diversifying boards is simply better for business.

 Joyce said the fact that the SWI for GBM program goes beyond offering a classroom or a network but also helps facilitate board placement is key.

“It’s kind of like putting your money where your mouth is,” she said. “You're not just saying women should go on boards, you're actually taking women in, teaching them about it and then helping them find that final placement.”

SWI launches in Global Wealth Management

The next step for SWI is to inspire and empower women to take charge of their financial futures. Scotiabank’s Global Wealth Management division has created a bespoke program that builds on the foundation of Scotia Wealth Management’s Total Wealth offering and transforms the way it serves women clients.

Whether they are the primary financial decision makers or often work together with their partners on money matters, women expect a tailored approach to financial advice. As many as 94% of women investors surveyed want to learn about money and finances and 90% of women investors see advice from a wealth advisor as helpful for one or more life events, a Scotia Global Asset Management Investor Sentiment Survey from May shows. Yet only 22% of women have a formal written financial plan prepared by a professional, according to Scotiabank’s Winning & Retaining Women Investors survey.

“We are pleased to partner with our women clients to address the entirety of their lives in a way that is most meaningful to them, building on the foundation of Scotia Wealth Management’s Total Wealth offering,” says Erin Griffiths, Senior Vice President, Client Solutions and Direct Investing. 

SWI for Scotia Wealth Management officially launched on December 7, following a successful pilot program. It offers in-depth training, perspectives and strategies for advisors to help better support them with the unique wealth management opportunities of women clients. There is also a dedicated Scotiabank Women Initiative Advisory Board and team, including access to experts, to support advisors in prospecting, positioning and connecting with women clients for all their wealth management needs.

SWI continues to widen its offerings aimed at supporting women, but Marcoccia’s hope is that programs like these are no longer needed in the long term – that businesses will simply operate in a way that encourages diversity as a matter of course.

She is hopeful that SWI’s efforts will help more women obtain board seats and other executive positions, to serve as role models for others.

“Everyone needs to be able to see someone that they can relate to, that they want to be like, and want to follow in their footsteps,” Marcoccia said. “Whether that's that kid who wants to be a top athlete or that young adult who wants to be a CEO one day. You can help them along by giving them opportunities to see themselves through somebody else.”