CEO's Convocation Address Reflects and Celebrates 150 Years of Canadian Values

TD CEO, Bharat Masrani, was awarded an honourary degree from the Schulich School of Business on June 23rd, 2017 and was invited to deliver a convocation address to the graduating class.

With Canada's 150th birthday providing the backdrop for the graduation ceremony, Bharat noted in his remarks that the Schulich graduates represent the first generation of leaders who will set the trajectory for the next 150 years of the Canadian journey.

He emphasized that while there will no doubt be obvious change along the way, it's important to remain mindful of the aspects of Canadian life that have endured over time – openness, fairness, collaboration and diversity.

Bharat highlighted that in Canada, diversity is seen as a competitive advantage and a strength, not a weakness. Born and raised in Uganda, he relayed that as an immigrant, Canada has never denied him of opportunities to be his best self. He noted the importance of an inclusive society – emphasizing that success in any form relies on the forces that bring us together, not those that drive us apart.


TD CEO, Bharat Masrani's Convocation Remarks

Chancellor, President, Faculty and Staff, Honoured Guests, Graduates and Parents, Ladies and Gentlemen…

I receive this honourary degree with gratitude. To be recognized by a great global business school – and to be here with so many of the faculty, administrators, and alumni who've helped Schulich earn this reputation – makes this convocation a very special occasion for me.

Let me first congratulate this year's graduating class.  This is – and will remain – a very special moment in your life. Think about your toughest days here – I saw your curriculum and you would have had many of them. But you persevered – and now you leave Schulich better prepared than when you first arrived.

So hats off to you – but don't throw yours off – keep it as a memento of your achievements here.

Today is all the more special given the back drop of this ceremony. This year, Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday. With so many candles on the cake, it's fitting to reflect on the ways our great nation has evolved over time.

Change in the next 150 years will not only continue – but happen faster and permeate deeper than ever before. Canada is clearly a nation on the move. And that is incredibly exciting for all of us – but especially for those here on the stage with me - our graduating class -- who will find themselves in positions and places that will fuel our growth going forward.

But we should also be mindful of – and celebrate - aspects of national life that have remained consistent through time. Here, I'm referring to the core values we hold dear … our openness, sense of fairness, and spirit of collaboration.

In Canada, we see diversity as a strength -- not a weakness. It’s a significant competitive advantage.

I was born and raised in a country that did not see it that way. Under Idi Amin, Uganda expelled my entire community – many of whom were active in the country's growing economy.

Living here, in Canada, I've never been denied of opportunities to be my best self.

That includes the time I spent right here on this campus…

Now, that was a long time ago – believe it or not, Dezsö wasn’t the Dean back then. And the entire business school was housed in just one small building – not that I am complaining – but there was no executive dining room, fitness facility, landscaped courtyards or concierge services like there are today…

But back then – as it is today – success was measured by a student's commitment, capabilities and character or, as I call them, the three Cs.

Look around -- Schulich has one of the most diverse student bodies of any business education program in North America. Most of the faculty comes from outside Canada – speaking more than 35 languages. In today's global economy, this kind of diversity provides huge competitive advantages.

While my Canadian experience has been positive – that hasn’t been the case for everyone.

Indeed, I believe we must strive to be an even more inclusive society -- especially today -- as we see lines being drawn around the world between forces that would divide us and forces that would unite us.

I'm convinced that success -- in whatever form -- relies on the forces that bring us together, not drive us apart.

So, as Canadians, we must remain vigilant defenders of our values.

All of you will play a special role in doing just that, and in turn, build the society our citizens want and deserve.  That's because you represent the first generation of leaders who will set the trajectory for the next 150 years of the Canadian journey.  That's an awesome responsibility and an equally significant opportunity.

Now, given that most of you have spent the majority of your time over the past two to four years in the Scott or Bronfman Business libraries – at least that's what the Dean told me - many of you might not consider yourselves "leaders" just yet.

And despite your achievements to date, you may be entering the working world with some trepidation regarding what it will take to reach your full potential, and fulfill your own personal and career aspirations.

Let me share some of my own learnings from my career, which may, in some small way, help you on your path ahead.

From my perspective, I can tell you that there is no leadership gene that enables a chosen few to motivate and inspire groups of people, let alone make the big decisions that help organizations do better, be better.

Leadership comes from your collective experiences growing up, attending school, facing adversity, achieving success.

While there is no shortage of these experiences in life, the key is to learn from each of them. That starts with one simple premise: never stop being a student ––always keep listening – keep observing – keep challenging yourself and keep discovering. Remember, you were given two ears and one mouth – you should apply the same ratio to listening and talking.

Moreover, as you move through your career, find ways to surround yourself with people smarter than you. Colleagues are often great teachers and they will make you look good. I can tell you that's been true in my case – and it's a big part of my ongoing success.

That leads me to another observation. To say the business world is in a permanent state of change is an understatement.

Enduring organizations adapt. The same must be said about those who work for them. We must be willing to evolve our own skills, capabilities and even the way we lead.

In doing so, be prepared to challenge yourself to develop in ways you may not have thought possible. This may be the most daunting thing you will do in the workplace. But don’t underestimate your ability to dream big and set outrageous goals for yourself – you will be amazed with what you can achieve.

A good dose of humility also helps. There will be times – quite frankly in both your professional and personal life – when someone might take issue with your approach.

I have a rule of thumb which has served me well: always assume that you are 50 percent of the problem. If you do, it is easier to find common ground – and resolve issues -- when you recognize that there is room to improve.  And I can tell you that this rule works equally well at home as it does at the office!

Of course, success will not simply be defined by what you achieve – but how you achieve it.  This is so critical.  I talked earlier about some of the values that provide Canada with its competitive advantage.

You will find the same is true for companies and people. Values do matter. They not only provide an organization with a roadmap for success – but also for the people who serve in them.

Leaders at ALL levels of an organization should take this to heart. How you live your life from 5 to 9 is equally as important as how you live it 9 to 5.

You are entering the working world in a position of privilege as a Schulich graduate.

Great expectations will be placed upon you. Over time, and throughout your life, you will find even more people – in and outside of professional life -- looking to you for direction and guidance, for help and assistance, for leadership, for inspiration.

Greater demands on your time will require more personal sacrifices.

But this is a precious gift – to be asked and entrusted to serve others.

Indeed, that IS the true call of leadership – to set up those around you for success…

And you are – and will be asked because people believe in you – in the 3 Cs - your commitment, your capabilities, your character.

To this, I would add a fourth "c": confidence … the confidence we all have in you!

Yes -- you are graduating into a vastly different business world than the one I joined. It is a bigger world – a faster, more competitive world – it comes with its own challenges and opportunities – many that are still unimaginable.

But it’s a world that I am confident you will thrive in – because you are prepared for it – thanks to your great education here -- you have got what it takes to make an impact – in the places you work, the people you serve – your presence will be felt.

But, let's not get carried away just yet…

Savour this very special moment in your life. Express gratitude to all those who've helped you achieve it – your family and friends, teachers, mentors, colleagues.

I also want to pay special thanks to the parents and all those who supported today's graduates. The amount of time and sacrifices you have made to ensure the success of your loved ones is beyond words. You, too, should feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

For our graduating class, the road ahead is full of promise and opportunity. I wish you the very best on your journey. I know it will lead to great things – for you – and for Canada.

Thank you.

Bharat Masrani

Group President and Chief Executive Officer

TD Bank Group