With 25 years at the financial services provider, Fola Osuntokun has had the opportunity to work in various segments and departments in Toronto, Dublin and London. However, it is her work supporting the intersectionality of gender and race that led the TD Securities team to select Fola to be its role model.
Fola’s dedication to TD Securities has seen her work in three countries and be promoted up the corporate ladder to her current combined role as a Director of the Executive Office for TD Global Finance in Ireland and as a Director of the Office of the Chief Operating Officer for Europe. The team putting Fola forward acknowledged that her achievements came despite the challenges that she has encountered herself and continues to face.
Seen as an exceptional leader on the Visible Minority committee and a key contributor to the Black Experience Committee on a global level across the firm, Fola is also credited as a driving force of a better TD culture in the London and Dublin offices and is well known to be proactive in creating opportunities for female colleagues. Her colleagues call her sense of responsibility towards paying it forward as “legendary” and would like it to be emulated by all leaders. They look forward to working with the next generation of even more diverse female leaders that come in Fola’s wake.
As a champion of intersectionality for the Bank, Fola has led and campaigned for the family resource group at TD Securities in Europe, and established and led the ethnicity resource group. However, Fola maintains there remains a significant problem with representation in the financial services sector in terms of gender and ethnicity. She is convinced that change can be accelerated by shedding light on the lack of diversity to improve representation and have a positive impact on future generations to come. Maintaining better representation and inclusion need to be something that occurs innately in financial services, she is also a firm believer in the need for diversity to attract diversity.
A relatively new passion for Fola, the desire to ensure that diversity and inclusion improved – and quickly – stemmed from her own experience in 2019 when she returned to work from maternity leave after having her first child. While she was spending the first few months with her daughter, new diversity and inclusion schemes were being set up, but these had been primarily focused on women in leadership. Fola wanted to get involved as the only black woman in the office, speaking openly to colleagues about issues she had faced throughout her career and in daily life.
She knew she could help others by sharing her experiences and educating colleagues on just some of the obstacles women of colour face. And, in making historically uncomfortable conversations more comfortable, she understood that the discussions would also highlight the importance of allyship given, in Fola’s experience, you don’t have to be directly impacted by an issue to want to see change. This was despite her experience that the most difficult aspect of sharing painful stories of discrimination meant reliving each encounter, each and every time it was shared, even when the incidences had taken place decades before.
This led to Fola setting up a separate Visible Minority business resource group for the UK and Ireland in 2020.
For Fola, this is only the beginning. While it will take time for these initiatives to move the needle on gender and ethnicity representation, she is delighted to see that diversity and inclusion are important to senior management. Incorporating diversity and inclusion principles is not a position that firms will move on from and, as such, should be a standing agenda item.
In the note putting Fola forward, John Moore, Vice Chair and Regional Head for Europe and Asia Pacific for TD Securities, stated: “We are proud to recognise the outstanding contributions of Fola Osuntokun throughout her 25-year career at TD Securities. Fola continues to exemplify our ethos and commitment to inclusion and diversity in the way we do business. Fola is a true role model, not only to the vast range of colleagues that she engages with at TD, but also to future generations of talent entering the industry.”
And Fola is now focusing on the next tasks for her business resource groups in flagging the research that highlights the business benefits of diversity and inclusion with regard to faster problem solving, increased innovation, improvement in company performance, and increased levels of employee engagement to name a few.