Senior Counsel, TD Bank
Why he matters: Making the legal profession more inclusive
“Litigation is great for people who like to fix certain types of problems,” says Paul Saguil, thinking back on his time as a litigator for Bay Street law firm Stockwoods. “You’re deconstructing things after they’ve happened, putting the puzzle pieces together and resolving the dispute.” But after several years of such work, Saguil decided it was time for a change. “I wanted to focus on the front end—building things and preventing litigation.”
Today, as senior counsel at TD Bank, Saguil is doing just that. He’s one of an elite flying squad of lawyers dubbed The Hub, who investigate internal compliance matters, sniffing out smoke so they can prevent small fires from becoming big ones. “The idea is to get ahead of things before they become actual problems,” he explains. The Hub looks into issues “before they end up in litigation, in front of a regulatory body [or] in media coverage.”
Like all Canadian banks, TD must navigate a thicket of laws, regulations and conventions governing its operations: consumer privacy, financial disclosure, risk management and more. Trust in its integrity is vital to the bank’s business, but it must occasionally contend with breaches or lapses by employees, ranging from simple mistakes to outright fraud. While there’s a whole compliance department to stamp out such problems, sometimes an issue requires specialized skills. The Hub might be called upon in response to a query from a regulator like the Ontario Securities Commission, a tip from an employee to her superiors or a customer complaint. “It’s great from a professional development perspective,” says Saguil. “I get to learn about new things every day. No two days are ever really alike.”
Going in-house (as it’s known in legal circles) at TD also allowed Saguil to do more for Out on Bay Street, an advocacy network for LGBTQ professionals working in finance, law and related fields. “That was the other opportunity—to make a difference within not just the legal profession but corporate Canada at large,” says Saguil, who was drawn to TD in part because of its history of sponsoring Pride events.
Out on Bay Street, which facilitates career development through mentorships, workshops and monthly networking events, recently marked its 10th anniversary. Saguil, who joined the board in March, has been involved from nearly the beginning. He’s seen important gains for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people working in banking and law over the past decade, which he attributes in large part to Out on Bay Street. “Younger professionals are looking to bring their values everywhere they are, in every organization they’re part of,” he says.
Other barriers remain in place. “I’m Filipino, so I have this dual minority identity,” notes Saguil. Corporate diversity initiatives can be “one size fits all” and aren’t always good at recognizing the impact of overlapping identities. (Saguil is also chair of the Law Society’s equity advisory group and contributed to the recent landmark report on racism in the legal profession.) And while Saguil says the “LGB” part of the community has made remarkable strides at work during his career—two men holding hands in a bank ad, for instance, hardly registers as controversial the way it once did—transgender individuals and communities still face unique challenges. “We need to think about how our preconceived notions, language and standard practices could be tweaked to become more inclusive.”
Saguil says a lot of it comes down to simply listening. “I had mentors who weren’t LGBT,” he says. “But I had people bring me up, yield the floor to me, [and] give me the opportunity to speak.”