Canada Banks Shed Locker-Room Mentality, RBC’s Nixon Says

Royal Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer Gordon Nixon
Royal Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer Gordon Nixon said, “There’s systematic barriers in every industry, but they’re probably worse in capital markets than they are in other parts of financial services.” Photographer: Norm Betts/Bloomberg

Canadian banks still struggle to keep women in capital markets even as the industry has moved beyond the “locker room” attitudes that have discouraged them in the past, said Gordon Nixon, chief executive officer of Royal Bank of Canada.

“If you look at the capital-markets business historically, if you look at the trading business as an example, it used to be accused of a locker-room mentality,” Nixon, 55, said yesterday in an interview. “That’s not the case today, it’s come a long way, but it’s been a progression.”

Nixon, who is being recognized this year by research firm Catalyst for championing women in business, said banks must do more to recruit and retain women in capital-markets roles.

“There’s systematic barriers in every industry, but they’re probably worse in capital markets than they are in other parts of financial services,” Nixon said. “There’s certainly room for more improvement.”

Women represented 10 percent of managing directors or higher within Canada’s capital-markets industry, little changed in a decade, a study published last month by Catalyst and nonprofit group Women In Capital Markets said. A more diverse workplace would reduce turnover and improve a company’s profitability, the study said.

Janice Fukakusa, Royal Bank’s chief financial officer, said at Bloomberg’s Canada Economic Summit on May 8 that women have had a tougher time moving up the ladder in investment banking in part because the culture is still dominated by men.

Royal Bank has mentoring and sponsorship programs to shift the trend within capital markets, and has other targets across the bank to lure more women into management and executive ranks.

Increase Diversity

Nixon will be honored by the Canadian arm of Catalyst at a Nov. 5 dinner for his contributions to advancing women while overseeing Canada’s biggest bank by assets. Catalyst, an organization founded in 1962 to advance and support female executives in business, said Royal Bank under Nixon “has consistently shown leadership across all industries in the representation of women and visible minorities.”

Nixon established a council at the bank after becoming CEO in 2001 to oversee diversity efforts across the Toronto-based company, including increasing the amount of women and visible minorities for senior roles, Catalyst said this week in a statement. Women comprise 65 percent of Royal Bank’s Canadian workforce and 37 percent of the firm’s executives.

Female CEO

Nixon said that Canada is “absolutely” ready for its first female bank CEO.

“Not only will Bay Street be ready for it, they’d welcome it,” Nixon said, referring to the Toronto street that serves as the financial hub for Canada. “We’re now getting more and more women in the senior ranks of companies.”

Canadian firms still have work to do to bring on more women leaders and improve gender diversity, Nixon said.

“We can always do more, it doesn’t mean corporate Canada is bad, it just means there are always opportunities to do more,” Nixon said. “When you look at things like board composition, the numbers are pretty dismal in Canada.”

Five of Royal Bank’s 16 board members are women.

Royal Bank rose 14 cents, or 0.3 percent, to close at C$53.05 ($52.07) in Toronto trading.

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