Women of Influence: Louise Mitchell

By Kate McCaffery | August 18 2014 09:00AM

Louise Mitchell

A transformational change leader

Louise Mitchell, senior vice president at TD Bank Group, wants to help change the industry.

From the outside, her career has taken her in that direction quite naturally – leading her from commercial banking early on, to a position reforming processes for small business customer service, to insurance distribution today, where she has end-to-end accountability for the financial group’s life and health insurance business.

I would like to see the industry doing work on improving our brand.

Inside of her career, team building and mentorship are strong themes that come through. Leadership is a topic she’s often asked to speak about as well. “I’m most proud about my ability to build teams and develop leaders,” she says. “I get a real sense of accomplishment from that.”

Larger, “transformational change” is another recurring theme in her career. “I think my specialty has always been around transformational change, or businesses that are ripe for a change,” she says.

“I like change. I tend to be a ‘why’ person. If you ask why, look externally and assess market opportunities, a lot of times that leads you believe in (or find) opportunities for improvement. That tends to be how I approach business. It tends to put you naturally in a role where you have the opportunity to make change.”

Today, she says one of her favourite companies to think about is Apple Inc. The Genius feature embedded in iTunes, for example, makes recommendations to listeners, because those users have trusted the company with access to their entire library and preferences. “I’m willing to share my playlist and my music list with Apple because I fundamentally know they’re going to give me something of value back. Imagine a day where customers willingly give us their data, because they fundamentally believe we will make recommendations that will improve their financial picture,” she says.

“I think customers are being trained by other companies on what they can expect, or what they should expect. As an industry, we need to understand that, and start figuring out how that applies to us.”

Reduce complexity

For clients, she says the industry needs to continue working on ways to reduce complexity. “Every piece of research tells us that customers don’t understand insurance and, furthermore, they really don’t want to buy it. We need to make it easier for them to access both the advice and the coverage they need. We really need to address the underserved and the underinsured market.”

“It’s a pretty important need we’re meeting,” she adds. “I would like to see the industry doing work on improving our brand, as well. I think it’s a category issue.”

Outside of TD, Mitchell was recently awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for her community service, working with Junior Achievement Canada (she is currently past chair), the United Way and the Mississauga Board of Trade. She also works on a board with the Canadian Association of Financial Institutions and Insurance, and participates in events hosted by LIMRA.

“As an industry, there are a lot of opportunities for change. If you want to make change, though, you have to be part of it. So when I get asked to participate, I’m happy to do that. I want to be one of the people who help change the industry.”

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