Ernie Diaz: COVID-19 Has Been Humbling for All of Us, Yet I'm Inspired by Our Colleagues

Ernie Diaz

The leader gets candid about personalization, the pandemic and making time for family

Over the past five months, Ernie Diaz has had the immense responsibility of guiding our Customers through an unprecedented global pandemic.

But the TD leader takes immense pride in seeing how his team and Colleagues have reacted and responded to COVID-19, always with the Customer's health and financial well-being top of mind.

By leveraging technology and continuing to personalize the experience for our Customers across all channels, Ernie is confident about TD's future, even as we brace for potential long-lasting impacts of COVID-19.

And in the rare moments when Ernie is not immersed in strategy and the Bank's ongoing efforts to expand access to our Stores and continue to drive connected Customer experiences, he can be found spending time with family and even showing off his grilling skills.

For him, it's about focusing on his work-life balance and spending time with loved ones. Learn more about Ernie in our candid interview.

Ernie Diaz and his family

You head up Consumer Distribution for the Bank. How would you describe your line of business?

Consumer Distribution is all about the frontlines. It's all about Customer-facing teams in our Stores and how our Customers interact using our assisted channels – through digital, our network of ATMs, the Contact Center and Wealth.

I tend to think about it as the tip of the spear – the face of the Bank. We face the Customer, but we're also there for support. I look at my role as trying to orchestrate how all of the channels and our Colleagues work seamlessly together.

At the end of the day, this is TD Bank. This is who we are. We take care of our Customers and we do it with an integrated channel structure or strategy.

You've been impacted by COVID-19 as much if not more than any other area of the Bank, what are you most proud of in how you and your team have adapted to this pandemic?

This is a proven, resilient team. We've been able to keep the Customer at the center of everything we've done. We saw this team's ability to adapt when we went to a drive-through model. Now, as we've started to open up little by little, they're just as engaged and responsive.

As we are now into Phase Two in our openings, where the Customers are coming back into the Stores and our teams are there for them, I'm most proud of the way we've been able to handle the different tasks. Frankly, I get a lot of satisfaction and pride working with these amazing people.

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How do you envision the rest of the year operating? Any key initiatives you're proud of in terms of supporting our Store Colleagues and Customers?

We've been able to leverage some of the technology that we've put in place very, very quickly - like the Virtual Queue. And so, as we work through the analysis of how COVID-19 is impacting each market and as we try to get back into a more normalized operating rhythm, we're looking to leverage this technology to help inform our reopening plan. Every market is different.

We're seeing that the Customers are coming back.

They are anxious to interface with us in person. Even through Virtual Queue, we've had as many as 35,000 check-ins in one day. That's about 40 or 42 check-ins on average, per store. That speaks loudly.

The other thing we're seeing is that the productivity is increasing again in the Stores. So, the Stores are handling a bit more transactional volume. New account generation has also picked up.

What have you learned as a leader in dealing with this completely unforeseen event?

Quite frankly, I've learned that when you think you've seen it all, you really haven't. The pandemic has been humbling to all of us. It's like nothing that any of us have ever experienced. So, the real-time adjustments, the asks, everything here has been a learning experience. I've learned how good our team is and that there is a need to be even more flexible for certain situations.

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How have you personally adjusted to working from home and in a virtual world now?

I think we're seeing in many cases, not in all cases, that we're being more productive. I think you're cutting down on travel time and some expenses. Now, there are negatives as well, right? You're probably spending more time on your computer and in meetings. It's harder to let go, you start working earlier. So, we do need to find the balance in all of this.

I'm not saying that we do this continuously or till the end of time, as I firmly believe in the value of building relationships in person and we will bring the teams back together, when it's safe. But I don't know that we need to do it to the frequency that we've had in the past. I think there's a lot of benefit to incorporate these learnings as we move forward.

As we look to 2021, what can TD do to be the Better Bank? Seems like a human approach is more important than ever.

Our core strategy has not changed – we remain focused on providing financial advice and legendary Customer experiences across all our channels. We know our model still resonates in the market.

COVID-19 challenged our traditional physical Store presence as we were forced to temporarily shift to a predominantly drive-thru only model, yet we continued to deliver for our Customers when they needed us most, despite many obstacles.

Customer behavior shifted during the height of the crisis given both economic uncertainty and our temporary shift in operating model.

Naturally, our Customers have become more comfortable with online and mobile banking in many cases and as we continue to slowly expand our access model, we're seeing Customers back at the Stores.

This shift continues to further increase our multi-channel interactions and affirms the need to accelerate our existing plans to deliver a highly connected experience across all channels – which helps us consistently deliver highly personal, helpful and easy ways for our Customers to bank with us where and how they choose - continuing to do what we do best and differentiating us in the marketplace as the human bank.

What advice would you give yourself 10, 20 years ago?

That's a good question. I would say the best advice we can give, especially to younger folks, is to keep reading. Keep learning about what's going on, keep learning about innovation, keep learning about what's being developed, and keep learning about what your competitors are doing. Stay informed. For everyone, but especially the younger generation of leaders, this is key.

Ernie off-shore fishing with his family

How do you unwind after a long day?

I love to off-shore fish, but sometimes that's not easy, especially now. So, certainly through the pandemic, I've become a Big Green Egg guy – barbecuing for my family. I just love it. it's all about sharing good, quality time with family and getting together.

What's your morning routine like?

I get up early and try to set the tone for the day. I'm a big reader. I read all the newspapers to stay as current as possible and review my calendar to prepare for upcoming meetings in the days and weeks ahead. I find that if you're not organized, you can't be as productive as you like during the day.


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