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How The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ is helping women take control of their finances

Erin Griffiths, Senior Vice President, Client Solutions and Direct Investing at Scotia Wealth Management, shares how Scotiabank is leveraging its understanding of women’s unique wealth management needs, and leading the charge to serve women best.

By Shelley White

Erin Griffiths has long had a passion for helping people achieve better financial futures. 

“I’ve spent my entire career, over 20 years, in the wealth space,” says Erin. “For me, it’s been a passion from the start, as I was able to see the difference that it can make in people’s lives.”

Erin is particularly driven by a desire to help women take control of their finances and attain their life goals. Women have historically been underserved by the wealth industry, and Erin says that there’s a “huge opportunity” to do better for them.

She points to a PMG Intelligence report from December 2019 that found that while 94 per cent of women investors want to learn about money and finances, and 90 per cent regard advice from a wealth advisor as helpful, only 22 per cent of women have a financial plan prepared by a professional. 

“There’s such a demand for [financial advice], and there’s been progress, but I think there’s still a significant gap,” Erin continues. “I would love to see us help close the gap that we’ve seen out there.”

To that end, Erin is championing the expansion of The Scotiabank Women Initiative into Scotia Wealth Management. This successful two-year-old program has already made significant strides in supporting women entrepreneurs grow, build and sustain their businesses in Canada.  

The Scotiabank Women Initiative launched in December 2018, led by executive sponsor Gillian Riley, now President and CEO of Tangerine Bank, to support women-owned, women-led businesses in Canada through access to capital, mentorships and education. One year later, the program was expanded to women clients in Global Banking and Markets, led by Scotiabank’s Loretta Marcoccia, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Global Banking and Markets. 

In its first two years, the program has deployed two thirds of its $3-billion commitment in funding for women-led businesses and engaged more than 2500 women entrepreneurs across the country through over 100 boot camps and mentorships sessions. In celebration of its two-year anniversary, The Scotiabank Women Initiative launched a Digital Hub to deliver resources to help women entrepreneurs adapt to uncertain economic times. 

In the one year since the launch of the Global Banking and Markets initiative, Scotiabank has delivered programs that help women clients to reach the next level of their careers. The team has designed and delivered a bespoke series of training sessions facilitated by Scotiabank professionals designed for women clients to increase their knowledge about key business topics such as cyber-security and payments modernization, and to network with other women in similar industries or roles. In addition, the Bank has launched a Good Corporate Governance Program, designed and facilitated by Julie Walsh, Scotiabank’s Senior Vice President, Corporate Secretary and Chief Corporate Governance Officer to help open the boardroom doors to more women in Canada.

On December 7, 2020, The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ for Scotia Wealth Management was launched, building on Scotia Wealth Management’s Total Wealth approach to provide tailored wealth advisory services to women, just the way they want it.

Erin says the idea is to transform the way Scotia Wealth Management serves its women clients, to better understand women’s distinct wealth management needs and provide a wealth advisory program that empowers women to take charge of their financial futures.

The program includes three pillars: education, advice and access to wealth services. The education pillar provides online resources and interactive workshops to help women make informed financial decisions about areas of focus that may be of particular interest to women. 

“Information around life transitions, like dealing with aging parents, navigating divorce, retirement. All those things that really are top of mind for our [women] clients,” Erin says.

In the advice pillar, Scotiabank Wealth advisors receive dedicated training to more effectively work with women clients. “It’s about training our advisors to have better, more meaningful conversations with their women clients,” she adds.

And through the access to wealth services pillar, advisors help women create a financial plan that will serve the entirety of their lives – from selecting appropriate financial instruments to transitioning their wealth and exploring how to leave a meaningful legacy through their estate. 

Following a successful pilot in 2020, Scotia Wealth Management will be rolling out different phases of the program for their women clients this year. Erin says that Scotiabank aspires to become the wealth manager of choice for women in Canada. 

“A lot of women are time-pressed because they’re business owners or working while trying to manage and juggle a family at the same time, and I think this is where advice becomes very important.”

“We want to change the way we serve our women clients as we go forward. Not just for our current client base, but also for future generations of wealth clients.”

Erin says her passion to help people achieve better financial futures originated way back in her childhood. 

“I grew up in a family where there were stresses about finances, especially for my mother after my parents divorced, so I always wondered if there was something I could do in my career to help change that for other families,” Erin says. “It came from a view that if you can remove some financial stresses from people, you can help clients live their best lives.” 

Early on, she was inspired by a female woman mentor whose life offered her a glimpse of what she could someday achieve. 

“I love the quote, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see,’” Erin says. “I was fortunate to know a friend’s mother who was a senior executive at one of the banks, at a time when that was not very common. I always looked up to her and I continue to learn a lot from her to this day.” 

Erin developed her career in the male-dominated advisory space, spending nearly a decade with ScotiaMcLeod as Director of Products and Services. “I was lucky to have both men and women champions at Scotiabank to support me in my own career development,” she says. 

As Vice President, Strategy, Erin was integral to the launch of the Scotia Wealth brand, then moved on to lead Scotia iTRADE®, the company’s online brokerage business. In March of 2020, she took on her current role as Senior Vice President, Client Solutions and Direct Investing at Scotia Wealth Management, which broadened her responsibilities to include the company’s financial planners and insurance consultants. 

Now, serving as Co-Chair of The Scotiabank Women Initiative for Scotia Wealth Management, Erin brings together several of her interests: helping people achieve better financial futures, driving change in the industry and championing women.

Erin says she has been very pleased about how much momentum and support there is for The Scotiabank Women Initiative across the bank, from both men and women.  

“It’s not just being championed by women, our male executives are also one hundred per cent behind this initiative, and that’s also been great to see,” she says. 

“We have trailblazers like Gillian and Loretta who’ve launched their pieces [of the program], but at the end of the day, it’s incumbent on all of us to make sure that we do the very best job for our women clients and customers across the bank.”