Karen Collins is the Chief Talent Officer for BMO Financial Group, the 8th largest bank (by assets) in North America — with 12 million customers, and over 43,000 employees. Joining the bank in 2005, she held progressively more senior leadership roles across the organization, and now has enterprise accountability for Talent Management; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Leadership & Succession Planning; Executive Development; and Organization Design & Effectiveness. Karen serves on the Perimeter Institute Board of Directors and as a member of the Boulevard Club’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. She is a proud wife and mother, has two beloved Labrador retrievers, and enjoys travelling with her family and staying active.
My first job ever was… babysitting for kids in my neighbourhood.
I decided on a career in human resources because… I’m passionate about helping leaders achieve their potential and I love to unlock tough issues related to human and team dynamics and change.
I’m passionate about my current role because… I have had a chance to impact BMO’s culture, talent, focus on inclusion and people ecosystem during one of the most interesting periods in history!
My proudest accomplishment is… most recently, how BMO supported our people during the pandemic — we kept people safe and working and feeling personally cared for. Over my career my proudest accomplishment has been helping other leaders grow, thrive and achieve their goals.
My biggest setback was… working for a company where I realized the values of the organization did not align with my personal values.
I overcame it by… seeking a change to move to a new company (BMO!) that did align with my values and learning a lot from the experience — it was one of the most formative learning experiences in my career.
“As we come through the pandemic into the next chapter there is so much new and bold thinking about the new ways of working.”
My advice for aspiring HR professionals is… think of yourself as a business person first; while you may be focused on human capital most of the time, it’s really important to understand how the business works — focus on products, technology, systems, revenue as well as people.
The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… create work-life balance and take real breaks from work… I am getting better at this, I think!
The thing I love most about what I do is… working alongside my team, my colleagues and the bank’s leadership team.
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… learning agility — being excited by new things, taking in feedback and learning from it, seeking out new perspectives and being resilient.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am an introvert.
I stay inspired by… surrounding myself with mentors, leaders, colleagues and team members who inspire me on a regular basis.
The future excites me because… as we come through the pandemic into the next chapter there is so much new and bold thinking about the new ways of working.
My next step is… yet to be written!