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Header Representation is important How this TD colleague is using his love of language to support new Canadians
• Apr. 25, 2024

When Missbaye Ali landed in Moncton, N.B. in 2015 as an international student, he was far from his home country of Benin in West Africa.

Between navigating a new city, culture, and university, he had a lot to learn about life in Canada.

Ali also had to figure out a new banking system. Though he spoke English alongside his native language of French, when he went into a major bank to open a chequing account, he left with more questions than answers. He says the entire process lasted 20 minutes, and he did not feel like he was given enough information to properly understand how things worked.

So, while studying marketing at the University of Moncton, Ali stepped into a TD branch for the first time. That experience was far different from his earlier one at another bank.

"Coming to TD, colleagues wanted to help me. If I had questions, they would give me the answers," Ali said.

"I realized that I wanted to do that for other people, too."

Now, Ali is doing just that.

As a Manager of Customer Experience, Ali is working to make others who are new to Canada feel just as comfortable at the Bank as he was made to fell all those years ago.

Since then, he has worked at various TD branches across Moncton and has served many newcomers in his career as the city is a growing destination for new Canadians: As of 2022, the City of Moncton reported that it had the fastest growing population out of all metropolitan areas in Canada with a 5.4% growth rate. According to 2022 data published by the City of Moncton, many residents are coming from countries such as India, Nigeria, Brazil, and Morocco.

With more people immigrating to Moncton, Ali says it is important for them to be able to access banking services in a language they can understand. This is where Ali believes his background and personal experience come in handy.

On top of English and French, Ali can support TD customers – many of whom are newcomers, refugees, or international students – in several other languages including Yoruba (a language spoken in Benin) and Lingala (which he learned while living in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a few years as a child). Since moving to Canada, Ali has also picked up some Spanish and Jamaican Patois from working at a fishery while attending the University of Moncton where his co-workers spoke these languages.

Ali says his knowledge of these languages helps him with his relationships with TD customers and others in the community.

"You can often feel that customers who don't speak English well may be worried when they enter a branch. When they hear someone speaking to them with words they recognize, they feel more comfortable. I can almost see their stress melt away," he said.

"I want to be there for customers who are leaving really stressful situations, or adjusting to life in a new country, and help them feel confident about banking at TD."

Supporting international students

According to data published by the City of Moncton, the number of international students coming to Moncton has been steadily increasing each year since 2015, save for a blip in 2020 during the pandemic. Ali says many international students have come into the TD branches he has worked at looking to get their finances in order, and often turn to colleagues for support in choosing the right products for them.

Ali feels a special connection with the growing international student community in Moncton since he was once a part of it. That's why he's made it one of his priorities to help build banking relationships with international students when they bring their banking needs to TD.

"I ask every newcomer that comes to my TD branch what banking was like in their home country," Ali said. "Then, I'll explain our products and terminology in a manner to help them relate to banking products they had back home."

Ali says he's become so well known in the international student community for his helpful explanations that many of his TD customers will refer their friends to him too.

The power of diversity and building community

Many of Ali’s TD colleagues are also newcomers. From his perspective, Ali believes colleagues who have recently moved to Canada can often understand the needs of fellow newcomer clients and can use their insight to better support them.

"I can't even tell you how many new to Canada customers I've met throughout my TD career. I feel like I've opened an account for every customer who landed as a refugee from India and Africa," Ali said.

Already known for its bilingualism of French and English, there is now a growing need in Moncton for knowledge of Asian and African languages. At TD branches in Moncton, Ali works with colleagues who also speak Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

If a customer comes into a branch speaking a language that a TD colleague does not speak, colleagues turn to the Interpreters – Language Line app, which connects with third party interpreters authorized by TD. The app is available on in-branch tablets and helps customers to access information about TD products and services in 240 languages. The app also has a video option for 38 languages, which allows for two-way video calls with licensed interpreters.

"Imagine you've come to a new country, and you see someone with a magic tablet that can speak your language," Ali said, laughing.

"Representation is important, and people want great service and great advice. They want it to feel personal. Being able to connect customers with information in their preferred language makes me feel proud."

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