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Salma hero
• Mar 20, 2024

Many of the best things in life for Salma Salman, Chief Financial Officer of TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank, came about because of her willingness to reach out—out of her comfort zone and out to others.

Whether it's moving across continents in her early 20s, overcoming the challenges as a woman of color in male-dominated industries, or helping others who are in a different place professionally, Salma has made it a point to always reach out.

"It's important we don't remain in our bubbles, that we understand the world around us and what others are going through," she said.

The Journey from Pakistan to North America

Salma grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and moved to North America in 1990 with her husband, Sajid. After six months in Boston, Massachusetts, they relocated to Calgary, Canada, where their daughter, Muriam, was born. Shortly after that, Sajid's job took them to Regina, Canada, where they spent the next seven years before moving to Toronto.

"Those early days away from home were really difficult," shares Salma. "To those who may be moving far away from where you grew up, it's going to be difficult—starting a new life from scratch, missing your family—you're going to be homesick for a few years, but if you remain resolved, things will come together and you'll settle down."

Salma didn't enter the workforce immediately. Instead, she spent her first three years in Canada at home with her baby daughter and taking night classes to earn her Certified General Accounting designation. Although she had earned a business degree in Pakistan, she needed a Canadian degree or another accounting certification to be eligible to write the Chartered Accountancy examinations in Canada.

Reflecting on those years, Salma wants to impart on other women that it's okay not to rush things. "I made a choice for those three years to not look for a job and instead to be home with my daughter and take night classes when my husband was home. I would never be able to get that time back and it was important to me that I spent it with my daughter."

Overcoming Bias and Trusting in Yourself

In 1995, Salma entered the workforce at the Auditor General's office, and a few years later moved to Toronto and joined KPMG, one of the Big 4 accounting firms, where she spent more than 18 years, 12 of those years as a partner.

As a woman of color in a male-dominated industry and working mostly with male clients, Salma encountered her share of bias. "A lot of times I'd be the only woman in the room—and not just the only woman, but a woman of color with an accent—and people would just assume I was the most junior person and not the partner," she shared.

However, Salma never let that get to her. "I'm the expert, and I'm here to help my client. So, why does it matter if I am a man or a woman? I never let it bother me and just focused on the fact that as long as I am good at what I do, always do the right thing, and put my heart and soul into it, things will work out."

Salma was also fortunate to be surrounded by great people who supported her in her career. "There are lots of people who mentored and sponsored me. They recognized my potential and gave me the opportunity to work on things that allowed me to make an impact and helped me grow."

Salma Salman on a panel at a TD Bank internal conference

TD was one of those places with leaders who recognized her abilities. In 2018, Salma left KPMG to join TD Bank Group (TD Bank's parent company) as CFO of its Global Wealth Management businesses. Salma was recruited for this role.

"It was the toughest professional decision I have had to make so far; leaving the partnership is not something you think about or that people do often. What attracted me to TD was the opportunity to learn from the best leaders, diversify my experience, and continue developing the next generation of talent and teams."

"Women tend to think we're never qualified enough. I never would have applied for my first CFO position at TD, because I didn't think I was qualified. But TD is open to diverse experiences and giving people a chance, and almost six years later, I am grateful for the opportunities TD has given to me."

After that initial CFO role, Salma later went on to serve as Controller and Chief Accountant for TD Bank Group, before relocating to New York City and taking on her current role as CFO for TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank, in December 2023.

Relying on Your Support System

In addition to the mentors and sponsors who helped her grow, Salma also credits her career success to her support system.

"If you want to advance in your career, you need to have a support system in place. For me, that's my husband and my close family in Toronto," said Salma. "You'll have too much unnecessary stress if you don't have support. I needed to know that my daughter was always home safe and my husband and extended family would understand if I was late or missed a family gathering. In our culture, that is not the norm, but my family has always supported my ambitions and wanted me to achieve success."

Salma Salman with colleagues at a TD finance event

Paying it Forward

Salma is a true believer in paying it forward and helping the next generation. "That's my duty—as a person and a professional—to guide and support our teams through their career aspirations," she said. She leads TD's Finance Women at TD committee and is actively involved in various community initiatives helping new immigrants and the underprivileged children in Pakistan.

Salma is particularly passionate about supporting women in their careers. "How can women help other women?" she asks. "And not only in terms of promoting or sponsoring women, but recognizing they need support as they go through various phases in life. Our job as leaders is to enable them the flexibility and become part of the support system they need as they advance their careers."

And she wants to remind others to always appreciate what other people may be going through. "There has to be humility and empathy, and a sense of one team; it creates a sense of belonging and being valued and helps us build stronger teams."

Want to learn more about Women's History Month?
Celebrating People is the Lesson of a Lifetime One Woman Learned from Her Mother
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Empowering Women - Dynamic TD Leader has a Passion for Helping Women Reenter the Workforce

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