The capital markets industry has changed dramatically since Martine Irman first stepped onto the trading floor at TD Securities three decades ago.
Hand signals and “hoot-n-holler” telecom systems have been replaced by computers outfitted with messaging apps. Paper wads no longer soar through the air. And, importantly, there are far more women around.
As Ms. Irman prepares to retire from her role as vice-chair and head of global enterprise banking on Nov. 1, she recalls a management meeting in Japan in the late 1990s. Ms. Irman, who was hired at TD Securities in 1989 as a salesperson covering clients in foreign exchange before ascending through the ranks, had just been promoted. Her new leadership role involved oversight of the investment bank’s Japanese trading floor, and she had flown out to visit the team.
“I’m walking in and this guy is asking me, ‘Can I have two sugars in my coffee?’ I’m like ‘Look, I’m your boss,' ” Ms. Irman said with a laugh.
He had been expecting a Martin, not a Martine, added Ms. Irman, who currently also heads up TD Securities’ corporate and investment-banking business in Quebec.
During her tenure at TD, Ms. Irman has led the global origination, sales and trading business of the investment bank’s money markets, fixed income, debt capital markets, foreign exchange, international trade, cash management and global banking businesses.
She also helped launch the corporate debt, commercial paper and securitization businesses at TD Securities.
Over the span of her 30 years at the bank, Ms. Irman has had a front-row seat to the entrance of women into the capital-markets industry. When she first joined the bank, Ms. Irman was frequently the only woman in the room. Today, when Ms. Irman enters a meeting, she usually finds herself in the company of other women, including high-ranking ones.
And some of the bank’s clients have become such strong advocates of gender diversity that they don’t want to do business with companies that don’t have a significant proportion of women in their leadership ranks.
“We’re not where we want to be, but we have made significant progress," Ms. Irman said. "We need to build on that success.”
After her retirement, Ms. Irman plans to spend her time serving on corporate boards and pursuing philanthropy. She currently chairs the Export Development Canada board and sits on the board of the TMX Group Limited. She is also the chair of the board of the YMCA of Greater Toronto.
But in addition to focusing on her own director roles, Ms. Irman plans to keep pushing for greater gender diversity in leadership roles and on corporate boards.
Last year, roughly 27 per cent of Canada’s corporate board seats were occupied by women, according to an annual survey by executive-search and advisory firm Spencer Stuart. That number is flat from 2017, according to the report.
In order to drive change, it’s critical to encourage women to step up, Ms. Irman said.
“The opportunities are there, so you’ve got to go capture that. I think that’s going to make the needle change even more," she said.
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