Black and diversity business professionals told to keep up with the times.

By Stephen Weir

Abdul-Aziz Garuba and Mawadda Basir

After 20-years of pushing for the advancement and inclusion of Black leaders into the Canadian financial services industry, the Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals (CAUFP) has learned a thing or two about how to succeed on Bay Street.

Last Friday, the Association held a chalk talk to teach visible minorities how to succeed in a wildly changing work environment.It organized a one-day No Boundaries Conference for Black business and finance professionals to learn about issues and trends impacting Canada’s finance industry and professions. More than one hundred people showed up.

“The theme of the 2018 conference was the Future of Finance” explained association president Abdul-Aziz Garuba. “What we did was focus on the emerging trends that are changing finance right now.”

Change apparently is the watchword of the banking community in Toronto these days. Mr. Garuba likes to quote the World Economic Forum which says that the disruption the banks and other financial companies are experiencing right now is not a “one-time event”, but more a “continuous pressure to innovate.”

High point of the conference was a panel discussion about Diversity and Inclusion.  Sitting in a meeting room on the 8th floor of a building overlooking Toronto’s financial district, five leaders from high profile companies including the TD Bank, Faskin and Matrix 360 talked about how to be “Black on Bay Street”.

Naki Osutei, the director of partnerships and Engagement for the Corporate Citizenship was on the panel line-up. Born in Africa and raised in Toronto’s Weston and Finch neighbourhood, she is oft quoted as saying that “business is finally acknowledging the benefits of having a diverse team reflecting the communities they serve!”

Most of the breakout seminars were not about diversity issues at all, but, rather about what is “the new black in business.”.

At the conference the hot buttons were Artificial Intelligence (AI) in finance and Blockchain, Bitcoins and emerging Cryptocurrencies.

So topical were the seminar subjects the lectures had to be held twice in a row.

Avinash Pimento Managing Director, FS Finance and Risk Lead, at AccentureCanada twice told packed conference rooms that AI is an integral tool when dealing with clients who want to manage their finances just the way they buy things and communicate with the world – online and in real time.

AI is not something to be afraid of, he said,  but companies slow to adopt are being left behind.

Mawadda Basir, one of the youngest presenters on Friday, is the executive director of  Waterloo’s ColliderX, the world’s first open-source, crowdfunded and crowdsourced blockchain  Research and Develop firm.

Millennials it seems are leaving behind the traditional ways of investing and using money as they embrace new currencies and new accounting methods.

Emerging technologies such as blockchain and new peer-to-peer lending and trading online sites are putting incredible pressure on traditional wealth management and slow-to-adapt financial institutions.

Blockchain questions were so numerous at the No Boundaries Conference, Ms Basir would have had to clone herself to answer everyone.

“Prior to joining ColliderX, I was a blockchain strategist and Chief of Staff at Deloitte’s blockchain lab, “explained Ms Basir.

“In my free time, I support and advise on blockchain start-ups with social impact missions.”

When the No Boundaries Conference wrapped up, it appeared as though Ms  Basir collected a month’s worth of meeting requests and printed and virtual business cards.