Photo: Markian Lozowchuk

In November, Bharat Masrani took over as CEO of TD Bank, the last in a long list of jobs that he’s held with the financial heavyweight. Masrani began his career in 1987 as a trainee in the corporate lending division, later serving as head of the corporate banking division and the company’s Chief Risk Officer, and running its divisions in the India, the United States and Europe.

As a trusted advisor to predecessor Ed Clark, Masrani was trusted with managing the bank’s trickiest and most important initiatives. He says he learned one important lesson from his many experiences of taking over as a new boss: Listen before you act.

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“If I arrived in the United States and said ‘Well, I’m from Toronto, and I’m going to take my Toronto model and apply it in New York and Philadelphia and Boston and Miami,’ I think chances are pretty high I would fail,” he told Canadian Business in a recent interview. “You can’t show up and just say ‘I’m so damn good at this, I’ll teach these folks.’ That’s a mistake.”

At the same time, Masrani said it’s important to identify the common elements between past experiences and the current situation. “Americans want to be wowed same as Canadians,” he says of his transition to running the U.S. division. “They want first class service from their financial institution, they want very competitive products and they want the best technology that’s out there.”

Masrani believes it’s crucial to recognize the need to adjust your strategy according to the local context, even if consumer demands are the same across markets.  “An average American consumer might need the same things as Canadians, but the big difference there is how you deliver,” he says. “You are in a different market. There’s 5,000 odd banks, both regional and national. You are in a totally different regulatory environment, with multiple regulators. It’s so different that you adapt.”

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Do you agree with Bharat Masrani? What is the first thing a new boss should do? Share your thoughts using the comments section below.

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