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A very special time: White shares his experiences with HBA1 students

  • Cam Buchan
  • |
  • Oct 4, 2019
A very special time: White shares his experiences with HBA1 students

From short-term lessons to long-term vision, HBA1 students gained insights into the leadership journey of Darryl White, HBA ’94, and Chief Executive Officer of BMO Financial Group. The talk was part of the annual Richard G. Ivey Speaker Series, Oct. 2, in the BMO Financial Group Auditorium.

White, who plans to return to Homecoming for his 25th anniversary later this month, spoke about the lifetime bonds formed during HBA that will take them through the many ups and downs of work and life.

“We helped each other through family situations, kids growing up together, vacations together, mourning together, having fun together,” White said. “This is a very, very special time and a very special group.”

White became CEO of BMO Financial Group in November 2017. He chairs the bank’s Executive Committee and serves as a director of BMO Financial Group, and its U.S. subsidiary, BMO Financial Corporation. He shared several lessons about business, society and leadership with the audience. 

Making the world a better place

“When you pursue a career in business, you are making the world a better place. Business success is not disconnected from advancing societal goals. Business has a profound role to play in growing the good in our communities.”

White outlined the role business plays in growing the good in our communities by telling a personal story from early in his career about sustaining a small Northern British Columbia community through the sale of a mill.

“I started to realize that the work I was doing had a lot more to do with the community, and the jobs and the prosperity of the community than the actual result for a particular client,” he said. “And it became clear to me that I wasn't just a banker. It was about more than the four walls of that mill. It was about the whole community.”

Balance and integrity in business and life

“You can't make an impact without placing a high priority on balance and integrity in business and in life.”

White encouraged students to think about their purpose, beliefs and priorities in life, and use those thoughts to guide their decision-making. He also advised students to find mentors and sponsors along the way.

The first 15 years of his career were marked by hard work, and learning the tools of the trade, all of which began at Ivey. These habits enabled his progress in the HBA Program and over the course of his 25-year career.

And through all of the hard work, White encouraged students to take frequent breaks and learn how to take care of themselves.

Capturing growth potential

“If you wanted to start a business anywhere in the world to serve customers in multiple jurisdictions, you couldn't find many countries better positioned than right here in Canada.”

White said to think beyond their city, or their province to the many opportunities available in Canada to pursue international business success through our one-of-a-kind trade access. He used the example of BMO’s growth in the U.S., and how it has grown from just 14 per cent of total earnings 35 years ago to nearly 35 per cent as of last quarter.

“I encourage you to never lose sight of the growth potential (and) the societal benefit of globalization. When you think about exporting markets, think that we're not only exporting our product, but we're importing knowledge, and we're imparting diversity in what's happening in other parts of the world. And this leads to a richer understanding of the diverse perspectives and viewpoints that exist.”

Engaging with diverse perspectives

“Diversity of thought itself breeds innovation and productivity.”

Students’ time on campus is a tremendous opportunity to learn from one another – both within the program, and outside of the university environment.

White also spoke of the positive change he sees in the gender balance, those who identify as minorities, and, “in one of the significant evolutions we’ve seen since my time on campus is the self-identification, awareness and celebration of our LGBTQ+ communities,” he said. “I’m very, very proud of this progress because it means that each day more people can bring their whole selves to work in ways that simply weren’t possible or at least evident when I was a student.”

The Richard G. Ivey Speaker Series is an annual tradition to honour Richard G. Ivey, the Canadian business leader who helped build the foundation for the Ivey Business School.