General Counsel and Head of Compliance, Legal and AML, TD Bank

Though the general counsel and head of compliance at TD Bank is primarily responsible for making sure the bank's business units are playing by the rules, Ellen Patterson says it is also her team's mission to root out inefficiencies that might be slowing down decision-making and causing pain to customers.

Example: A review of call-center operations concluded that calls took too long and Patterson wondered if the problem was with call center agents' scripts. She and her team reviewed them and, by removing unnecessary words and simplifying terms, they substantially cut call times and improved the experience for the customer. The bank calculated that the shorter call times resulted in a savings equal to the salaries of seven full-time employees.

Patterson — a former law firm partner — also undertook a review of the bank's relationship with outside law firms and found millions in savings by reducing its approved list of partners and renegotiating terms and fees.

Patterson joined TD Bank in 2012 from the law firm Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett. She was happy in the job, but was eager for a new challenge and joined TD largely because she was intrigued with the idea of helping to set corporate strategy. She is one of 15 executives on the bank's management team, reporting directly to Chief Executive Mike Pedersen. She also works closely with Norie Campbell, the group head and general counsel with TD Bank Group, the Toronto-based parent.

Patterson is already one of the bank's leading champions for female employees. Last year she was named executive sponsor of its Women in Leadership group, which is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of female leaders.

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