General Counsel, TD Bank Group

Ellen Patterson’s business card is getting a bit crowded.

Already general counsel and head of the compliance, legal and anti-money-laundering activities at TD Bank, Patterson recently took on the additional title of executive vice president and general counsel at TD’s Toronto-based parent, TD Bank Group.

In her new role, Patterson leads the global legal function for the $994 billion-asset company, overseeing a team of nearly 700 people. She continues to direct all compliance, legal and AML functions at the U.S. subsidiary that, on its own, is one of the nation’s 10 largest banks.

Patterson admits the additional workload can be daunting at times, but says she can manage because she has such a highly competent team. She also went into the role understanding she can’t know everything and can’t be afraid to seek counsel.

Indeed, being perceived as “coachable” is a critical attribute of any good leader, she said.

“There will be things you don’t see, or things that others need from you in the role, and you will be far more successful if people know you are coachable so that they can tell you about those things and believe you will listen,” said Patterson, one of just 21 TD employees with an EVP title globally and the only female EVP based in the United States.

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The most successful leaders are also self-aware, open to new ideas and, importantly, display a basic level of predictability, she added.

“While it would be no fun if you were completely predictable in all circumstances, your team does need to know basically what to expect from you,” Patterson said. “This is particularly important in the case of receiving bad news. As a leader, you always want to hear the bad news or the things people are worried about. You’ll hear a lot more of it, earlier in the process, if your team knows how you’ll react to that type of information.”

Alan Kline

Alan Kline

Alan Kline is a senior editor at American Banker overseeing its consumer finance and national/regional banking coverage. He also helps direct coverage of the annual Most Powerful Women in Banking rankings.