Allen Love, Head of Fraud Risk Management and Global Security Investigations at TD Bank Group is a man of sharp vision and clear strategy. The position he holds today results from years of hard work and calculated moves. A proud professional, he counts the recognition TD received from Diversity Inc and JD Power as the most rewarding acknowledgement he got as a leader in the organization. According to Allen, these two triumphs point to TD’s core values as it relates to the bank’s customers and colleagues. He defines himself in one word as ‘resourceful’. We can’t agree more.
Leadership is a term used uniformly. But what separates one leader from another is the set of innate skills and qualities exclusive to them. And thus, each devises a master plan for success, sticks to it and swiftly adapts as needed.
Allen defines success as something personal to each individual and where they are in their life. It includes both personal and professional feats. For example, in the professional realm, the parameters to gauge it can be through one’s ability to achieve goals that they have set for themselves. It can be climbing up the ladder and securing a certain position or maybe building a reputation as a perfectionist at work or a subject matter expert. According to him, success is a subjective matter. He explains it further by saying some people might look at a company’s CEO and define him/her as successful. At the same time, few would consider the said company’s performance as the yardstick. Nevertheless, it boils down to the basics, i.e., setting objectives and endeavouring to achieve them.
It has taken years of investment in his career for Allen to reach where he is today. But this honest man knows how to surprise one with his modesty. Instead of any fancy career agendas, he attributes the reason to join TD to be because of its location. Recollecting that phase, he says
“I was commuting to NYC from South Jersey when I heard about TD. It sounded interesting, and when I met with a few people who worked there, I could see immediately it was a good cultural fit for me. I wanted to manage my career and not just take a job.”
Being a prudent professional, he didn’t leave his interest just there. Instead, he started thorough research on this bank. It helped him understand this brand and its hold in the US and Canadian markets. Plus, TD had an incredible growth story in North America. It has been a vigilant player in risk management and equally hospitable towards the customers. It scored high in the employee-friendly quotient and took a community-minded approach to banking.
“I joined right after the financial meltdown. TD was one of the only financial institutions that didn’t get involved in the questionable lending practices,” Allen noted.
The skills of braving roadblocks
With a highly sportive spirit, Allen advocates that challenges make one stronger. Such hurdles push one to go beyond their comfort zone and explore new avenues. It is again an individual choice how one responds to a challenge. Allen observes that, in the face of a setback or failure, one has two options: give up or get up. He always tries to get up and try again. It is the most practical lesson. Allen confesses he’s faced obstacles in his life and cites his time in law enforcement as an example.
“Being a black male in law enforcement had created hurdles. There weren’t many individuals that looked like me in the job. It persisted even in the corporate world. There are biases. Nevertheless, I stayed committed to being myself and continued delivering my professional best. I didn’t let the real-time prejudices overpower my thought process. I kept self-affirming that: Everyone isn’t against you—even if it may appear so. One ought to strike a balance between the fear sprouting from harsh realities and optimism to rise above them. It is achievable only by being their truest selves.”
Swearing by the mantra, “Be real, continue to fight the odds, and things will align,” Allen kept going.
Redefining Fraud Risk
His contribution to redefining the banking industry is based on looking at how control functions in the areas he works and interacts with the lines of business. There was no dialogue or partnership; it was done by threat: regulations meant one had to follow this path.
“I have worked hard to break that down, to have both sides understand that the success of the business and the controlled functions lead to the conquest of the organization.”
He made efforts to eliminate the silos and forge stronger alliances across the industry. Educating the public about what TD does is a crucial component of this, especially with fraud on the rise following the pandemic. A better educated public is one defense against fraud. Simultaneously, he had been diligent about curbing financial crimes. Allen notes that it is a competitive advantage when customers trust a company, knowing that their money is safe.
Formula to staying a step ahead
Allen believes that his responsibility as a leader in the industry comes with the need to stay strong in networking across sectors. He relies on building connections with people to keep a tab on the latest happenings. One step he takes to do this is maintaining connections within his peer group and industry associations. No matter how busy he is, attending meetings is a must. One needn’t be an imitator but must have the knowledge of what others are up to. Paying attention to the news and staying abreast of technology developments are like the eyes and ears of a warrior on the battleground. What might appear trivial but is spreading like wildfire, gripping half the world, can’t be pushed under the carpet. One glaring example was the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The talks about it started pretty early in TD, and necessary measures were in place quickly as a result.
Allen has spent more than 30 years working in the field of preventing financial fraud and money laundering. At the beginning of his career, he worked as a special agent for the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, where he managed complicated money laundering probes. In his capacity as a consultant, Love has aided several financial services and other organizations in designing and rolling out AML and Anti-Fraud programs.
His law enforcement background helped him develop the skills of a patient listener and nurture finer qualities such as empathy and cognition. His ability to comprehend people’s issues proved an asset when he switched to the private sector.
“The aptitude to listen is sometimes lost. Isn’t it? My experience in law enforcement was understanding the law and applying that knowledge to how crimes were being committed. To do this, I conducted numerous interviews and really had to listen, not just hear, what interviewees were saying. I brought that skill into the corporate world and applied it when meeting with business leaders, other internal partners and regulators. You need to listen to what others concerns, issues and/or experiences are to solve a problem and/or present an opinion. Active listening helps me come up with realistic and out-of-the-box solutions and actions to address the issues.
Being tech-savvy and innovative
Technology and innovation sit at the core of TD. Under his leadership, his team has embraced them. These tools help him, and his organization operate effectively, manage customer relationships, and safeguard customer information. While he perceives technology as a vital asset, innovation facilitates the creation of new products and services for him.
Vision and strategies
His vision within the purview of his professional role includes delivering his best to safeguard the bank, customers and colleagues. To achieve this, it is a must to continually strengthen the bank’s risk management culture against the ever-changing threat landscape. Meanwhile, the bank’s image in the public eye has to be of an organization swearing by an inclusive work environment. Thus, his strategies include having an inclusive and diverse workforce that represents the customers and communities TD serves, as well as providing colleagues with the tools, training and professional development opportunities to excel in their careers.
“My vision is to ensure that we’re protecting the bank and doing everything to offer services to the communities we serve while attracting top talent.”
A typical day at TD
Allen’s regular day starts with various meetings and phone calls. The meetings can be with internal stakeholders, an update to a regulator, a call concerning TD’s Inclusion and Diversity program, updates from his team on controls or an industry meeting with peers to discuss financial crime trends.
The balancing act of personal and professional space
Allen has a clear demarcation between the two vital realms of his life. As a leader, he also shoulders the responsibility to keep himself and his team motivated. The man nails it by giving a constant yet healthy challenge. He identifies his teammates as motivated type-A people. Thus, like him, they need to be pushed to think differently to do better. It is like that constant game of creating a record and breaking it by cranking it up. The fundamentals are simple: Do your job, fail fast, and take risks. He is a supporter of delivering nothing but the best.
“I strongly believe if you’re not first, you’re second, and if you’re second, you’re not trying hard enough to be first. I always played sports and am very competitive.”
He credits his family for the balance in his personal life. Allen candidly shares:
“Early on in my career, I didn’t do a good job. As my family grew, I got a chance to see what I was missing out on. When I leave the office, I leave work there instead of carrying it back home. After 10 to 12 hours of toiling at the workspace, I call it a day. Shutting my computer off indicates this. Post that, I don’t check my emails.”
However, he is always open for an official call, provided it’s an emergency.
The road ahead
As a zealous leader, he doesn’t want to settle for anything less than contributing to positioning TD among the top five banks in the U.S. and an apex organization in North America.
Allen’s personal aspirations are equally ambitious.
“I want to continue to grow as a leader and executive. To achieve this, I must continue to learn. I believe that learning is a life-long process, and I am a sincere student of it. That’s the secret ingredient of evolution as a professional and human being.”
Reflecting on the pearls of wisdom that he has gained in his journey so far; Allen advises aspiring business leaders to be their authentic selves. In one’s career trajectory, there will be occasions that will test their beliefs or force them to make decisions that aren’t aligned with their true character. One must stay resilient. Meanwhile, one needs to be brave enough to ask questions, challenge decisions and take risks.