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Canadian Bank Hires Diversity, Inclusion Advocate as New CLO (1)

Sept. 2, 2020, 7:25 PM; Updated: Sept. 2, 2020, 10:28 PM

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has recruited Kikelomo “Kike” Lawal to be its chief legal officer.

Lawal will start Oct. 12 at the Toronto-based banking and financial services giant. She spent nearly the past 13 years at Canadian interbank network Interac Corp., where Lawal has held a variety of in-house roles, including serving since 2015 as its legal chief, corporate secretary, and ombudsman.

“Kike is a proven leader and she will play a key role as we continue to build a relationship-oriented bank for a modern world,” said CIBC president and CEO Victor Dodig in a Sept. 1 statement.

Dodig has recently led a push by Canada’s fifth-largest lender to fill at least 3.5% of its senior executive and board positions in Canada with Black leaders by 2025.

CIBC’s statement announcing Lawal’s hire noted that she speaks “regularly on the importance of inclusion and across multiple dimensions, including gender, race/ethnicity, and life experience.”

Lawal, a Harvard Law School graduate born in Nigeria and raised in New York, will report directly to Dodig once she joins CIBC next month. She didn’t respond to a request for comment about her new role.

While more than half of Toronto’s population is foreign-born or identify as part of a minority group, only a small percentage of top executive and board positions at Canada’s largest banks reflect the diversity of the country’s financial capital, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg News.

Lawal will join CIBC following a series of job cuts by the bank, which as part of a corporate restructuring earlier this year elevated former general counsel Shawn Beber to chief risk officer March 2.

Beber’s new executive role came a year after he took over the general counsel job from Michael Capatides, who served as CIBC’s chief administrative officer and top lawyer from 2008 to 2019. Capatides, a former Mayer Brown partner, now heads CIBC’s U.S. operations.

An Interac spokeswoman said the company, which operates Canada’s debit card system, has yet to determine a replacement for Lawal as legal chief. Prior to joining Interac in 2008, Lawal was a senior associate at Canada’s Blake, Cassels & Graydon in Toronto and an associate at Carter, Ledyard & Milburn in New York.

More Banking Moves

Wells Fargo & Co., which has been busy in recent weeks building out a legal team under new general counsel Ellen Patterson, hired O’Melveny & Myers cybersecurity, data privacy, and litigation counsel Mallory Jensen last month as a senior privacy counsel in San Francisco.

Jensen and Lawal join several other new banking industry in-house lawyers:

  • United Community Banks Inc., which earlier this year hired a new general counsel in Melinda Davis Lux, announced Sept. 1 its addition of Fox Rothschild associate David Kershaw as vice president and legal counsel in Greenville, S.C. Kershaw will work with UCB’s special assets and commercial credit counsel.
  • Florida’s BankUnited Inc. announced last month that it would welcome aboard Kevin Malcolm as senior vice president and general counsel Sept. 14. Malcolm, currently a vice president and regional head of legal at Verifone Systems Inc., will take over from BankUnited’s outgoing legal chief Michael Alford.
  • Mark Dabertin, special counsel in the financial services group at Troutman Pepper in Berwyn, Pa., left the firm last month to become chief legal and compliance officer for Sutton Bank, an Attica, Ohio-based community bank. Dabertin has previously worked in-house at Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Swedbank AB, a Stockholm-based Nordic and Baltic banking group coping with a massive money laundering scandal, announced July 9 its hire of Charlotte Rydin as chief legal officer and head of group legal. Rydin, previously general counsel for Swedish pension fund Alecta AB, took over from Eva de Falck.
(Adds Swedbank hire in last paragraph and corrects Lawal's career timeline in 10th paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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