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ETE: Meet Travis Kirton

Equity Through Education September 17, 2021
Equity Through Education September 17, 2021
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Meet former Indspire scholarship recipient Travis Kirton who is now a valued member of team BMO.

When he reflects on his career trajectory so far, BMO Senior Relationship Manager for Commercial Banking Travis Kirton thinks of the importance of mentorship and the belief that we all bring something to the jobs that we do.

It’s a belief that he has held since being chosen as a recipient of the Indspire scholarship, one of the organizations part of BMO’s Equity Through Education program, when he was a student at the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business, and which meant he was able to complete his commerce degree.

As a proud member of the – Métis Nation - one of Canada’s recognized Indigenous peoples who helped shape Manitoba’s history - it’s also a belief that led him to join the Sharing Circle, a resource group for BMO employees of Indigenous descent whose goal it is to share their history while supporting interpersonal and career development.

We caught up with Travis recently as we approach our 17th Annual Equity Through Education Trading Day, when BMO Capital Markets donates all European and North American institutional equity commissions earned from the day's trading to underprivileged students through scholarships, bursaries and leadership development, in affiliation with BMO's charitable partners in education like Indspire.

As well as discussing the importance of educational support for the underprivileged, we asked Travis about his own roots, the BMO Sharing Circle and his views on Canada’s first ever, National Truth and Reconciliation Day this upcoming Sept. 30.

“Everyone is going to be different and you can’t really judge anyone by whether they are indigenous or not,” he said in the recent interview. “At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter.”

Following is the rest of our interview, edited for length.

  1. Why don’t we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself and where you grew up?

I was born and raised in Winnipeg, MB. Growing up, my sister and I split time between living with my Mom and living with my grandparents. My Dad was working and living in different northern communities such as The Pas, MB; Flin Flon, MB; and Iqaluit.

  1. How did you first get connected with Indspire?

While I was attending the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business, I was part of the Indigenous Business Education Partners where they assist indigenous students with different resources from tutoring, financial aid, and career opportunities, just to name a few. It was through this that I was fortunate enough to be chosen as an Indspire Scholar.

  1. Has your scholarship inspired you to give back to the community?

Receiving this scholarship has led me to graduate and pursue a career at BMO. I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the Indigenous arm of the Commercial bank now for four plus years. We have grown the Sharing Circle ERG, we have volunteered at different indigenous events in Winnipeg and I was also very lucky to be involved with sale of BMO’s transit 3, 335 Main St in Winnipeg to the Manitoba Metis Federation. Without the Scholarship assistance of Indpsire, I am not sure I would have been able to finish my Commerce degree.

  1. Turning to your Métis ancestry, how have you viewed the recent tragic discoveries of unmarked children’s graves near and around Canada’s former residential schools?

Two or three years ago I was fortunate enough to have gone to the Bank of Montreal Indigenous Banking Conference in Cranbrook, and it was at a lodge that was the site of the former St. Eugene Mission residential school. You can imagine my shock when it emerged (in June) that they had discovered unmarked graves there. Seeing that in the news was a surreal moment because I stayed there, and I learned from the Elders there.

My hope is that with these tragic discoveries, light is being shined on everything and it will improve people’s understanding of the history of what went on and help us to not be so quick to judge certain people or certain things.

  1. How do you feel about the recently passed legislation to make September 30th a federal statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?

I think it is a very important and crucial step in moving forward with bringing to light the atrocious events of the past and finding a way to heal and move forward so such things do not ever happen again.

  1. Do you feel we are on the right track as a nation?

I think we are getting there. At least now there’s a national day of realization and education where people can learn and understand what the past was and hopefully go forward and correct the future. I don’t think it’s going to be a fast-moving thing where we can snap our fingers and have it all fixed. This will be a progression for sure. What is clear is that it’s never too late to understand the past in order to move forward.

  1. Has your scholarship affected the way you view your career at BMO?

I think one of the biggest impacts has been the realization that it doesn’t matter if somebody is indigenous or not.

BMO has done a really good job of eliminating that, and the thought around it, and it just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter what your ethnicity or background is. Everyone is going to be different and everyone brings their own toolbox of strengths to the table, and it doesn’t matter what you are, and that is one of the fundamentals that I have learned.

  1. What advice would you give to Indspire students that are looking to establish a career in the financial services industry?

First, I would always recommend that you do not let your education journey pass you by. Get involved, make friends and enjoy school to the fullest capacity. Second, a piece of advice that I was given when I was in university: find the job you want in 5 years and take that current employee for coffee. Working in the financial service industry is all about networking and connections. You need to build your network. Especially at BMO, everyone is very eager and willing to help individuals who are just starting out. Reaching out to current employees and managers is a great first step in pursuing a meaningful career with a financial institution.

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