2015 Precedent Setter Award Winner: Aida Shahbazi

Meet the BMO in-house lawyer who is also an all-star community fundraiser

Aida Shahbazi

Senior counsel, BMO Financial Group
Called to the bar in 2009
Law school: Osgoode Hall

Scarcely two years after joining BMO’s law group, Aida Shahbazi found herself seconded to a five-person team leading an internal branding transformation meant to reach the bank’s 46,000 employees. It was a tall assignment, one that drew less on Shahbazi’s legal skills than her grasp of marketing and social media. “It was interesting to take off the legal hat,” says the 33-year-old, who grew up in Windsor, Ont.

Shahbazi joined BMO in 2012 as a securities lawyer after a stint at McCarthy Tétrault LLP. Soon she made her way onto teams dealing with investor relations, social media governance and other marketingrelated projects. The bank then recognized Shahbazi with an award reserved for the top two percent of its employees. And, in May, BMO named her the Canadian regulatory liaison between Canada’s financial regulator and the bank. “It’s a stretch opportunity,” she says. “Every ounce of ability that I have, I need to bring to this job. It’s a role where there’s almost no margin for error.”

Aida ShahbaziSince she was 18, Shahbazi has been an energetic fundraiser for the United Way. Her work began when the charity placed her on the board of a non-profit in Windsor that advocates for seniors and people with disabilities. In 2013, she came up with a three-year plan to increase United Way donations from Toronto associates at large Bay Street firms, who were lagging behind partners. Shahbazi recruited 30 associates from those firms and trained them to spearhead more effective fundraising drives at their offices. Her work helped reverse a downward trend in donations from associates.

Shahbazi’s desire to help others is rooted in the deep gratitude she has for the friends and mentors who, over the years, have supported her career. “The opportunities I’ve received in my life have made me what I am today,” she reflects. “It’s important to me that others have that opportunity.”





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Photography by Jaime Hogge; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Spin Toronto