Intern Sunday Asha helped save the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce more than $500,000.

Of course, he received recognition for his efforts, but more important, the 46-year-old native of Nigeria was offered a full-time job.

Asha, who now works with a team to ensure CIBC complies with rules and regulations covering financial institutions, joined the bank last year through Career Bridge (, which arranges internships for immigrants designed to break through that “no Canadian experience” barrier.


While interning, Asha helped with a money-saving project to adjust regulatory and accounting procedures at the bank. Due to confidentiality concerns, bank officials could not be more specific about the project, but a spokesperson confirmed the project Asha worked on was important and had to be accomplished in tight timelines.

Asha was a big part of that success because of his strong audit background, the spokesperson says.

“I’m an accountant and I worked with banks in Nigeria and West Africa for 15 years doing financial controls, audits and risk management,” Asha says. “When I arrived here (in 2005), I sent out over 50 resumés, but it was frustrating because they always required a resumé of Canadian experience and better communication skills.”

Recognized as one of Canada’s 2007 Top Employers for Workplace Diversity by Canadian Immigrant Magazine, CIBC has many programs to develop the talents of immigrants.

The bank has hired 18 interns from Career Bridge, an agency that links immigrants with employers, and 13 have found jobs, seven of them in senior financial analyst roles. Not only do the interns receive mentoring, they take part in workshops on topics such as Canadian culture, communication, networking and career development.

“We’re an organization that puts great effort into making sure we employ individuals from all backgrounds, skills and cultures,” says Sharon Wingfelder, the bank’s vice-president of resourcing. “We feel it makes good business sense and, from a employment angle, it brings fresh, new ideas to the table.

“We employ almost 40,000 people and that’s our philosophy, regardless if you’re a customer service representative or an executive.”

CIBC has incorporated Skills International (, a searchable online database of immigrant job seekers in Ontario, into its recruitment system as a means of finding internationally trained candidates.

So far, the bank has posted 100 jobs and has hired three people. Three years ago, CIBC set up affinity groups, which are now used by more than 2,200 employees to focus on issues relevant to their development. It includes groups for women, aboriginals, gays and people with disabilities.

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