How do you solve a problem like money?
Most days, what’s in the Globe and Mail doesn’t matter very much. There might be a nice piece by Simon Houpt, the New York correspondent, or a witty column by Peggy Wente, but let’s face it: the Globe is a shadow of its former self. The paper breaks little news, has too few investigative features, and doesn’t always include the late ball scores.
But today’s interview by Gord Pitts with RBC’s chief financial officer Janice Fukakusa was particularly revealing. “When we had the first signs of credit crunch a year ago, we were all thinking, ‘This is temporary.’ So we were not putting in a lot of the reporting structure and management information systems that we needed for a sustained view. Every time something came up, we were recreating the wheel,” said Fukakusa.
Rather than sound like the largest bank in Canada, one with an institutional memory – or even an innate conservatism that might stop a bank from sailing off the edge of the world – RBC seemed to be mimicking one of those Alberta-based startups that goes blooey every once in a while.
If that weren’t enough to arouse my ire, how about this? When asked, “Is there a club of major bank CFOs?” Fukakusa replied, “We sit down and have dinner once a quarter. It’s not about competitive stuff, of course, it’s more about: ‘How are you doing this? Why did you hire 10 of my people?'”
And that’s not competitive stuff?
It’s one thing for the bank CEOs to assemble under the auspices of the governor of the Bank of Canada, but there’s no earthly reason for the Big Five Bank CFOs to gather over Dover sole. In the U.S., regulators are digging so deep they are reviewing rumours spread by emails in order to settle roiling markets. In Canada, banks apparently can do whatever they want with impunity, including be unprepared for disaster, so long as the rolls come warm with little pats of butter.