Red Ed for Governor

Howard Green’s new book on TD Bank, Banking on America, is an excellent read. Rather than take the usual route and focus on the CEO, Ed Clark, Green also gives credit for the successful U.S. strategy to Keith Gray who put together the deal to buy the New York-based discount broker Waterhouse Securities in 1996. That acquistion became a platform for all that followed at TD.

The anchor of BNN’s Headline with Howard Green has been close to Gray for years and the relationship gives the book an insidery feel. Although this is not an authorized book, TD gave Green good access to senior executives. He conducted more than 100 interviews that also included all the living former TD CEOs and many others who know the bank’s growth story.

TD now has more branches in the U.S. (stores they like to call them) than in Canada. TD has grown from the smallest of the Big Five banks to the second largest and much of that success is due to Ed Clark. But earnings in Canada are twice what they are in the U.S. As a result of the imbalance, the jury’s out on his success. You have to admire TD’s aggressive strategy, but what if it all blows up in their face, like Manulife’s acquistion of John Hancock?

The book got me to thinking about what’s next for Clark. He’s already stayed in the CEO role beyond the normal retirement age. Many senior bankers retire at 62 but Clark turned 65 in October 2012. At last report, his contract was extended until at least the annual meeting on April 4 to be held at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.

Ottawa … hmm. What about Ed Clark as the next governor of the Bank of Canada? Mark Carney moves to the Bank of England in July. The governor’s role would be perfect for Clark who has worked in Ottawa before. As the author of the National Energy Program, he became known as “Red Ed” and won the Outstanding Civil Servant of the Year Award in 1982. Since then he has worked at Merrill Lynch (as did Carney), Canada Trust and TD.

Ed Clark is one among a number of former public servants who joined the private sector. Others include Derek Burney, Mickey Cohen, Michael Sabia, Kevin Lynch, and Paul Tellier. The flow has all been one way. It’s time we gave one back.

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