Declarations of Waugh: Scotiabank CEO on everything from the Future of Banking to The Apprentice


Do Canadians undervalue themselves?
I spent eight or nine years in the United States where I was a senior officer and I enjoyed every minute there. I also was head of International and went to 45 countries and that has given me a great perspective. I think that we Canadians underestimate not only ourselves but our ability to compete.

If you had to groom a Scotiabank executive on a television show like Donald Trump's The Apprentice, what would be the first task you'd have your applicants work on to test their mettle?
I would never go through the Donald Trump process. It's great television but I don't think it's the best way to build a team. I think for us [at Scotiabank], we really emphasize the values of the organization and what the objectives of the organization are, and it doesn't matter at what level somebody comes into a bank, that has to be a starting point. If you choose a job that somehow is not right for you because it doesn't have the same values, [you] should realize that early and move on.

Scotiabank's international presence is a great driver of its success. If Scotiabank instead opted for a more U.S.-centric expansion strategy, do you think Scotia would be as successful?
I think if we approach markets internationally, whether it be in the United States or in other countries, in a disciplined yet growth-orientated manner, we can be successful, [providing] it's the right opportunity at the right time.

Are Canadians really richer than they think, as your ad campaign purports?
Yes, and I think by doing some simple things people can recognize that, and when we take a look at how we conduct our financial affairs, I think we are all going to be pleasantly surprised that we are richer than we think.

Personal finance guru David Bach, inventor of the term Latte Factor (unconscious day-to-day
frivolous spending that adds up to large sums over time), is a special adviser to Scotiabank.
What is your Latte Factor?

Chocolate ice cream, and I've cut back on it for two reasons: my waist and my pocketbook.

The government claims it wants to protect consumers by not allowing the Canadian banks to merge, yet they've allowed foreign competitors to come in and take business away from local banks. Is this fair?
I certainly believe as an internationalist that competition is a good thing even though it means more competition for us in Canada.

The 10-year average total return on Scotiabank stock is almost 25 percent, way outpacing the
S&P and TSX. Can the good times keep rolling for the next 10 years or will the money train have
to slow down a little bit before it can speed up again?

My prime objective is to maintain sustainable growth. Obviously that has to be on a relative basis because if you go for home runs you can strike out. But I'm confident that with the diversity of our operation, we will maintain sustainable growth, which on a relative basis will be able to produce the same relative returns as it has in the past.

Can Halifax support a CFL franchise?
Absolutely! I love the CFL. I went to every Winnipeg Blue Bombers game until I was 23 years old. Actually I worked as an usher and I was with the current Manitoba premier, Gary Doer, and we stood on the 45-yard line helping people to their seats and watching the CFL. Winnipeg has been a great CFL city and Halifax will be as great.

What television show do you tell your friends you watch?
24. I think it's better than a good book. It's an action-packed way to spend an hour watching television every week.

What do you think the bank of the future is going to look like?
The banking sector is going to be very significantly influenced by technology. We are only just beginning to see the benefits, and we will see the benefits in two ways.

First, our customers. The smart card we are working on has a special chip for use on debit and credit cards that will have a significant impact on reducing fraud, which is a problem now. The card will also empower people and give them great mobility, much like the cellular phone and the Blackberry. The way our customers will experience technology is in the mobility of their checking account, i.e. you can move anywhere in the country and keep the same account and perhaps one day, certainly through Scotiabank, move anywhere in the world and keep the same chequing account and the same debit and credit account and use your ATM.

The other thing and we can't lose sight of this is that technology will be a great enhancement to our productivity through the movement of data. There is so much data within a bank and within a financial institution, and it is always subject to the privacy concerns of our customers. If we could marshal all that data, not only will that increase our productivity, but it will certainly allow us to deliver outstanding products and services to our customers. Because if that database is all together, it truly can be very powerful for customers to have all their financial needs met right away, whether it be over the Net or in person with a customer representative.

If you could go back in time and witness any event in history, where would you go and why?
You know, I had the opportunity just when I finished college to go to the first Russia-Canada hockey series in Moscow, the 1972 Summit Series. It was going to cost something like $500 and I said, geez, I just can't afford it. I didn't go and I've always regretted that. Bad decision

Rick Waugh has been with Scotiabank for over three decades, beginning his career as a branch employee in Winnipeg in 1970. He has been CEO of the company since December 2003. He was interviewed by Mike Dojc. This article was originally published in the Bay Street Bull.

Copyright Mike Dojc, 2006

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