Where to from here?
As much as a blog is a thankless task, I am aware that a small handful of otherwise sane folks claimed to be disappointed when I shelved my virtual pen with the acquisition of Wellington Financial in January 2018. As much as it might have been a convenient excuse to get off the hamster wheel, I had to be fair to my new bank colleagues. It would have been impossible for me to live up to this site’s traditions of primary research and honestly-held opinions if I ran the risk each day of unknowingly being critical of one of CIBC’s then 11 million customers.
At Wellington, I knew every one of our stakeholders, either personally (such as a portfolio co. founder) or as an interest group (say, CVCA members, BBTCA users or taxpayers), and was able to advocate on behalf of issues that were important to us all. If that meant that I’d be posing heretofore unasked questions about a pension plan’s financial performance or the purported investing acumen of a TV personality, there was no risk that a key CIBC wealth advisor in Regina would have been embarrassed by my analytical probing of the business affairs of a corporate CEO — who happened to be a bank client.
You might be surprised to hear that this was actually my decision, and not some bureaucratic dictum.
In the run-up to the acquisition in 2017, a well-meaning CIBC public affairs staffer suggested that one of the benefits of acquiring my firm was that I could play the role of “industry thought leader,” given that I seemed to have an established voice as an advocate for the innovation economy. This, apparently, was to be a positive byproduct of the deal for the institution and it’s many stakeholders. I never thought that was practical, however, given that being a legitimate Thought Leader would require me to have, you know, opinions.
While there’s a tradition that bank economists get to be free-thinkers, I’m unaware of any bank that’s ever been even remotely comfortable with a mid-level executive nattering about their personal — if considered — advice about government tax policy on a business television show, for example.
Can you imagine a bank CEO who holds his own policy views making the rounds in Ottawa for pre-budget consultations and running the risk of having to explain to a sitting Liberal government why a former Conservative PMO staffer doesn’t speak for the bank on, say, SRED funding? Despite the fact that the same former staffer happens to work for him and offered said “thought leadership” advice on behalf of a high profile bank division?
With those days now in the rearview mirror, I can now get back at it.
That said, it feels as though there are more experienced, qualified writers and journalists than ever focusing on issues that matter to our sector. Given the passage of time and my stale chops, I don’t want to presume to have much to add. According to this blog’s historical “categories,” this space covered dozens of topics: as broad as “regulation” and the “economy,” to the more narrow world of hedge funds or venture lending.
So, I might as well put the question to you: what do you all want to hear about? (If anything?)
(H/T to the Hon. Bill Morneau for the headline)