2012 Year in Review: Executive of the year

Yahoo Finance Canada executive of the year: Ed Clark, CEO, TD

If there’s one thing banks in Canada yearn for, besides of course bigger profits and less regulation, it’s to  stand out from their peers. To most Canadians, Bay Street’s big five are all the same: Massive, safe, prudent and extremely profitable. But this year, one in their number consistently stood out, and it was in no small part due to the performance of the guy at the top. No matter the subject, if a banker grabbed headlines in 2012, you could be sure it was Toronto-Dominion’s CEO Ed Clark. And far more often than not, it was for something impressive.

For Clark, the year kicked off on a promising note, with the news in February that no executive was valued more by his bank than him. For the second year in a row, Clark was Canada’s best paid banker, earning $11.28 million, of which $9.7-million was in bonuses and options. The only slightly sour note was that entitled to an additional 6% raise, because of the bank’s record profits in 2011, but didn’t receive it because of “challenging” economic conditions.

Still, took home more than anyone else in the business. And a month later, that appeared to be only right and proper, when he was named by as one of the best CEOs in the world by Barron’s, joining star execs such as Warren Buffett, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Clark was not the sole Canadian to make the list, but succeeded in bumping out RBC’s  Gordon Nixon in the process. Explaining Clark’s inclusion, Barron’s associate editor Andrew Bary wrote: “customer-focused TD continues to produce some of the highest returns in the industry from banks both north and south of the border.” 

In May, Clark made clear that things were only going to get better. TD became the first of the big five to take a stand against homophobia by participating in the “It Gets Better” video project. TD is by no means alone in supporting the campaign, and embracing it both as a employee issue and as a marketing effort, but Clark is certainly the most prominent Canadian CEO to appear in the video, and the only one yet in the North American banking sector.

Shortly after that, the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine released their annual rankings of the 1000 most profitable Canadian companies.

Number 1? Yup, Ed Clark’s TD, with profits of $5.9 billion, up 27% from 2010, and more than $600-million ahead of second-place Bank of Nova Scotia, a bank with very comparable revenue and number of employees.

Having seemingly conquered the financial sector, in September Clark turned his attention to global warming, addressing the Calgary Chamber of Commerce following the release of a TD-funded report on climate change. The report, conducted by the David Suzuki and Calgary’s Pembina Institute, called for the sharp reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions and the placing of limits on growth in Alberta. 

Needless to say, its key themes, and TD’s backing of it, went highly unappreciated in the oil patch, and by the crowd gathered in Calgary to hear Clark speak. To his credit, he’s courageous, but not suicidal. As TD is one of the biggest investment banks in the oil and gas sector, Clark hastened to add that he’s not advocating the destructive of the national economy, only helping to bring to the fore a matter of some urgency to Canadians.

From personal success to corporate profits, human rights to environmental concerns, Ed Clark consistently distinguished himself and his bank this year. In a sector where Canadian institutions are already universally respected, Clark managed to raise the bar even higher. For that, he’s Yahoo! Finance Executive of the Year.