Feature: Playing a New Game, in a New Arena
The following feature article on former Harvard student-athlete Mark Carney appeared in the October 4 issue of the Toronto Globe and Mail. The complete article can be accessed via the Globe and Mail Web site by clicking here.
BY ANDREW WILLIS and TAVIA GRANT AND HEATHER SCOFFIELD
From Fridays Globe and Mail
In the 1980s, Harvard University's hockey team was winning U.S. national championships, and Mark Carney, who will become the next governor of the Bank of Canada, was the Crimson's goalie. Was he any good?
"Wow, this guy stopped every shot he ever faced," Harvard athletics spokesman, Casey Hart, deadpanned Thursday. Then he explained the statistics: Mr. Carney was the backup goalie who stopped all five shots fired his way in his one and only varsity game. It's one of the few backup roles the 42-year-old has ever played.
In a country where civil service and business tend to be two solitudes, and central bankers tend to be policy wonks rather than puck-heads, Mr. Carney is a jock and proven deal maker who walked away from one of the top-paying jobs on Wall Street - a $3-million-plus-a-year partnership in Goldman Sachs Group Inc.- to become a public servant.
"Mark is one of the most capable and well-rounded individuals you will ever meet. He's been successful in athletics, academics and business, and there's every reason to think he'll be a resounding success at the Bank of Canada," said Doug Guzman, head of investment banking at RBC Dominion Securities and a former colleague at Goldman.
Which is not to say this appointment will be universally applauded.
As a senior Finance Department official, Mr. Carney shares the blame from some quarters for the Conservatives' unpopular decisions to kill income trusts and close tax loopholes on foreign borrowing by corporations. Alberta energy trust executives spit out his name with the same anger vented at Pierre Trudeau over the National Energy Program. Within Ottawa, Mr. Carney is known as brutally direct, even arrogant, in circles that are customarily more collegial.
"There will be a change in the personal style ... David Dodge was back-slapper. Mark Carney, he's very direct," said William Robson, president and chief executive officer of the C.D. Howe Institute. "One of the things Mark Carney will need to do ... is learn how to let the governing council work so that everybody who's got something worth hearing gets a chance to say it. If he handles that adeptly, as I think he will, we won't see a big change in how policy's made."
Friends say this father of four - he met his British-born wife at Oxford University after seeing her play in a hockey game - has always seen public service as a duty, and saw his bosses at Goldman Sachs leave the firm for senior roles in the U.S. government.
When he first joined the Bank of Canada, in August, 2003, Mr. Carney said: "I think you do have an obligation of citizenship to do something, some time, in the policy area."
Born in Fort Smith, NWT, Mr. Carney grew up in Edmonton after his father, a high school principal, went back to school, then went on to become a professor. He was valedictorian and a star basketball and hockey player at Edmonton's St. Francis Xavier High School before going to Harvard, then Oxford. At university, Mr. Carney earned a PhD in economics, while many peers were gunning for the more practical MBA.
During his career at Goldman, Mr. Carney was successful in three distinct departments - credit analysis, client coverage and deal-execution - at a firm where most financiers are specialists. He worked in Tokyo, London and New York before moving to Toronto for the dealer in 2000, then jumping to the civil service in August, 2003.
"Mark Carney will be likely seen as an outsider by financial markets. But, in fact, he is not as much an outsider as David Dodge was, because Carney was deputy governor from August 2003 to November 2004. He knows his way around the Bank of Canada," said Sébastien Lavoie, a former central bank economist who is now at Laurentian Bank.
Mr. Carney moved to the Finance Department in 2004 and colleagues say one of the biggest legacies of his government life to date was his role in the sale of Ottawa's 18.6-per-cent stake in Petro-Canada in 2004. The $3.1-billion price tag was much heftier than expected, and Mr. Carney was credited for the success.
"I don't think there are many transactions in Canadian capital market history that have worked out better for the client," one investment banker involved in the sale told The Globe at the time. "And Carney was the engineer behind the deal."
Ottawa insiders say Mr. Carney cemented his case for the Bank of Canada job with his deft aid to banks and pension funds that were trying to unknot the $35-billion freeze in the asset-backed commercial paper market.
"He certainly knows financial markets well, and that's important - as we've seen with the ABCP problem right now, sometimes whether financial markets are functioning well can really affect whether monetary policy is able to work," said C.D. Howe's Mr. Robson.