Lobbying for the banks
As President of the 120-year-old Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), Terry Campbell, MA’77, is one of Canada’s most visible and powerful lobbyists. He speaks on behalf of 52 domestic banks, foreign bank subsidiaries, and foreign bank branches operating in Canada.
When he’s not trying to persuade the federal Ministry of Finance to give the banks more powers – say, to enter the auto leasing business or to sell insurance online -- he’s busy defending their positions in the media.
Canadians traditionally knock the Big Six “Schedule One” banks for everything from their service charges to credit card rates and executive pay rates. Yet in recent years, the drumbeat of criticism has faded. As the CBA website notes, 85 per cent of Canadians express confidence in the Canadian banking system, while 92 per cent agree that the strength of the large Canadian banks is critical to the overall health of the economy.
That strength was most evident during the global financial meltdown that began in August 2008. “I think the Canadian public is aware that we came through the financial crisis better than banks elsewhere,” says Terry. “We kept lending when other institutions pulled up stakes and left Canada. There were no failures of Canadian banks.” Although the US government’s bail-outs of some major banks were huge and highly controversial, Terry notes that “no Canadian banks needed a financial injection.”
Still, the bank-bashers are quick to pounce. When Ottawa recently announced plans to bolster retirement savings (for those not able to pay into CPP) by having banks offer Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs), critics rapped the move as a “gift” to the banks and insisted that an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan would be more useful. Terry agrees that PRPPs are “not a cure or a silver bullet for all retirement and pension-plan issues. They’re just one particular product.”
At times, Terry has to tread delicately when the CBA’s major stakeholders are themselves divided. Early in 2011, for example, only four of the Big Six banks joined the Maple Group consortium to bid for the Toronto Stock Exchange. The CBA stayed silent. “In most cases, however,” Terry insists, “we achieve a common view on public policy.”
Terry, 58, was born in Parry Sound, ON, and earned an MA in history at Queen’s. He wrote his thesis on “The Political and Intellectual Thought of F.R. Scott,” the famed McGill University law professor, social-political philosopher, and poet.
Terry fondly recalls the elegance of Queen’s limestone buildings and the architecture that “seemed to have a coherent theme to it.” He also liked the seamless integration of Queen’s into surrounding Kingston. “The students weren’t isolated on a campus that was far away from where things were happening,” he recalls.
After doing contract research at Queen’s, Terry got his first full-time job at a small archive, the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, where he worked for 2½ years. This position led him to a post at Toronto’s Archives of Ontario and a 16-year career in the Ontario Public Service.
During the 1980s, he worked on policy development in various public service jobs. In 1991, when the Ministry of Financial Institutions sought a civil servant with an intimate knowledge of how policy is developed, Terry landed the job despite his lack of documented expertise in financial services. He soon was immersed in the intricacies of mortgage brokers, credit unions, trust companies and securities issues. He rose to the position of Acting Director of Financial Services Policy during 1995-97.
When the CBA recruited him to become its Director of Policy in 1997, he ended his public service career and took a “painless leap” into the banking sector, where he has been ever since. In 2001, he was promoted to Vice-President of Policy, and in March 2011 was named President. Having studied Canadian history, Terry Campbell is now helping to make it happen.