“It was a defining moment for us in setting a strategy. You can’t shrink your way to greatness.” – Larry Pollock
The year 2009 mirrors the economic environment of today. Stock prices hit a five-year low in March, Calgary commercial real estate vacancies steadily increased through the year, projects stalled and underwent financial restructuring, and it was the worst year for business Alberta had witnessed in recent memory. But Larry Pollock, the year’s Business Person of the Year, pushed Canadian Western Bank (CWB) towards growth, going against the instinct to pull back during a downturn. During the pinnacle of the global financial crisis, CWB grew nine per cent. “It was a defining moment for us in setting a strategy,” Pollock says. “You can’t shrink your way to greatness.” The move was calculated, and it worked. CWB gained customers as competitors struggled to stay afloat in a competitive market. Pollock stepped down as CEO in 2013, ending a remarkable 23-year tenure that made him the ironman of the banking sector. He remained as an advisor with the bank for a couple of years, mentoring his successor, Chris Fowler. “The transition went well and many corporations don’t have a smooth transition,” Pollock says. “The culture gets destroyed and we had a culture that really drove growth and teamwork and I think that is so important and lacking today in so many organizations.” Pollock remains on the board of Melcor REIT and Canadian Helicopters. Rather than observe Alberta business from afar, Pollock can’t help but lament the state of our economy, and calls into question the corporate tax hikes he feels have wounded the province’s entrepreneurial spirit. “In 2007-09, oil prices were lower than they are today, but we came through it,” he says. “But now, when you are drowning in low oil prices, and you’ve got a government that increases your taxes, that’s like throwing a rock to a drowning man.” As for CWB, it is fairing just fine, boasting an impressive 112 consecutive profitable quarters at the end of June 2016.
The Year that Was 2008
Alberta’s Population 3.5 million
Suncor CEO Rick George (2001 award-winner) and his Petro-Canada counterpart, Ron Brenneman, announce that the two companies will merge
Finance Minister Iris Evans announces Alberta’s first deficit in 12 years