Reading The Billion Dollar Sure Thing, by Paul Erdman. "During the second semester of my freshman year in Economics 102, the professor assigned us this book to read. Paul Erdman invented financial novels. It was about the financial system at the time, about Swiss banks and trading in currencies and trading in gold and so forth. I thought this was pretty good. And I've been on that track since then."
BEST CALL HE EVER MADE
Second to marrying his wife, his decision to attend college in the United States, despite not being fluent in English, is the best call Mr. Vachon says he ever made. "My English was so-so, but I didn't get bogged down in details. I could read and write, but to speak it was so-so. I somehow managed to get through the SAT [college admissions exam]and the interview process."
IN HIS OWN WORDS
On Canadian banking weathering the financial crisis
"At some point we cannot rest on our laurels and fall into the trap of hubris. I don't think we are genetically born superior to anybody. There was a mix of good management, better regulatory environment and luck. And anybody who thinks it's not a combination of the three could be up for a rude awakening at some point."
On staying calm amid the banking storm
"I grew up in a business family. And I know the ups and downs of business. So when things got rough in 07-08, it didn't make it pleasant but I was not destabilized by it. Because I had seen my father going through ups and downs, and my grandfather going through ups and downs. And I drew a lot of self-confidence from that, saying they made it through, I'll make it through."
On managing a bank
"Coming from the trading side, I was very quick at making decisions. I'm still quite quick, but less quick as I used to be. I tend to ask more questions before pulling the trigger. It's one of the things you learn in life. The more I went up in terms of responsibility, the less you talk, the more questions you ask, and the more you listen. Your ears become more important than your tongue. I'm not saying it's not important to be a communicator, but in terms of making decisions, initially shut up and listen to people."
On National's 5-per-cent stake in the Montreal Canadiens
"It's complicated at home, because my wife tells me that I can't tell [majority owner]Geoff Molson how to run his team, or tell the coaches. So I have to abstain from making any comments on the hockey side. I'm bound to silence. But when I played hockey, the only ranking I was at the top of was the penalty rankings. So I'm not in a position to tell Geoff or anyone how to run that team."
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