Long-time bank executive, trader and media commentator Fred Ketchen, known to many as the “Dean of Bay Street,” has died. He was 85.
Over 57 years in banking, Mr. Ketchen became a household name through television and radio appearances where he translated the inner workings of banks and their trading floors to a broader audience. He was a fixture of Canada’s stock markets, serving as director of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod, as well as chairman of the Toronto Stock Exchange.
His career started at the age of 22, when he went to work for brokerage McLeod, Young, Weir & Company Ltd. in 1957. It was there he made his reputation as both a shrewd expert in stock markets and a natural communicator, becoming the firm’s foremost cheerleader and spokesperson.
“It would be fair to say he was the life and soul of the firm,” said John Sherrington, a former partner at McLeod, Young, Weir and retired vice-chairman of global investment banking at Scotiabank . “He was just naturally a gregarious guy, a sociable guy. That was his nature, that was his personal touch.”
After Bank of Nova Scotia bought McLeod, Young, Weir in 1988, renaming it ScotiaMcLeod, the bank made Mr. Ketchen a senior vice-president and director of equity trading, then promoted him to managing director of the division. And he maintained his role as the brokerage’s public face.
He was first elected a governor of the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1989, then served as vice-chairman for two years before he became chairman in 1993.
He first glimpsed the exchange as a child, when his father worked worked there. The young Mr. Ketchen would go to the gallery “and watch these idiots running around, yelling, waving stuff, throwing stuff on the floor,” he said in a 2014 interview, when he retired from Scotiabank. “This is some kind of a business, I thought.”
Regular appearances on television and radio made him a trusted voice on markets well beyond the well-heeled corridors of Bay Street. On cross-country tours to talk to investors, he could fill local hockey arenas in smaller towns like Stratford, Ont., with hundreds of people eager to hear from him.
He was seen as an old-fashioned gentleman in a competitive industry full of tough people, and was always dapper. When he wasn’t wearing his yellow-and-black tartan trader’s jacket at McLeod, he would don three-piece suits even for gardening, his family said in an obituary, and his collection of ties and pocket squares “was unrivalled.”
Ever affable and approachable, he was a mentor to many younger colleagues at McLeod, Young, Weir. “If you were junior, he’d talk to you. If you were senior, he’d talk to you,” said Bob Edwards, a former vice-president at McLeod, Young, Weir who was later chief financial officer of Scotia Capital Inc.
Over his career, Mr. Ketchen navigated a revolution in trading as it transformed from a chaotic and cacophonous business into one conducted on screens to a soundtrack of clacking keyboards. “He was remarkably able to adapt,” Mr. Sherrington said.
Mr. Ketchen was chairman of the Toronto Stock Exchange when its board made the decision to close the trading floor in 1997. And as he prepared to retire from ScotiaMcLeod in 2014, he said, “when I sit on the trading desk, the noise is gone – all the shouting and screaming, and silly games. But it is not a static business – something is happening all the time.”
In 2015, Mr. Ketchen was inducted into the Investment Industry Association of Canada’s Hall of Fame, and the IIAC awarded him the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
He died at home on Feb. 11.
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