ATB Financial has chosen Curtis Stange to be its next chief executive officer, reaching within its own ranks for a successor to retiring leader Dave Mowat.
Mr. Stange has spent nine years at ATB, most recently as chief customer officer, in a banking career that spans three decades. He takes over Alberta’s government-owned bank on June 30, when Mr. Mowat retires after 11 years as CEO.
The bank Mr. Stange will inherit has grown and attained more solid footing after Mr. Mowat guided it through turbulent periods such as the collapse of the asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) market amid the 2007-2008 financial crisis and a plunge in oil prices in 2014 that stung energy-dependent Alberta.
But Mr. Stange faces a new set of challenges in a banking industry that’s being reshaped by digital innovation, while facing uncertainty over the fate of pipeline projects that could be vital to Canadian energy companies’ prosperity − and by extension, ATB's profitability.
“Change is all around us and it’s coming at us through our consumers and our business customers that are changing their expectations of what a bank is and what it can deliver in terms of value,” Mr. Stange said. “There’s change, obviously, rapidly in technology, in big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning.”
His past experience should serve him well. He is credited with leading a project that replaced ATB’s core banking system with new technology. The overhaul “really put me outside my comfort zone,” he said on Thursday. Yet he has also played a key role in launching a number of other digital initiatives, including a virtual banking assistant in the Facebook Messenger app and ATB LendR, a platform to crowd source funds for lending.
And Mr. Stange sees ATB’s size − with slightly more than $50-billion in assets and 750,000 customers across Alberta − as an advantage when it comes to keeping pace with banking’s evolution.
“We believe we are exactly the right size,” he said. “We’re big enough and meaningful enough to move a market, and yet we’re small enough and nimble enough and have the right culture to get things done.”
ATB has been crafting a succession plan for the last few years and began its search for a new CEO in January, when Mr. Mowat announced his plans to step down. Mr. Mowat praised Mr. Stange for fostering a strong culture that binds the bank’s staff. Like many new CEOs, Mr. Stange expects to spend his early days travelling to meet with staff and clients, and plans to remain “pretty visible to the team members” throughout his tenure.
“He’s a smart person, he’s got good values,” Mr. Mowat said. “I’ve had a chance to work with him for nine years now and he gets that formula that if you treat your people right and recruit an outstanding team of people around you, they will ultimately treat your customer right.”