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Cedrick Ritchie, former chairman of the board and CEO of the Bank of Nova Scotia, poses at Canada Life Financial Corporation's annual meeting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Thursday May 2, 2002.Norm Betts/Bloomberg

Cedric Ritchie, the man who transformed Bank of Nova Scotia into a truly international bank, has died. He was 88.

Originally from Upper Kent, N.B., Mr. Ritchie started working at the bank in 1945 in a branch in his home province and rose to become president in 1972, followed by chief executive and chairman from 1974 to 1995.

Under his watch, Scotiabank focused on international expansion. In 1978, he was among the group of senior Canadian executives who made the trek to China to open relations under then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau. The mission helped create the Canada China Business Council, which aimed to boost the amount of work the two countries did together.

Mr. Ritchie is best-known for his devotion to Latin America. When rival banks unloaded much of their exposure to the "lesser developed country" loans in the 1980s, Scotiabank stuck around and eventually expanded. Today, Scotiabank is focused on expanding in Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Mr. Richie led the bank for more than two decades, and stayed on as chairman until 1995, when he was succeeded by Peter Godsoe.

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