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Ed Clark, CEO of TD Bank.John Morstad/The Globe and Mail

Edmund (Ed) Clark has carved out for himself one of the most fascinating – improbable, to some – careers in Canadian finance.

Mr. Clark, 67, first gained notoriety as a fresh-faced deputy minister in the Trudeau government who orchestrated the National Energy Program in 1980, a push to give Ottawa greater control over the energy sector that made him a lightning rod for criticism in the oil patch.

He was dubbed "Red Ed." The name has stuck as an easy – some would say simplistic – descriptor of his supposedly left-leaning days in the federal bureaucracy. After all, critics said, his doctoral thesis in economics at Harvard was about Tanzanian socialism.

When he found himself out of favour in Ottawa in the Mulroney era – after winning the Outstanding Civil Servant of the Year award in 1982 – he surprised many by jumping to the private sector, at Merrill Lynch Canada.

Deciding that he liked Bay Street, Mr. Clark went on to what he later called one of his stupidest career moves: taking over to clean up the mess known as Financial Trustco.

He presided over a slow unwinding of the company and earned the respect of many Bay Streeters.

Mr. Clark then moved on to Canada Trust, in 1994, where he learned the ropes of retail banking.

Canada Trust was scooped up by Toronto-Dominion Bank in 2000 and he stayed on, eventually replacing TD chief executive officer Charles Baillie in 2002.

His first years at TD were spent clearing the debris from the fallout from problematic corporate lending as well as strengthening the bank's branch network.

He spearheaded TD's ambitious foray into U.S. banking. Acquisitions included Portland, Me.-based Banknorth Group Inc., in early 2005.

Then came the merger of discount brokerage TD Waterhouse with Ameritrade Holding Corp.

At the same time, Mr. Clark was overseeing an aggressive TD move to become a top player in securities.

In 2007, he led one of the biggest foreign takeovers in Bay Street history at the time: an $8.5-billion (U.S.) deal to buy New Jersey-based Commerce Bancorp Inc., instantly propelling TD to the top-ten ranks in U.S. banking.

TD is now a major player in the U.S. northeast and has more branches in the United States than in Canada.

The bank has also gone from being the smallest of the Big Five banks in Canada to the second largest.

Mr. Clark's management approach at TD has been described by some as a "one-man show."

He is known for his collection of hideous ties and has stated that he gives away substantial amounts of his net worth.

His policy wonk strain remains strong, with a high-profile history of involvement in public policy debate.

His advice to governments has strayed far from financial or banking issues, with comments on everything from social housing to equalization.

Follow Bertrand Marotte on Twitter: @globemontrealOpens in a new window

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