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Report On Business Shaking up Scotiabank: Three exclusive insights into CEO Brian Porter’s revolution

Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter speaks during the company's annual general meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, April 9, 2015.

Cole Burston/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Since taking the reins at Bank of Nova Scotia nearly three years ago, chief executive officer Brian Porter has radically overhauled his executive team, cut thousands of jobs, sold assets and taken steps to change the culture. Through it all, he has provided few glimpses into his vision for igniting the bank's growth, leaving Bay Street to question his motives.

Until now. In an exclusive, in-depth interview, Mr. Porter finally opened up about his upheaval and talked at length about the strategy behind his shakeup.

Asked why the restructuring has been so widespread, touching nearly every division within the bank and leading to over $500-million in charges, he said it is built around a paradigm shift: "We're in the technology business. Our product happens to be banking, but largely that's delivered through technology."

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The new strategy demands new skill sets, he added, giving him reason to overhaul his executive team, as well as the rungs below it. "Change is always difficult – particularly in an organization that hadn't had change for a period of time," he explained. "But I also have to sit back and say, 'Okay, so-and-so has been in this job for a period of time, and they're having trouble adapting to the pace of technological change. Maybe there is more risk inherent in having them in that position than taking them out.'"

The personnel overhaul, which has puzzled Bay Street, was also motivated by making sure the bank is aware of what happens outside its walls, he explained. "I felt very strongly about this, and others did, too, on the board, that the bank was too inward-looking," Mr. Porter said. "We hadn't brought a lot of outsiders into this bank for a long period of time. I'm not sure that's a healthy thing."

The full feature story is available for Globe and Mail subscribers, and can be read here.

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