Dave Mowat's 11-year run at the helm of ATB Financial will end this summer, when he retires as chief executive officer of Alberta's government-owned bank.
His departure, announced on Monday, is set for June 30, and ATB is beginning a worldwide search for a successor, to be announced in May.
Mr. Mowat steered ATB through a decade that was often turbulent, from the global financial crisis of 2007-08 to the dramatic plunge in oil prices that began in 2014, which left ATB – a major lender to junior oil companies – on the hook as bad loans piled up. He also led an expert panel that advised Alberta's government on a revamped, industry-friendly royalty system for oil and gas introduced in 2016. And he oversaw the replacement of ATB's core banking system with new technology, positioning the bank to partner with financial technology startups as digitization begins to reshape the way banks make money.
But for the past few years, ATB has been putting a succession plan in place and, at 62, Mr. Mowat said in an interview that he chose to leave "when it's good for the company and not just when it's good for the CEO. ...
"Banking's going to change like crazy over the next period of time, so I think having new perspective, fresh ideas, can only help our company surge ahead," he added.
Almost as soon as Mr. Mowat took over at ATB, he was confronted with the collapse of the asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) market – in which the Alberta bank was a major player. He recalls travelling to Toronto weekly to huddle "with Purdy Crawford and the gang" – the committee overseeing the restructuring of Canada's ABCP market. "The banks really came together," he said. "They didn't have to, but they did."
Since 2007, ATB's total assets more than doubled, from $20.3-billion to $49.6-billion, and the Crown corporation's customer base grew by more than 140,000, company figures indicate. Net income rebounded in 2017, to nearly $151-million, after falling to about $108-million in 2016 – the bank's lowest profit in years.
As the new royalty regime shaped by Mr. Mowat's panel came into force in 2016, Premier Rachel Notley's NDP government gave ATB an expanded mandate to lend to small and medium-sized businesses, seeking to begin diversifying Alberta's energy-dependent economy. ATB earmarked $500-million in capital to lend to companies with fewer than 100 staff, matched by an equal sum from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), to help companies feeling the sting of a rough patch in the provincial economy. As oil prices have steadied and energy companies reined in costs, Mr. Mowat says he expects diversification will pick up speed. And he still thinks a royalty framework designed to reward the oil-and-gas sector for cutting spending and using technology and which avoided imposing much higher fees as the industry had feared, is "exactly what we need right now."
On Monday, Ms. Notley wrote on Twitter that Mr. Mowat has "taught us much and moved our province forward," in part through his work on the royalty review panel.
Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said in his own tweet that Mr. Mowat helped ATB "grow and thrive."
Before he joined ATB in 2007, Mr. Mowat was CEO of Vancity, Canada's largest credit union. He has yet to find his next job, but hinted that he may go into business in some form with his three adult children, who work in geomatics, banking and home building, respectively.
"I'm pretty keen to give it a whirl with them," he said. "I'm not sure what it'll be."
ATB board chair Brian Hesje praised Mr. Mowat for guiding the bank "through some challenging times."
"While we'll definitely miss his leadership, we're in a strong position to build on the foundation he's put in place," Mr. Hesje said in a statement.