March 29, 2012 / 8:28 PM / 5 years ago

TD CEO Clark says departure not imminent, targets NYC

Toronto-Dominion Bank Group President and Chief Executive Ed Clark delivers a speech at the company's annual general meeting in Victoria, British Columbia March 31, 2011. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto-Dominion Bank’s (TD.TO) long-serving chief executive, Ed Clark, told shareholders on Thursday he is nearing the end of his tenure, but said his departure is not imminent.

Clark, who took the reins in late 2002 and has since turned the Toronto-based bank into a major U.S. lender, is the second longest-serving CEO among Canada’s top five banks, trailing only Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) CEO Gordon Nixon.

“While I am in the final years of my tenure as CEO, I am in no hurry to leave,” he said in New York on Thursday.

He told reporters after the meeting that he plans to stay in his job for at least two more years. His current contract will move to an open-ended employment agreement after April 2013.

Speaking in Toronto, TD Chairman Brian Levitt said the board was confident that Clark’s eventual successor will be an internal candidate.

That would suggest the next CEO could be either Tim Hockey, currently TD’s group head of Canadian banking, auto finance and credit cards, or Bharat Masrani, group head of U.S. personal and commercial banking.

“They would be the two frontrunners, no question,” said Robert Sedran, an analyst at CIBC World Markets.

His successor will have big shoes to fill, as Clark was named one of the world’s top 30 CEOs by Barron’s this week.

IF THEY CAN MAKE IT THERE

TD was simulcasting the meeting from New York and its base in Toronto, a nod to the bank’s growing presence in the United States and its aspirations in America’s biggest city.

“We are the fifth-largest retail bank in New York City,” Clark said. “In four years, we want to be New York’s third-largest retail bank.”

Achieving that goal would put TD behind only JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N) and Citigroup (C.N) in a market that Clark said has a deposit base equal to three-quarters of the entire Canadian market.

TD, Canada’s No. 2 bank by assets and market capitalization, plans to achieve that goal by opening 50 new branches, or “stores” as it calls them, in New York, with the goal that success will breed more success.

“If you take a market and you move up and you get a certain critical mass percentage of coverage, you then more than win the ties, you tilt the balance, so you end up building on yourself and getting momentum,” Clark said.

Under Clark’s leadership, TD established a U.S. foothold with the acquisition of Maine lender Banknorth seven years ago. It followed that with the purchase of New Jersey-based Commerce Bancorp in 2008, which put the lender in the New York area.

It has since expanded its U.S. network through other acquisitions, and now runs about 1,300 branches spread along the U.S. East Coast from Main to Florida, a number that exceeds its Canadian branch count.

The bank will likely add around 60 locations across North America this year, Clark said.

Reporting By Cameron French; Editing by Peter Galloway

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