National Bank of Canada (TSX: NA)
Age: 50 | Years at the company: 8
National Bank of Canada has been nipping at the heels of the Big Five banks for years now, and few have bared their teeth more than its senior vice-president of wealth management and personal banking, Michel Tremblay. After four years on the job, he has quadrupled the assets of the bank's private investment management arm, improved its customer service and polished the brand.
National Bank hired Tremblay away from ING Group in 1998 to be president of NatCan Investment Management, but it soon shuffled other divisions into his portfolio. “I guess they liked what I did,” he says, with some understatement. Appointed senior vice-president in March 2002, he was soon handling the bank's wealth management division, the mutual fund portfolio, the insurance arm, the discount brokerage, credit card operations, Internet banking and personal banking, among others &mdahs; essentially all face-to-face interactions with clients.
Keeping all those plates spinning is a demanding job, and by all accounts Tremblay is equally demanding of those who work for him. CEO Réal Raymond describes Tremblay's working style as “intense,” to which Tremblay responds with a knowing laugh. “That's certainly fair,” he says. “I love what I do. It's in my DNA.”
Tremblay has focused that intensity on areas that he thinks are key to the bank's success, and customer service has been one of his major victories: recent internal surveys show a 25% improvement in customer satisfaction. Tremblay says that setting clear expectations helps bank employees stay focused. “Set a limited number of objectives,” he adds. “Instead of saying, 'We have 200 things to do,' focus on three or four, and do those things right.” Tremblay is sure doing something right: National's earnings per share have increased about 20% for each of the past three years, meaning their investors have a lot more wealth to manage, too. Now that's intense.