I have lived in both Canada and the U.S. for considerable amounts of time and some of the cultural differences continue to fascinate me. For example, a major Canadian newspaper is trumpeting how Canadian banks have largely escaped the worst effects the global financial tsunami.
Before Canadian continue on their victory lap, I would just like to point out that Canadian financial institutions escaped because Canada has a low-beta culture.
Consider the following employment ad that recently came across my desk for a CFO of a NY based broker-dealer [emphasis mine]:
Principal Responsibilities:In other words, they want someone well versed in finance, legal and regulatory matters who is able to be entrepreneurial at the same time. Consider this similar position for a VP Finance in Canada. Admittedly, it is not in the same industry, but the first sentence in the job requirements is:
* Comprehensive financial responsibility for firm's regulatory compliance. Serve as Licensed NASD Series 27 Financial and Operations Principal...
* Establish financial controls and accounting procedures...
* Serve as principal financial liaison with legal counsel to ensure all contracts and agreements are prepared in accordance with financial goals and standards.
* Design and implementation of all systems and reports used in developing financial strategies.
* Develop methods of cost allocation for management reporting on product line and geographical basis.
* Ensure consistency of data in internal and external reporting...
* Present recommended solutions and alternatives to client management based on analysis of trends, profitability, and growth opportunities.
* Evaluate industry developments, market conditions, and economic news to determine financial and business impact. Conduct in-depth industry benchmarking, company and market trend research, peer analysis, and market penetration modeling. Coordinate ad hoc analysis and management reports.
* Liaise with tax department to ensure integrity of transfer pricing methodology and license and service agreements...
* Assess viability of new business ventures for early stage investment potential...
* Establish organizational structure, employee-related policies, procedures and roles...
* Establish operating budgets and financial projections in-line with corporate objectives...
* Bachelors in Accounting or Finance required. MBA/CPA or Masters Degree in Finance preferred.
* Minimum 15 years experience with at least eight years in a finance role supporting a business unit with full P&L responsibility.
* Prior brokerage industry experience required. NASD Series 27 licensing required.
* Must have experience partnering with business unit leaders, developing strategic plans and leading the business and finance activities of a high revenue growth business in its early stages including new products.
* Strong leadership presence and negotiation skills required.
* Excellent quantitative, financial and analytical skills.
* Strong written and interpersonal communication skills are essential.
* Strong organizational skills and ability to prioritize multiple tasks are required.
A professional accounting designation (CA, CMA, CGA, CIA) is required and post secondary degree would be an asset
Low beta vs. high beta culture
Canadians like order. An accounting designation is a form of order.
The Canadian consensus was built on Peace, Order and Good Government, which are low-beta activities. America was built on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, which are higher beta activities.
Neither is right or wrong. We just happen to be in a period where low beta is dominant.