Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #19. Because Katie Taylor Carries the Bank Vault’s Keys
In the realm of Canadian corporate boards, there are directorships and there are Directorships. While it’s undeniably gratifying to be called to join the board of a big important company like Manulife or BCE or CP Rail or Suncor, the seats every corporate director aspires to sit in belong to the Big Five banks. And among the financial behemoths, the Royal Bank of Canada’s board is the most coveted of them all. It’s the biggest chair at the biggest table of the most profitable company in Canada.
So when Katie Taylor was appointed to RBC in January, she became, at age 56, the most powerful chairperson in the country. She’s also the first woman to head a major Canadian bank. The job is the culmination of a 30-year career, during which she worked her way up from practising securities and competition law at Goodmans to being in-house counsel at the Four Seasons, then head of operations at the upscale global hotel chain and eventually its CEO. The timing of her RBC appointment coincided with the Ontario Securities Commission’s discussions on its proposed “comply or explain” policy—a push to get more women on the boards of publicly traded companies. Though Taylor’s appointment isn’t attributable to the OSC policy—she got the job because she was the most qualified candidate—her rise is a harbinger of its pending obsolescence.