Magazine article American Banker

People

Magazine article American Banker

People

Article excerpt

He's Cool With That

TD Banknorth Inc. chairman and chief executive Bill Ryan is not the kind of executive to avoid conflict.

After all, it took some persuading 18 months ago to get some of the largest shareholders of the Portland, Maine, company, then called Banknorth Group Inc., to agree to sell a majority stake to Toronto-Dominion Bank.

That deal is long done, but after TD Banknorth issued its second earnings warning of the year Tuesday, Mr. Ryan rose to another challenge.

After his presentation at a conference in New York, an investor asked Mr. Ryan whether he would agree to hand over the CEO job if another banker came along with a better profitability plan.

He said he would have no problem if it came to that, though he indicated that he thinks such an outcome is unlikely.

If the directors "think somebody else could do a better job, that's fine with me," Mr. Ryan said. "I have no issues there." He was quick to add that he has "been around a long time" and has a "pretty good track record."

The investor was not satisfied. "But isn't it your job to say, 'Look, we have this plan. We're here or we're not here, but you don't see 10% growth next year, find a way to get it?' " he asked. (Mr. Ryan had said 10% earnings growth in the current environment is unrealistic for most banking companies.)

In response, Mr. Ryan said he could force his management team to produce a 10% profit increase, but it would not make investors happy.

"They'll take more risk, put riskier loans on. …

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