Opinion: Drummond reflects on a career in economics

Ask TD Bank Financial Group’s Don Drummond about his plans for retirement, and the company’s senior vice-president and chief economist is adamant about only one thing.

He’s not planning on doing much travelling. At all.

“There is one drawback of my job, and that’s all the travel,” reflects Mr. Drummond, who will make an appearance at an OBJ Mayor’s Breakfast Series event on April 23.

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“Don’t get me wrong, (the travel) was great when I started, but the idea of flying somewhere for four hours, and staying in that place for 48 hours, and doing five media interviews” can become somewhat tiresome, he says.

“At some point, it doesn’t even matter where I am. I could be in Timbuktu.”

Despite this, however, Mr. Drummond looks back with fondness on his tenure at TD, where he was appointed chief economist in 2000 and led the bank’s TD Economics division for a decade. After a long career in the federal government where he helped slay the deficit and change Canada’s corporate tax structure, Mr. Drummond says he was ready for a new challenge when TD came calling.

“(TD Bank Financial Group president and CEO) Ed Clark showed me where my office was, and he said it was up to me to figure out what I wanted to do,” he recalls with a laugh. “I just had to bring value to the bank.”

And bring value Mr. Drummond did, through his expert analysis, prognostications and seemingly tireless schedule of media interviews and other engagements throughout the years.

It was an expertise forged during more than 20 years at the Department of Finance, he explains. “There are some very bright people at Finance… (and) if you’re going into a meeting with the minister, you’d better know your stuff because it can be a brutal place if you don’t.

“You go in (to those meetings) prepared to be attacked for your viewpoints, because you’re dealing with highly competent people who are very passionate.”

Mr. Drummond will retire at the end of June. The bank’s current deputy chief economist, Craig Alexander, will succeed him beginning on May 3.

“Don has had a huge impact on our business and brand. He turned a strong economics department into Canada’s ‘think tank in a bank,'” said Mr. Clark in a statement this past March.

“It’s been a wonderful blast of a job,” he says. “And some people might think I’m insane to walk away from such a great job.”

Mr. Drummond predicts a period of relative stagnation for Ottawa’s economy, however, thanks to the federal spending freeze at the departmental level. “There has been phenomenal growth in the civil service over the last little while,” he says.

“Employment has been increasing strongly since the 1990s in the Ottawa area… And I think things will be the opposite over the next five years.

“So Ottawa will turn to that age-old question of how to diversify,” he continues.

But he says there are some local bright spots – the concentration of small- to medium-size ICT companies in the area leaves room for growth, he says, and the relatively high educational standards of the National Capital Region will help keep the area competitive. “And that’s a position you want to be in when you’re diversifying your economy.”

As for his plans past June, Mr. Drummond, who attended Queens’ University as a young man, says he’s thinking of going back to academia – though he adds he’s had 14 job offers since announcing his pending retirement.

Concerning the red-hot economic rebound in Canada right now, however, Mr. Drummond remains cautious, saying he’s “sticking with his story that this will be a slow recovery,” thanks to the end of government stimulus programs both here and in the U.S.

You can catch Don Drummond at OBJ’s Mayor’s Breakfast Series on April 23. 

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