This must be “fascination” week. My last 2 articles have been about things that fascinate me. Well this is another story that blew me away. It’s the story of a CEO unlike any other CEO. A man who makes millions of dollars every year, but you wouldn’t even think he makes 100K.
His name is Gerry McCaughey; and he’s the CEO of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). He was recently profiled in a Globe and Mail “Report on Business” article. The article profiles him as “The Outsider”, describing him as “Mr. Zero Charisma”, and states he is described by the media as “melba toast”. He isn’t your typical CEO. He doesn’t have an MBA, an Ivy League degree, the man doesn’t even own a car. He lives in a modest condo within walking distance of his office, whereas most CEOs have large houses in the Forest Hill or Rosedale areas. He prefers eating at Shopsy’s deli than an upscale restaurant and he loves to go into complex spiels about war history, describing every detail of a particular battle.
Starting out his career he worked on the railroads and worked in a meat packing plant while working toward a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Concordia University in Montreal. Then while working as a bookkeeper/accountant he completed his degree part-time in the evening. His career started in 1980 after completing his degree when he landed a job with Merrill Lynch. He moved through the rankings faster than the average person simply because he gets the job done and avoids the politics.
I had the chance to meet Mr. McCaughey shortly before he became CEO. He didn’t make small talk, he got straight down to business and didn’t try to present himself a certain way. He simply said Hi and not in so many words asked me to show him what he needs to know and get out of his face as quickly as possible. Meeting Gerry was quite the opposite from when I met the former CEO John Hunkin not long before meeting Mr. McCaughey. Mr. Hunkin was much more of a people person and took the time to shake my hand and present himself as the leader of the company. Quite the opposite from Gerry.
If you have the time to read the article, it’s very interesting. If you’re ever met my buddy Ned, you’d be shocked at the similarities between the two of them. Ned intentionally goes out of his way to avoid any luxuries that life has to offer. If Ned had to choose between driving a car to work or riding his bike through 3 feet of snow, over a 10,000 foot mountain to get to work, he would choose the latter, without even thinking twice. Maybe some day Ned will be an unlikely CEO too.