Convocation address by Jeff Carney, BCom’84, President & CEO, Mackenzie Investments and Co-President & CEO, IGM Financial Inc., member of the Queen’s School of Business Advisory Board

Posted on July 01, 2015

Convocation address by Jeff Carney, BCom’84, President & CEO, Mackenzie Investments and Co-President & CEO, IGM Financial Inc., member of the Queen’s School of Business Advisory Board

 

Mr. Carney delivered the following address on June 1, 2015, to the graduating classes of the Commerce, PhD and MSc in Management programs.

Wow, I never expected to be giving a Commencement speech at Queen’s. And, you know what? Neither did my Commerce classmates back in 1984. I tended to gravitate to the back row of the class, where I could take in the big picture (and the smart girls).

I would like to thank Chancellor Leech, Dean Saunders, and all the Queen’s representatives here today for this opportunity to speak to you today.

C o n g r a t u l a t i o ns – Class of 2015!!

I stand here before you to share one simple thought.

“Anything is Possible.” And I’m living proof.

Why?  I had a very simple upbringing in the Prairies. Days were long, playing hockey was mandatory, and “the markets” were where I helped pack groceries for customers.

My parents dedicated their lives to their children’s education and my mother made it crystal-clear that going to university was mandatory, particularly for me, after she saw my report cards and received frequent calls from my teachers. Luckily, I turned things around in high school once I started to realize the possibilities ahead.

I was fortunate that my dad worked at Texaco because the company provided a gateway to postsecondary education by providing scholarships for my two brothers and me. Thanks to my dad, who is here today, for making that happen. And thanks to my brother Jim and to Cindy, Chad’s mother, who are also here, celebrating his son Chad’s graduation with all of you today.

Queen’s was quite an adventure for me. Looking back, my third year stood out as a defining moment. I cruised into the year with my fellow classmate in my vintage/rusty Ford Comet from Regina. We were excited knowing that we would be representing Queen’s at the ICBC Business Competition. Anything was possible. And we actually won!  If there had been an award for the most entertaining antics in the strategy rooms (which were apparently filmed), we would have definitely walked away with that award too.

Instead, our award was a trip to the Dean’s office the next morning for reasons other than winning. After reflecting on the whole experience, I realized I loved to compete, and running a business became a dream.

Upon graduating from Queen’s I headed to Toronto where I figured, anything was possible. I was very fortunate to get a job at a prestigious firm, Ginsberg & Wong, a happening restaurant. (You have to start somewhere, and I needed to pay the rent.) Luckily, a Queen’s contact came in handy. The father of my ex-girlfriend from Queen’s referred me to Merrill Lynch, and I was hired into their Junior Executive Training Program.

Things were looking up.

Merrill was my MBA. As an analyst, I was paid to learn. I had the opportunity to interview CEOs and CFOs, and share my recommendations with the market. Queen’s prepared me well and I also applied a big dose of hard work, determination and creativity. While at Merrill Lynch, I learned that exceeding your boss’s expectations is an important strategy for long-term success. And you just may find your boss opening doors for you to make anything possible.

 

 

I discovered another important lesson.

Saying “Yes” goes a long way towards ensuring success and adventure in business and inlife. Jim Carrey exemplified this in the classic movie “Yes Man”. Saying “Yes” opened up my world immensely. Examples to share with you include outdoor adventures. My Olympic ski buddies called me to join them in a ski trip. I said sure. Ignorance is bliss, until you find yourself tangled up in deep powder in Aspen, something that happened during my first ever ski run. Saying “Yes” also brought me to the Arctic for my first experience white-water canoeing. I survived both and made great lifelong friends in the process.

I also recommend saying “Yes” in business. After the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, a Queen’s friend informed me of an opportunity to work in Poland to help transform Polish companies to operate in a capitalist system. I was on the plane soon after. Anything was possible. This assignment truly stretched my imagination and was an incredible experience from a business and personal standpoint.

After a great learning and cultural experience (and the consumption of my fair share of vodka and perogies), I returned to Toronto to work at TD Bank. Shortly after a stint in M & A, and exceeding my bosses’ expectations (remember that’s part of the strategy), I said “Yes” to leading a new business for TD—once again proving that anything is possible. You don’t have to all the answers when you take on an opportunity.  It starts with a vision.

This was one of my biggest defining moments as a leader—I had the chance to build a new business model for TD’s full-service brokerage, and to lead a team and develop a culture, as well as leave a legacy.

I wouldn’t recommend dancing on picnic tables at a national sales event, though. You could attract a different kind of press.

After ten years at TD, I was ready for the next adventure. Trusting my instincts, I joined Fidelity as President of Investments, Canada, then said, “Yes” to moving to Boston and running Fidelity Retail in the U.S.  I’m a huge fan of Canada, but working in the U.S. opened up my horizons, especially to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Canadians can get great experience in Canada that sets us up for success here and in the rest of the world. Think big, bold and global, if it pulls you.

Looking to you, the Class of 2015, and checking in that you are all still here with me (including my nephew Chad), I am here to say that all of your hard work will serve you well. You are also very fortunate with your timing.

The possibilities are wide open in this global economy for amazing adventures in both business and in life.

So here is what I leave you with for making Great things really possible in your life ahead.

 

  • Say “Yes” often.

 

  • Be open to opportunities

 

  • Follow your passion.

 

  • Ask yourself, what would excite you to go to work everyday?

 

  • Exceed your bosses’ expectations. And learn from all types of leaders.

 

  • Build on your friendships from Queen’s.  They will last a lifetime. In fact, my favourite relationship is with Carolyn Weatherhead, Commerce’86, the mother our three children.

 

  • Leave a legacy. How do you want to be remembered?

 

  • Celebrate success —yours, your family’s, your friends’ and colleagues’.

 

Good luck on your journey.

 

You have the power to make a huge impact.

 

And don’t forget Anything is Possible.

 

(By the way, we are always looking for talent at MacKenzie Investments.)

 

Thank you!

 


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