I’ve served on the Board of ATB for 12 years now, and am in my second year as Chair, but it wasn’t until recently on a walk with my father that he told me his ATB story. He recounted how the gravel company he worked for in the early days of the oil sands was an ATB customer. When they were at a point where they were ready to expand, he thought he should diversify his lender support, so he went to another bank to ask for a loan for $25,000. They took six weeks to get back to him and turned him down. So he went back to ATB. ATB looked at his management team and said, “Here’s $75,000.” They used that money to build and grow. And they grew and expanded, eventually becoming one of the largest gravel companies in Alberta, and helping to build the oil sands. All of that was possible because ATB saw potential when other banks didn’t.
I hear stories like that from other customers too, and the theme is always the same: ATB was willing to listen and work with us, when no one else would. That’s a pretty powerful statement about who ATB is and what we do for customers in Alberta.
We spent much of the past year focused on improving our customer experiences and understanding the needs of our business owners so we could do more for them. This included increasing our technology infrastructure so we could respond quickly during this crisis and help customers access our relief programs as well as provincial and federal programs. Because of our investment in digital transformation, we were able to help customers when they needed it most.
No one could have imagined how drastically things would change in the last few weeks of our fiscal year. We had been cautiously optimistic that we were entering the beginnings of a recovery from some of our economic challenges. We were anticipating GDP growth of 0.9%, which isn’t a lot, but it was growth. Thankfully, the work we had done prior to the global pandemic placed us in a stronger position to help Albertans and Alberta businesses during this crisis. We were very proactive in managing our balance sheet and pricing for risk. With a strong book, we were able to do things that made sense for our customers and for our long-term sustainability. That may sound very “banky,” but it ensured we could step up and stand by customers as we work towards recovery. And I know we will see a recovery in this province.
If you look around our boardroom table, you will see a very diverse set of Board members with experience in small, medium, and extremely large businesses. Each of our members leans in to bring their best advice and support to ATB. We are a corporate enterprise, owned by the Province of Alberta, and operationally independent. We act in a commercial and cost-effective manner, and are focused on earning a risk-adjusted return for our Shareholder comparable to other financial institutions—that's our mandate. As a Board, we serve with ATB because we share a passion for Alberta, and I am so grateful to be part of that. We’ll be saying goodbye to two of our Board members in June. Jim Drinkwater and Jim Carter have been instrumental in helping to build a strong foundation at ATB and we thank them for their collective impact.
While today’s pandemic is unprecedented, our province has weathered other challenges: floods and fires and long down-cycles in our energy industry. Through it all, ATB has been unwavering in its support to help Albertans get through it. We understand Alberta because Alberta is home. And we’ll be here, right beside Albertans, as we move forward.
Chair of the Board