PATH Profile: Fred Ketchen
By Karl Petschke, exclusive to torontopath.com
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Sometimes, living day to day on the PATH, where you’re always just a few steps away from your favourite food or style or comfort, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that we’re wandering through one of the most affluent communities in the country. Sometimes down here it’s just easy to forget that the futures of economies across the country, and indeed, the world, are becoming more and more uncertain every day. And, no matter how you fit into all this, no matter what neighbourhood you call home, or what your situation is, you can be sure that there are many Canadians, just like you, who are looking for a voice to guide them into these unfamiliar times. Little did many of us know, however, that one of the most trusted, experienced voices in the field, one that’s been helping Canadians navigate the volatile ups and downs of markets for years, it's one of our own. Not only that, it's one you may have even heard during your time on the PATH.
You could say Fred Ketchen has had the excitement of the trade floor in his blood all his life. Growing up with a father that worked at the Bank of Commerce, and later the Toronto Stock Exchange, Fred would spend his Saturdays perched on the impressive leather seats of the members’ lounge, a calm retreat from the clamour outside. Ever since, the world of banking has been bringing him something different each day, he tells me, explaining that for all these years he's been truly caught up in “the vibrancy of that kind of thing."
By high-school Fred was already working at the stock exchange as a post clerk. Hoping to become a journalist, he attended Carlton University in Ottawa. Although he implies otherwise with a smirk, something tells me it wasn’t just the cold weather that made him to decide to come home to Toronto. When he returned it wasn’t long before he was back to the trade floor, amidst all the chatter and tension, and, after a time working as a phone clerk, he was soon a full-fledged trader. After spending a year working at the Canadian Dow Jones, Fred took up a position at the prominent investing firm McLeod, Young and Weir. That was 1957. Since that time his career has been as groundbreaking as it has been successful. He soon found himself putting his knowledge and talents to use all around the city, moving first from the Bank of Montreal Tower to the Canadian Pacific Tower, before finally settling down in Scotia McLeod’s new home in Scotia Plaza.
Though he had already established a thriving career, Fred was to get yet another big break, this one heralded by the ringing of a telephone in 1987. On the other end was the public affairs office of the Toronto Stock Exchange. Along with Global TV, they had hoped to air a live broadcast from the trade floor, one that they hoped would help to offer insight on market activities to everyday people. The man they felt would be perfect for the job? Fred himself.
Before long, his voice had become a familiar one on both television and radio. Now making multiple reports each day, he was indeed blazing new trails, offering financial guidance, no longer simply in Toronto, but now in Winnipeg, Calgary, Regina, and elsewhere. “Those are opportunities I’m happy I had,” Fred tells me. “They were a great experience, and really gave me a chance to teach real people about the stock exchange, and the economy.” Then, adding with a laugh “We don’t all have PhD’s.”
For most people, such a time in the spotlight would have been enough to at least calm one’s ambitions. But not Fred. He has since gone on to take up a number of important posts at the Toronto Stock Exchange, included being elected Chairman in 1993. Though he is no longer kept as busy by the media and at the stock exchange, Fred admits that he "can’t just sit still.” While many would feel comfortable just relaxing after so much success (Fred tells me he has a lovely golf set that he has yet to touch), Mr. Ketchen has gone on to play an indespensable role at the Trillium Health Centre, all the while maintaining his position as Managing Director of Equity Trading at Scotia McLeod, one of Canada's largest and most trusted financial organizations.
It’s hard to sum up the accomplishments of a man like Fred Ketchen. And, although financial frustrations and scepticism about the economy may be influencing many Canadians to expect otherwise, it’s much harder to truly capture something that stood out to me even more when meeting Fred. More than his sharp suit, more than all his television appearances and all his stocks and all his success, I was most impressed by how genuine Fred was. It wasn’t just the smile in his eyes, or the delight in his laugh, probably not unlike it had been all those years ago when he when he first heard the clamour of the trade floor. No, what was most striking about Fred was that he was not the greedy banker or financier that so many Canadians’ financial woes have no doubt driven them to imagine. Rather, this was a man who took pride in helping the people he cared about, took pride in guiding everyday Canadians. He’s not just leading the way towards a bigger bank account, or a better payout. He sees the financial industry in terms of what’s really important, and as a means of moving towards a happier, more carefree life, one in which we have a chance to appreciate the things that truly matter. Coming face to face with a person like Fred, it was really impressed upon me, perhaps for the first time, just how fortunate we are to have such a world class financial industry in Canada.
Looking back over his life, Fred says he would have done it all the same. “I would like people to think of me as someone who worked hard, and did my best to help people” he says, reflecting on a career that has seen Canadians through some of the best and worst days that have ever faced our economy. I, however, think it’s safe to say that with all his contributions to ensuring the continued livelihood of this country, and the people that make it so great, we have a lot more than that to thank him for.
Last updated on 5/6/2011 1:48:24 PM