Pete Gauvin started with BMO Bank of Montreal fresh out of the NBCC Business Accounting program. Soon after, he became the youngest branch manager in Canada and eventually ended his career as an executive – National Managing Director Canadian Consumer Credit for the eighth largest bank in North America.
NBCC Alumni caught up with him ask him about his career in banking, his time at NBCC, and his advice for Young Alumni.
Where do you call home? Where did you grow up?
I’m originally from Dieppe, New Brunswick. I currently reside in Oakville Ontario and in the process of relocating to Moncton.
You’re now retired, but what was your most recent professional title? What did that job entail?
I worked for BMO for 36 years, and it was a wonderful and great place to work. My last role was National Managing Director Canadian Consumer Credit with BMO Bank of Montreal - I headed the consumer credit departments for Canada. That job covered anything to do with credit applications, whether it was a personal loan or a mortgage, anything that wasn’t automated. I was accountable for all the retail consumer credit departments in BMO across the country.
As well, I worked closely with the industry regulators and policy makers to ensure safe and sound lending practices were adhered to. My role was part of the risk management arm of the bank., It was an exciting job. It was a great way to finish off my career as it allowed me to apply everything I had learned over the years. It was an excellent capstone to my career with the bank.
What attracted you to the NBCC accounting program?
I went to Université de Moncton and was studying computer science for a year, and it really wasn’t for me. As I was paying my own way through school and still working while I was a student, I didn’t see myself going through four years with U de M. I decided to switch over to NBCC, and it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What I admired the most about NBCC was the practical teachings of the curriculum when I did the Business Accounting course. I was very fortunate that my instructors all had real world business experiences; they were business leaders, not only academics. They were, in some cases, still working in the fields that they were teaching us.
One of my instructors who taught cost accounting was an industrial accountant – with actual manufacturing companies as his clients. It doesn’t get any better than that, and he could teach us real-world concepts and all the stuff behind the numbers.
What was your journey after NBCC?
I started with the Bank of Montreal as soon as I graduated from NBCC. From there, I earned a fellowship from the Institute of Canadian Bankers, and obtained my Master’s Business Administration from Dalhousie University. By continuously studying and upgrading my skills, I gradually progressed from entry-level to where I finished as an executive of a major department. If you’re flexible and are open to opportunities, you can really go far.
I always wanted to be a banker. It’s a common misconception that banking is only about counting money. Banks are some of the most complicated enterprises in the world. It’s marketing, it’s strategy, it’s risk management, and it’s heavily regulated in Canada. That’s what I wanted, I wanted to be a bank manager and eventually, I was. In fact, at one point, I was the youngest bank manager in Canada. That was in Dalhousie NB, I was 23 years old and I got the job because I was flexible. That’s how you get a lot of opportunities, and you can gain a lot more experience in your career if you’re willing to move and are open to new challenges.
Did I ever work purely in accounting? Absolutely not, but I know my numbers.
What are your favourite memories of NBCC?
I made some terrific friends, and it was a positive environment. I remember it was fun. One of the many things I liked about NBCC was my mature classmates in their 30 and 40s, and their real life experiences. I learned a lot from them. At NBCC, you had a supportive learning environment and you felt challenged, and the quality of the instructors was best in class. They could take the content you were learning in a textbook and demonstrate how it’s applicable in a real-world working scenario.
What advice would you give to a student entering an NBCC program?
Take it seriously and work hard. Don’t just go there to learn the theory. Go there to understand the “Why” and the “How”. Make the link to what the numbers telling you? Why is a cash flow statement is so important? You can calculate and get an answer – but what does that answer tell you? It’s not just about making sure you balance a financial statement; you should understand it and from there be able to drive strategy and make critical decisions.
If you don’t know why you’re learning something – ask. There is nothing wrong with asking questions. That’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a strength. Always be curious and don’t just do an assignment to get it over with.
What advice would you have for young alumni graduating from NBCC and about to start their career?
Be flexible; when starting out and open to new challenges can open the door to many opportunities.
When I interview people, I always ask – “If I meet you on the street five years from now, what will your story be?” There is no right or wrong answer, but it will get you to think about your career goals and forces you to think of the future. I find that question grounds you and will help you create a roadmap to where you want to go. While you may deviate from the plan, it helps you establish your career goals.
Another good piece of advice, it takes time and experience. It’s good to be ambitious, career-driven and achieve milestones, but remember, it will take time and experience to land a big job. What allowed me to succeed in my banking career was the time I spent building a diversified background. Time, knowledge, and experience will open many doors.
What’s your favorite thing about life right now?
My wife and I love RVing, traveling and we do a lot of cycling.
I’m currently working on my next steps in my career roadmap that will include teaching. Most of my past work mandates have had some elements of teaching and training for which I developed a strong passion for.