The governor of the Bank of Canada doesn’t take himself too seriously. When Mark Carney learns he’s the winner of Reader’s Digest’s inaugural Editor’s Choice Award as the Most Trusted Canadian, he chuckles. “It’s hard to say that without laughing, isn’t it?” he asks. But as the man who oversees the economic and financial welfare of Canadians, Carney’s responsibilities are no laughing matter. Neither are his accomplishments.
A Harvard- and Oxford-trained economist, Carney spent much of his career as an executive in the private sector outside Canada. In February 2008, after only five years in Ottawa, he was catapulted into his current seven-year posting in the top spot at the nation’s central bank. Only 42 at the time of his appointment, he became the youngest and least experienced central-bank governor among the G8 nations—and he faced what was arguably the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Many wondered whether the Bank of Canada made a mistake in opting for youth over experience. But Carney—with his movie-star grin and a self-assurance that some say borders on arrogance—successfully kept Canada from getting sucked into the banking failures that ravaged other economies, and he emerged from the recession as a leading figure on the international stage. In 2009 the Financial Times named him one of “50 who will frame a way forward”—and he was the only Canadian on the list that year.
Aside from averting crises, Carney’s principal task as bank governor is keeping inflation under control by making eight interest-rate decisions annually. He leads the bank through a disciplined process of analysis—modelling the global and domestic economies, meeting with businesses in all major industries in Canada and, over a period of weeks, discerning the appropriate path for monetary policy. He also aims to ensure Canada is borrowing money at the best rates possible.
Now in the fourth year of his term, Carney faces additional challenges as Canadians struggle with record levels of household debt. Come summer, when interest rates are expected to rise, many of these households will have trouble paying down their debts, leaving some to wonder whether Carney will be able to keep up his good work. Others, however, believe he could eventually make another unprecedented leap—to 24 Sussex Drive.
Today, Carney makes light of his “Most Trusted” title, but friends insist he’s been waiting his entire adult life to get here. One Harvard roommate, Peter Chiarelli, now the general manager of the Boston Bruins, explains: “Carney is Canadian, through and through. He left Wall Street and Bay Street, where he was making oodles of money, because even back in university, he wanted to make his mark in public service.”