Geoffrey Scotton. Calgary Herald. Calgary, Alta.: Jun 22, 2008.
Canada's Cowtown is becoming the world's Moneytown, driven by the frantic pace of deals in the oilpatch, a growing number and diversity of financial services, and the rise of Calgary as a centre for asset and wealth management.
"Calgary is on the cusp of becoming a global financial centre," says Katie Emond, research manager at Calgary Economic Development.
Emond and her colleagues have just completed their semi-annual State of the Economy report, which profiles this city's economy -- and focuses on the growing presence and stellar promise of Calgary's financial services sector.
"Calgary has already become Western Canada's financial centre," says Emond, "and now Calgary definitely can compete with Toronto; it can compete with New York; it can compete with London."
CED's research shows Calgary's financial services sector is growing much faster than the Alberta economy and at twice the pace of Canadian growth. Growth is happening so fast it's starting to make Canada's financial services capital, Toronto, nervous.
Calgary is "attracting available resources and potentially diminishing Toronto's eminence as the financial centre of the nation," the Toronto Financial Services Alliance said in a recent report.
Energy is a big driver. Some experts believe that as much as half of Alberta's oil and gas-related economic output is attributable to financial services, suggest Calgary has become the world's fourth-largest centre for trading in oil, and argue eight per cent of Calgary's financial assets change hands annually -- five to 10 times higher than average.
Len Waverman, an international energy and finance expert who -- via the London School of Economics and the University of Toronto -- has just become dean of the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business, says Calgary has grown up and bulked up on financial services significantly, particularly in the last half decade.
"The level of deal-making in Calgary is just extraordinary, and it's allowed firms here to build world-scale capabilities," said Waverman. "They are becoming not just Calgary-based, but world scale," he adds.
"It makes for a breathtaking future for Calgary. Financial services are going from strength to strength."
The signs are equally clear that Calgary's presence and reputation is on the rise within international financial services circles, with new international banks and investment firms opening up shop here regularly. Recent corporate arrivals in Calgary include Societe General, from France; UBS, from Switzerland, Goldman Sachs from the United States; Maquarrie Bank, from Australia, Lehman Brothers from the U.S.; Standard Chartered Bank, from Asia and the United Kingdom, and Thomas Weisel Partners LLC, from California.
"If you are in the financial services sector, you have to be in Calgary now -- you have to be," said George Gosbee, the Calgary financial wunderkind who founded and has grown Tristone Capital Inc. into a global-scale, energy-centric investment banking, brokerage and advisory firm.
Gosbee is also vice-chair of the Alberta Investment Management Corp., the newly independent agency that will oversee more than $70 billion in public-sector pensions and investment funds and is further spurring development of financial services in Wild Rose Country. It is the fifth-largest investment fund in Canada and speaks to a growing concentration of wealth that is critical for Calgary to continue its financial services evolution.
Calgary's mushrooming financial services sector is attracting high-priced talent. Among the newcomers is equity analyst Vijay Viswanathan, a MBA and CFA designate, who last year joined Calgary's Mawer Investment Management Ltd., from Toronto.
"I didn't realize, just how big it really is here," Viswanathan said of Calgary's financial services sector, which includes investment banking, brokerage, credit intermediation, portfolio management, insurance, hedging, banking, financing, accounting and myriad related services. "There are opportunities, there are incredible firms that are out here."
A major source of growth in Calgary's financial services has been the billions of dollars that are pouring into the Alberta oilsands from around the globe. Close to $20 billion will be invested in the oilsands this year, more than all of manufacturing in all of Canada this year -- and all of it is going to flow through Calgary.