Scrub-Boy to General Manager at 44

As a preparation for the general managership of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, Sydney Bogan used to rise at daybreak and hurry to his job at the little bank of Springhill, Nova Scotia, where he put in a couple of hours as scrub-boy. And an excellent start, too, he thinks, for the career which has landed him in one of the highest positions in the Canadian financial world.

FRANK J. AYEARST August 1 1926

Scrub-Boy to General Manager at 44

As a preparation for the general managership of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, Sydney Bogan used to rise at daybreak and hurry to his job at the little bank of Springhill, Nova Scotia, where he put in a couple of hours as scrub-boy. And an excellent start, too, he thinks, for the career which has landed him in one of the highest positions in the Canadian financial world.

FRANK J. AYEARST August 1 1926

Scrub-Boy to General Manager at 44

As a preparation for the general managership of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, Sydney Bogan used to rise at daybreak and hurry to his job at the little bank of Springhill, Nova Scotia, where he put in a couple of hours as scrub-boy. And an excellent start, too, he thinks, for the career which has landed him in one of the highest positions in the Canadian financial world.

FRANK J. AYEARST

WHEN you think of the modern young bank clerk, does your mind conjure up the picture of a young man who rises at daybreak, hurries to the bank, sweeps the floors, washes the windows, cleans the brass and generally gets the office in shape for the day’s business? And then spends the rest of the day running messages—all for a remuneration of $8.33 per month?

N ot much, it doesn’t! Y et this was Sydney Henry Logan’s programme when he made his start in the banking business and to-day he is the general manager of one of Canada’s foremost banking institutions; this at the age of forty-four and with the most effective years of his life before him.

When Sydney Logan was called from New York in January last to assume the trials and tribulations of the general managership of a bank, his appointment came as a complete surprise to those who were not familiar with the affairs of the Canadian Bank of Commerce. The comparative few who knew the story of his life felt that his elevation to the bank’s chief executive position was the most natural thing that could have happened.

“There was no wire pulling, no influence brought to bear; just plain, wholesome thinking, hard work and application achieved the result.” In these modest words, Mr. Logan accounts for the honors that have come to him; but his story includes far more than they indicate, for it is the story of a man whose career seems to have been inevitably planned from its commencement.

On the Right Ladder

/^\N LEAVING high school, at the age of sixteen, Sydney Logan was given a start with the old Halifax Banking Company at their branch in the Nova Scotia coal mining town of Springhill. From the beginning he realized his foot was on the right ladder, and he was prepared to climb, and to pay the price. As he expressed it himself: “A young man has got to make up his mind, whether he wants success in life or a good time— he can’t have both. A fellow can’t be good at parlor-tricks and expect to be a big leaguer in business or finance, too.”

As already indicated, his first official duties included messenger running and general janitor service: but this initial experience in Mr. Logan’s early banking adventures, seemed to be just the means required for getting him away to a good start.

He was moved to New Glasgow at the time the great development in the steel business was going on. Both there and at Sydney, the subjects he heard discussed were, naturally, concerned with the steel industry and, in consequence, his mind accustomed itself to consideration of big affairs. It was at New Glasgow that he acquired the nickname of “Logie,” which has continued through his entire career, following him even into Wall Street and Toronto.

When the Canadian Bank of Commerce took over the business of the Halifax Banking Company in 1903, it was evident that Sydney Logan would never become a banker of the pawnbroker type, and that he was extremely anxious to have a practical banking experience in many lines of industry. This was most impressively shown in his answer to a question asked him by the inspector of the Commerce on his first visit.

“I hear, young man, that you can mine coal and roll steel rails with the best of them—so what would you like to master next?” he was asked.

Mr. Logan’s prompt and emphatic reply was: “I’d like to learn something about the lumber business.” As a result he was transferred to Wiarton, which at that time was a great centre for saw-milling operations. There he acquired a knowledge of the lumber business, which, along with his experience in the coal mining and steelmilling districts of the East, gave him a broad foundation as a commercial banker.

He had been singled out already by the higher officials of the Bank, as a young man of unusual promise, and in 1905, when Cobalt came to the front, he was sent there as manager. He was then just twenty-four years of age, and at that time became the youngest manager in the whole institution.

In 1906 the great Cobalt boom set in and no less than $75,000,000 poured into Cobalt in that one year. And from it, Canada received much favorable publicity in all parts of the world. In Gotham in those days, if a New Yorker was asked where Toronto was, he was apt to reply: “Oh! Let me see: yes, I know, that’s the place where you change cars for the Cobalt.” And to this town seething with the excitement of a great mining boom, came a bank manager not much more than a boy, whose head was set so squarely on his shoulders, that not for a single instant did he lose command of any situation, however difficult.

When I asked Mr. Logan about those days, his eyes twinkled. “I lived on excitement. I am ready, always, to gamble with the next fellow, but, as some of the Northern Ontario boys put it, ‘Logan likes to see around the corner before he gets in too deep.’ ”

His friends tell the story that, during his Cobalt days, he always wore a red tie. When their finances were low they would try and induce him to change the color of it to see if he would not loosen up a little and give them a loan against what in their opinion, was high-class mining property or mining stocks, but: “Logie was always for the bank first:”

During his Cobalt days he made the acquaintance of a wide circle of friends, both in Canada and the United States, and was one of the best known men in Northern Ontario. He developed a very remarkable memory, and to-day probably can recall more names and faces than any other banker in Canada. He also formed the opinion that a young man in order to reap the full benefit of his day’s work, should spend many evenings learning just what his work means, and its relation to the general scheme of affairs. In Cobalt this meant that a man “ to be a successful banker, had to become thoroughly conversant with conditions in the United States, Mexico, China and India, the latter countries being the great silver importers. All this study and an alert, wide-open mind, helped to transform a small-town bank manager into a banker with a broad, international point of view. Is it any wonder that he has been able to rise above routine training or that he has refused to allow himself to settle into a rut? If, as some one has said, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth,” is there much to surprise one in the fact that Sydney H. Logan is one of the most dynamic and thoroughly alive men in Canadian finance, to-day?

A few years later when Cobalt had settled down into a steady thriving mining community, Mr. Logan made a special trip through the Northwest for the Bank, studying conditions in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon. This gave him the opportunity to understand banking and commercial conditions throughout the Dominion pretty thoroughly.

Until 1913 his entire experience had been in Canada, and in that year he was sent to Newfoundland, there to receive an introduction to export business. As in the Cobalt country, to be a successful banker and not just the bank’s agent for accepting deposits, it was necessary to study conditions in the great fish importing countries of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cuba and the West Indies, to whom Newfoundland exports great quantities of fish. Naturally, these far afield operations continued to develop still wider vision and, when the bank in 1917 looked around for a man to consolidate and take charge of its foreign operations, Mr. Logan was the logical choice for the task.

Waving Canada’s Flag Abroad

THE foreign trade of a country rides on two great carriers—banking and insurance; and increased foreign trade for Canada meant increased foreign business for the bank. Sir John Aird, with the characteristic vision that made him the president of the Bank, realized that after the war Canada must have foreign trade, so he asked Mr. Logan, as soon as his foreign department was organized and running smoothly, to plan a visit to those cities of the world in which Canada was interested or where a market could be developed for Canadian goods. In company with the late Sir Edmund Walker, then president of the bank, he visited China, Japan and South America. He also made a very thorough study of the possibilities in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Hawaiian Islands, the United Kingdom and Europe. As a result of these visits, and of co-operation with the Department of Trade and Commerce at Ottawa and their trade commissioners, millions of dollars in export trade came to this country.

This gave him an exceptionally broad background for his associations with international bankers, when he was sent to New York, in 1923, as the bank’s senior representative. It is the consensus of opinion among bankers in Canada, that the first agent’s position in New York requires a man of “general manager calibre”—Mr. Logan is the fourth man in his bank that can be offered as proof of the correctness of this assertion.

The business of Wall Street is the biggest business in the world to-day, and the men who have charge of any of its large affairs, are of necessity big, broad, seasoned men -“all-round” men representing the highest type of big business man. Any that fail to come up to these specifications are sure, sooner or later, to fail and bring disap pointment to the men responsible for having misplaced their judgment and confidence in them. Small wonder then, that a man of Mr. Logan’s qualities, of his world-wide experience, should naturally gravitate to the position for which he had trained himself.

When I asked him to what he attributed his success, he unhesitatingly replied: “By being always on the job.” I then asked him to tell me some of the things he had learned during his journey, some pointers or suggestions for the guidance of other climbers. The words with which he complied, might well be used as a text by all ambitious young men:

“The simple virtues of willingness, alertness, observation and application will carry a chap farther than mere smartness. If he takes these qualities, treats whatever job he may have as the best job in the world, he need not be unduly concerned over the future, for that will take care of itself. A young man should not imagine his work is so unimportant that nobody takes note of how he does it. It does not take long to find out whether a boy is on his toes, watching how he can improve a situation, or whether he is merely waiting to be told what to do.

“Then, too, a man who hopes for financial success should read, study and think, along the lines of his business. He must realize what it is all about, what service it contributes to making the world a better place to live in. Of course, if he is to climb very far, he must cultivate the habit of looking ahead, for vision is necessary. He must also have the courage to back up his plans, the courage that makes it possible for him to take a chance, when the chance shows up ahead.”