“Playing the Game” to Banking Eminence
A man who earned his own living, unaided, since he was fourteen, must have qualities. Such a man is told of here, with instances that suggest the springs of character.
J. HERBERT HODGINS
"BUCK” TAYLOR is by no means as far removed from Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor, LL.D., as you might suppose.
“Buck” Taylor, virile in all his games, keen at his tennis, strong in his football, sure in his cricket.
Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor, eminent Canadian banker, distinguished for the quietly effective role he has played in helping to shape the destinies of the nation—Canada.
They are one—“Buck” Taylor is synonymous with Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor, LL.D.
At sixty years of age, Sir Frederick WilliamsTaylor still plays the game of life, as the youth, “Buck” Taylor, played all games clean, manly, determined. His the task to uphold the best of life’s traditions. His the achievement to have made even greater those things which were near-great when given into his keeping.
“An extraordinary man; few can realize the amount of good he is doing the Dominion of Canada while ably discharging the duties of his high office at the same time,” the tribute of the Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux, epitomizes the general manager of that outstanding institution, the Bank of Montreal.
What of his achievements? Less than twenty-five years ago, Lord Strathcona and Sir Edward Clouston, then executive heads of the Bank of Montreal, reported to the shareholders that the bank’s total assets “would soon reach one hundred million dollars. It was given to Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor, reporting for his own regime one year ago, to chronicle the fact that the Bank of Montreal’s assets had over-reached seven hundred million dollars. Sir Frederick would be the first to remind you that this vast accumulation of resources was not directly attributable to any personal creative genius, but, at least, one may accept this tremendous business as in no inconsiderable measure resulting from the astuteness of his stewardship.
If Sir Frederick must share the glory of the bank’s general progress with the directors and with many executive individuals, at least he may be credited—as an individual accomplishment during eight years in London—with securing one billion dollars of British funds for investment in Canada. Many brilliant financiers, from time to time, have succeeded in bringing huge sums of money to the Dominion. But, without exception, the capital sought was for the furtherance of their personal plans. Sir William Mackenzie’s money-getting trips to London, for instance, became the subject of cartoons in the daily newspapers, because of their frequency. Time after time he crossed the Atlantic, returning with his satchel, so to speak, full of cash. But the capital thus acquired went into the Canadian Northern Railway or associated enterprises. So it was with other financiers and promoters.
But Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor occupied a unique, a distinct, position. The capital he sought was not for his own use. It was to further none of his personal ambitions, nor immediate undertakings of the Bank of Montreal. It was destined in one form or another for the general upbuilding of the growing Dominion, in which, as a native son; he took a personal pride. For Sir Frederick is intensely loyal, deeply patriotic; to the extent that, contemplating his only son’s possible death in action, he said, “There is, indeed, one thing worse than even an untimely death, and that is a long, inglorious, unpatriotic life.”
The Flood of British Gold
TT WAS Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor (then Mr.
Williams-Taylor) who set loose the flood of British capital upon Canada. Almost from the moment in 1905 that he became manager of the London, England, branch of the Bank of Montreal, he initiated a campaign to quicken interest in the overseas Dominion. Sir Frederick took a keen interest in all that pertained to Canada. He went to London completely versed in Canada; he has never ceased to study the economics of his country.
When, toward the close of 1912, critical London began to analyze the Dominion’s financial standing, and many an unkind thing was said of Canada’s economic position, Sir Frederick uttered an energetic defence that carefully and closely reviewed our financial structure. He proved conclusively that Canada’s fundamentals were
sound. He based his defence upon the assertion, “surely it is sound economics and irrefutable logic that no .borrower can be charged with over-borrowing provided that he is in a position to pay his interest regularly and be undoubted for the principal sum at maturity.”
In the course of the well-reasoned address which ultimately commanded the utmost respect throughout Great Britain, Sir Frederick made use of one dominant
thought. It was in substance: “The development of the Dominion with funds from this country and from other countries, will continue, beyond peradventure, and, if I may say so, under proper advices there is no better field for investment the world over.” Even as he spoke Sir Frederick could not have seen into the future. But at least it is an interesting coincidence that after predicting tke flow of funds from other countries at some time in the future, Sir Frederick, himself, should have induced the first of the great financing movements from New York to Canada when, because of the war empasse, London was no longer able to finance the Dominion’s vastly extending purse needs.
Many soubriquets have been given this, resourceful banker. At the time of London’s financial criticism, Sir Frederick coupled with his defence of Canada a preachment on the doctrine of economy for Canadians. He so persistently forecast disaster if reckless expenditures were persisted in, that, in some quarters, he came to be called “The Gloomy Knight.”
Sir Frederick was greatly distressed. “Nothing in my whole life has wounded me more deeply than the inaccurate, baseless statement circulated in certain quarters of my native land that I am a pessimist,” he told a confidant. “I deplore beyond my power to express in words the mistakes we have made in Canada, but surely it is not pessimism for the crosscountry runner to pull up when he sights a pitfall and shout out a word of warning to those behind.”
Eight Business Commandments
SIR FREDERICK’S banking career has been charted by eight principal rocks, shoals, currents and lighthouses.
“Someone has said,” he will tell you, “that ‘he who would a pilot be must first himself the channel try.’ As a pilot of sorts, who has tried the depths, noted the shoals, found rocks—■ sometimes by running on them—may I be permitted to present a simple chart, a chart such as I would use had I that inestimable boon, a second chance in life, equipped with the experiences of the first voyage.
“First—INTEMPERANCE is the greatest handicap with which a young man can burden himself. Some may have clear ideas on the subject, some may be irresolute, some may even inherit a tendency in that direction, but there is not one who will not be tempted. Therefore permit me to pass on my worthy father’s words to me on leaving home ‘If you touch stimulants before you are twenty-five years Of age, remember my words, you are a fool.’
“Second—CONCENTRATION is invaluable in any career. ‘Genius is but a prolonged attention.’ If you want easy proof of its value try it in a game of tennis or golf, or any game, but above all in the game of life.
“Third—OCCASIONAL INTROSPECTION is highly advantageous. We all have defects—many of them can be overcome—but we must find them out and then apply the remedy.
“Fourth—THE CARE OF THE BODY automatically improves the mind. The great majority of Canadians take ample exercise until they are about thirty years of age, then cease. In England the average man takes lifelong care of his horse, his dog, and above all of himself. Diet and exercise are essential for all three, not only in youth, but so long as life lasts. In playing games one gets mental relaxation—physical rejuvenation.
“Fifth—MONEY MAKING is a natural tendency in these days, but never forget that the men who make the acquisition of riches their sole object in life are poor creatures at best, find honesty a difficulty and rarely secure the disinterested affection of their fellow men.
“Sixth—PUNCTUALITY is the easiest and the rarest of virtues.
“Seventh—WORK is the open sesame to every portal.
“Eighth—THE OBSERVANCE OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS forms the best basis on which a country or an individual can rise to real greatness.”
Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor has a profound respect for and belief in the best traditions of the
Continued on page 49
Continued from page 13
British Empire, the Dominion of Canada and the Bank of Montreal,
À PROPOS of public respect for the /iBank of Montreal! There is the story of the Irishman and the Jew, passing through Place d’Armes, Montreal. The Irishman, in duty bound, as he passed Notre Dame church, reverently took off his hat. Much to his surprise the Jew also touched his. “Why,” said the Irishman, “I had no idea you were so polite to my religion, to the Roman Catholic church!” “Oh,” said the Jew, “I wasn’t taking off my hat to Notre Dame church, I was taking off my hat to the Bank of Montreal!”
Probably the most remarkable anomaly of Sir Frederick’s career is the fact that by reaching “the top” he has shattered tradition, that is a Bank of Montreal “tradition.” There is ah unwritten law which provides that he who would hope to rise to the heights in the bank’s, service must first be the son of a rich man—a youth with a “pull.”
Sir Frederick absolutely lacked “pull.” “There is not one of you who is not starting out in life better equipped for the greatest Marathon of all than a certain youth, to fortune and to fame unknown, who toed the scratch at the bend of the Petitcodiac river in the year of grace, 1878.” This is the picturesque way in which Sir Frederick revealed his humble beginnings to the student body of the University of New Brunswick, that day in May, 1915, when the University conferred upon him the honorary degree of doctor of laws.
“I have earned my own living— unaided, mark you—since I was Jess than fourteen and a half years of age. In consequence I have a heartfelt sympathy for every boy, and still more for every young woman, who, from a spirit of independence or from stern necessity, have embarked upon a business career.” The present general manager of the Bank of Montreal began banking life at Moncton, New Brunswick, very humbly —as “junior.” Thousands of individuals who likewise started as “junior” in any one of the four thousand odd branch banks scattered . across Canada know full well just how humbly a “junior” begins his banking!
I have heard bank clerks and bank officials innumerable roundly deplore their chance of ever reaching the position of general manager of their employing institution. But . . .
“Life,” as Sir Frederick opines, “lies not in the events that fall to a man but in that man’s handling of them.” And thus he reveals an underlying philosophy of his own career. Thus he makes clear the opportunity which exists for every humble junior to mould his own future.
UP TO the moment Sir Frederick has written three distinct chapters into his book of life. The first chapter deals with those preliminary years when the young “Buck” Taylor played all games well and laid the foundations of health which now constitute the remarkable reserve of strength upon which the maturing man may amply draw. Training conscientiously at all times, physically and mentally, he. equipped himself for national, and, indeed, international affairs and responsibilities.
The second chapter has to do with those eight years abroad when the diplomatic Canadian banker with his ambitious wife came to occupy positions of more than banking importance, positions of empire significance. Untiring and unselfish work for their native land ultimately brought royal recognition.
The third chapter is yet in the writing. It will treat of the return to Canada, of the assumption of the general managership of Canada’s premier bank, of the carrying on in those trying years of war, and, now, amidst the perplexities of Canada’s economic re-adjustment.
What manner of man is this bankerknight? The Westminster (England) Gazette once described him as a “plain, matter-of-fact Canadian.”
“My wife insists that they were referring to my personal appearances. Perhaps she is right, but I prefer to
think the latter part of the comment is complimentary,” is his good-humored comment.
Sir Frederick might not be singled out as handsome of face' or of striking figure, but he has a personality which radiates a sunny disposition, a gracious nature and a poise which commands respect. Spare of build, he suggests à fine piece of steel.
“Mild-eyed” he has been termed, but his mildness is the manner of the diplomat as contrasted with that of the politician. A man of simple dignity and superb poise, wholly devoid of “side,” he is by nature reticent and reserved and the years he spent in England are credited with having added to his capacity for keeping his emotions well under control.
I have called him reticent because by nature he is essentially reticent. On the other hand I know of no better friend of the newspaper men, among those Canadians who occupy seats of the mighty. Sir Frederick is invariably accessible. No one more than he appreciates the need for accuracy, and, although averse upon most occasions to being directly quoted, Sir Frederick is one of the best friends in Canada of the journalistic fraternity in search of information or opinion. .
He has carried into business his youthful love of fair play, perseverance and concentration. “Rise above mediocrity and stick to a thing until you conquer it,” this he emphasizes is essential to any game—particularly to the game of life.
Sixteen years after his modest start, “Fred Taylor” had reached a head office position, as an assistant inspector of the bank. He had been “climbing the ladder” at such way stations as St. John, N.B.; Halifax, N.S.; Picton, Peterborough, and Deseronto, Ont.
Illness a Stepping Stone
ONE of those incidents which stress the fact that minor occurrences invariably have a measurable bearing upon one’s later life occurred while “Fred Taylor” was at Peterborough, Ont. He was the accountant ôf that branch of the bank, when the manager fell ill. Taylor stepped into the position, temporarily, but apparently so demonstrated his capacity for a managerial post that he was quickly promoted.
He first became manager at Deseronto, Ont., which was then a thriving lumber town with the Rathburn enterprises in their heyday. He was twenty-eight years old, and had the distinction of being the bank’s youngest manager. In 1903, after six years’ experience as inspector, during which period he gained a broad knowledge of Canadian banking, by travelling from end to end of the Dominion, he was sent to Chicago as the bank’s agent.
Two years later he was despatched to London, England, where in a season of eight years, the brilliant capacities of a great banker became manifest. He was called up and he made good.
Until his London appointment, the young branch banker’s chances were no more and no less than the chances which come daily to every Canadian branch banker; except that the young Taylor was a constant student of human nature and of good books. Supplementing a brief schooling—private teachers only until fourteen years and a half old—he continually improved his mind with the, best of literature, and constantly studied ’ banking and economic subjects.
Early in life he acquired a wife, which, likewise, is no more and no less than does the average Canadian branch banker. But Sir Frederick will assure you that his wife is his chief aide in all his business battles, and, those who for many years have watched from the sidelines the progress of the Williams-Taylors agree with Sir Frederick.
Lady Williams-Taylor is the politician of the family; Sir Frederick the diplomat. A combination rare in these days.
People who “do things” have long had friends in the Williams-Taylors. They were foremost in London, as they are in Montreal, in their encouragement of art in its varied branches. Lady WilliamsTaylor is noted for her salons. In the last ten years she has probably entertained every artist of note who has visited Montreal.
Apropos of which is the story told of the supper party given in Sir Harry Lauder’s honor. Lady Williams-Taylor suggested hopefully that Lauder might “sing just one song.”
“I will gladly do so,” he is quoted in reply to his hostess, “but it will cost $1,200.”
Then Sir Harry proceeded to explain that his contract was so binding that the singing of “just one song” would constitute a “performance” in itself and would require to be paid for according to contract terms.
It is not recorded that Lauder sang for the Williams-Taylor’s guests.
Reliance Upon Training
IT IS significant of the spirit in which -Sir Frederick has at all times carried out his professional duties, that, when first he went to London, he had not one word of instruction—written or otherwise —from his great chief, the late Sir Edward Clouston. His training had taught him. “I had merely to be true to the best traditions of the institution and I could not then be false to my beloved Canada nor false to the people of England.”
In London Sir Frederick distinguished himself not only in business and socially but as one of the chief exponents of Canada in the principal money market of the world. As the essence of his policy, as the representative of Canadian banking interests in London, he held that the maintenance of Canada’s credit was vital and he worked indefatiguably to that end.
Perhaps the most notable single service he rendered Canada was »the paper on “Canadian Loans in London,” which he read before the Royal Colonial Institute in 1912. This paper, which was a comprehensive and authoritative analysis of Canada’s financial position, was described by the London Financier as “An invaluable contribution to Great Britain’s knowledge of its investments in Canada, attracting more attention and carrying more weight throughout . the Empire than any pronouncement on that subject in our times.”
Another paper of his, “Canada and Canadian Banking,” was delivered before a distinguished gathering under the auspices of the Colonial Section of the Royal Society of Arts. For this address Sir Frederick was awarded the silver medal of the society.
Had he not chosen banking, Sir Frederick might have become distinguished in journalism. He can write scintillating “copy.” He is an inimitable letter writer. No less an authority than a former finance minister once made the statement that Sir Frederick can write a better letter than any other man in Canada. Like most newspaper men, he can deliver the written word infinitely more telling than the spoken word. Sir Frederick can “talk” when he has given his subject ample preparation but if suddenly caught in an argument, or unexpectedly called upon to “say a few words” he sadly misses the glib tongue of the politician.
But Sir Frederick has a clever alibi. “I have never known a 100 per cent, banker who made long-winded speeches,” he once told a dinner gathering, “You all know the old aphorism, ‘Speeches are like cart wheels, the longer the spokes, the longer the tires.’ ”
The Royal Recognition
LjHNAL _ recognition of the part Sir A Frederick played in the creation and maintenance of Canada’s credit abroad and in^ the general furtherance of AngloCanadian relations came with his knighthood. This honor was most favorably commented upon by the London press. Indeed the London Capitalist remarked that it constituted the chief item of interest in that particular New Year’s honors list.
. Then the Bank of Montreal needed him in Canada. His return as general manager occasioned no uplifting of eyebrows, for his notable progress abroad had made him a logical choice. Mr. Meredith (now Sir Vincent Meredith, Bart.) who in 1911 had succeeded the late Sir Edward Clouston as general manager, in 1913, succeeded the late R. B. Angus, that outstanding Canadian and C.P.R. builder, as president and the way was paved for Sir Frederick.
He came back to Canada to grapple with the banking problems incidental to the 1913 business depression and had but entered into his full duties when the Great War plunged our whole financial structure topsy-turvey.
The strain of four and a half years of war undeniably took its toll from the man. It called for the best that was in him as a banker and he gave of that best and to the utmost. He spared neither his brains nor his physical self. He it was who negotiated the forty-five million dollar loan for the Canadian government in the New York money market in July, 1915—the first of the Canadian war loans to be floated in the United States. He it was who, throughout the war, acted for the Finance Minister “upon innumerable occasions,” as' Sir Thomas White once told parliament.
But, because his role is that of diplomat rather than of politician, a vast amount of his war-time record will never be known. His task was like that of stage director, vitally important to a dramatic production but played “off' stage,” and therefore unknown to the average spectator. Suffice, perhaps, to accept the tribute of the San Francisco Chronicle, “Sir Frederick Williams-Taylor during the war became one of the financial genii of the British Empire.”
Love of Country
SIR Frederick’s only son, Travers, then twenty years old and “raw” from Royal Military College, Kingston, Ont., went overseas with the first contingent of Canadians, became an aide-de-camp to General Alderson who commanded the first Canadian division, and, later, during the Mesopotamia campaign was wounded and captured by the Turks. Sir Frederick himself participating in a recruiting meeting in Montreal early in the war period made the dramatic declaration: “I for one, wish before God that I could stand with my son, in the forefront of battle, so that when I face eternity I could at least do so with the knowledge that I had been faithful to the best traditions of the British race, faithful to my progenitors, heedful of posterity.” And what is more, he meant it!
Sir Frederick would do anything for Canada’s ultimate good, because the underlying principle of his life is, as he has tersely summed it up: “Of all the instincts of the human heart there is none more intense than love of country.” In the early months of the Great War, Sir Frederick was a member of Montreal’s Home Guard and drilled regularly. To one who applied for leave to go on active service, Sir Frederick said: “I am proud to know that you have sufficient red blood to want to go.”
The story is recalled of Sir Frederick’s appearance one day, early in the war period, at the ranges where the men of the Bank of Montreal’s Home Guard unit practised. He strolled nonchalantly into the group, and immediately scepticism developed. But, like those in Goldsmith’s poem who went to church to scoff and remained to pray, the mild surprise of the junior bankers was quickly changed to enthusiastic admiration. Sir Frederick pulled down the first “possible” made on the range.
Furthermore, he may derive something of a fighting spirit from his Irish ancestors. He is proud of the Irish blood that is in him. “The world will tell you that there are two kinds of Irish,” he says, going on to elaborate. “There are the Irish from the north, described by the inimitable Rosebery, as the toughest, the most dominant, the most resistless people the Lord ever made. Then there are the Southern Irish, the Celtish,_ ‘whose hospitality is as free as the wind upon their mountains, as lavish as the rain upon their valleys,’ whose love of fighting and whose gallantry in the field have been storied in record sublime to the uttermost parts of the earth.
“I have in my hand a prize that was presented by the Grand Duke Michael,” displaying a gold cigarette box which he won in a golf tournament at Cannes, France some few years ago. “It is composed of two kinds of gold, cunningly dovetailed—red gold and yellow gold. These two degrees in the precious metal do not detract from the intrinsic value; on the contrary, the combination gives the article enhanced value and gave scope to the ingenuity of the artificer. So it is with the Irish.”
Not a Religionist
/GENERAL BRAMWELL BOOTH’S VJ anticipated visit to Canada this summer brings to mind one of the most remarkable roles which the Bank of
Montreal’s general manager was ever called upon to assume. When the distinguished Salvationist last visited Montreal, Sir Frederick presided at the vast meeting in St. James Methodist church, and confessed to the gathering that he “was not a religionist.”
Sir Frederick, however, touched upon the personal appeal which the Salvation Army makes because of “its simplicity, its straightforward honesty of purpose; without frills or affectation the gospel of soap and salvation is preached and practised as it was by St. Paul 1920 years ago.”
Sir Frederick deplores rivalry among religious bodies, and to illustrate his argument recounts the following incident: “I remember in Nova Scotia many years ago at a Methodist revival meeting, a hard-bitten Presbyterian minister, piqued at the categorical recitation of Methodist progress in the province ended his prayer, somewhat as follows: ‘We thank Thee, 0 Lord, for all Thy manifold blessings. We thank Thee for the great progress made by the Methodists in the Province of Nova Scotia, but we thank Thee still more, O Lord, for the progress made by' the Presbyterians in Nova Scotia. We thank Thee, 0 Lord, for John Wesley, but we thank Thee still more, 0 Lord, for John Knox. Amen’. ”
Sir Frederick has developed the artistic side of his nature, and has surrounded himself, in his home and in his office, with many worth-w-hile pictures. He has assembled a collection of rare prints, and engravings, said to be the second largest of its kind in this country, which some day no doubt, will become a notable contribution to Canadiana.
Reverence for Traditions
SIR FREDERICK’S sense of the fitness of things, and his reverence for traditions received a rude jolt one day, when the member of an ultra-enterprising American contracting firm came to his office and advanced a proposition for the cleaning of the classic, pillared facade of the Bank of Montreal, in Place d’' Armes, Montreal. With one great “swabbing” the energetic American proposed to clean the pillars, to wash them of their accumulated dirt of years—that they might stand forth to the world whitened and as nearly rejuvenated as it would be possible to make them, with soap and water, and possibly a little “pumice stone.”
Where was the American’s sense of appreciation of the historic, or veneration for those things in life which assume greatness with their ageing? All swept away in one fell swoop! Such an individual would “remodel” the Bank of Eng-
land, modernize Windsor Castle, perhaps, or instal “modern conveniences” into the Tower of London.
Sir Frederick was aghast.
“Buck” Taylor, in his day, earned sporting distinction in rowing, tennis, squash rackets, skating, cricket, football. In fact he was an all-round athlete. In 1886 he stroked the Wanderers’ fouroared crew at Halifax to victory andin the same year he played with Montreal’s champion football team.
To-day, Sir Frederick plays indoor tennis and golf. But most frequently, his cronies will tell you he is looking around for an alibi when he reaches the 19th hole. However, he has the satisfaction of past accomplishment. Some few years ago, at Cannes, France, he won the trophy put up bythe Grand Duke Michael of Russia, and followed this up by winning next day, the prize presented by the Princess Henry of Pless. Sir Frederick, with another Anglo-Canadian banker, F. W. Ashe, had the honor of driving the first balls at the opening of Swinley Forest Club, England’s exclusive club started by Lord Derby to take care of the overflow from Sunningdale, and whose sporting course was cut from the heart of one of the historic forests of England.
Dr. John C. Webster of the University of New Brunswick cites Sir Frederick as an example of what consistent exercise will do to quicken a man’s intellect and working abilities. “Devoted from early years to games<and athletic exercises, advancing years and engrossment in great financial undertakings have nothin the slightest degree diminished his interest in physical culture,” he recently said of Sir Frederick, adding, “and there is no doubt that his intellectual powers, his keenness and freshness of vision have been preserved by his constant indulgence in games and physical diversions.”
Ten years have been rounded out and the record of Sir Frederick WilliamsTaylor, in this decade, is indelibly written into the chronicles of the Bank of Montreal. The bank’s progress has been his progress; the bank’s eminence, internationally and nationally, his eminence. But, to-day, as ten years ago at the Canadian Club in London he is actuated by “a verykeen conception of the great responsibilities the position involves coupled with a grim desire to do my best.”
Whatever of banking success he may have achieved, carrying with it title and position; whatever of this world’s goods he may have accumulated, the trophy he most seeks from the game of life is the regard of his fellow men. He lately told a friend, “When my time on earth is ended, I should like some kind hand to write, ‘He was a good Canadian’. ”