Developing an efficient energy transition for the Canadian economy is one of the biggest issues facing the country, said Scotiabank President and CEO Brian Porter.

But this transition towards low-carbon forms of energy must be done in a thoughtful manner to avoid disastrous consequences for all Canadians, he said during a recent panel discussion hosted by the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University.

“There's going to be opportunities for business in this too, but we’ve got do this in a thoughtful way that doesn't penalize Canadian households or Canadian business,” said Porter. “And it's going to take all the intellectual resources in this country to get it right.”

His comments came during a virtual fireside chat with this year’s winners of the Desautels Management Achievement Awards (DMAA).

Porter, who assumed the role of Scotiabank’s CEO in 2013 but has been with the Bank since 1981, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the event. He was recognized for the Bank’s ongoing growth and strength and the launch of key initiatives under his guidance, such as ScotiaRISE, which aims to foster economic resilience. Porter was also recognized for his community leadership, including serving as Chair of the University Health Network Board of Trustees and board member of The BlackNorth Initiative.

In his acceptance speech, Porter said he felt very privileged to be at the helm of the Bank for the past nine years. He also said he felt “extremely fortunate” to be part of this successful Canadian enterprise, and to be from Canada. In his experience, whether meeting with presidents or policy makers around the world, the Canadian perspective is respected because it is viewed as “being well grounded and well thought out,” he said.

“Canada is viewed as a beacon around the world, in terms of law, order, good government, stability, all those things,” Porter said. “It doesn’t feel that way all the time if you watch the news at 6 o’clock at night. But having traveled the world, being a Canadian in business is a distinct advantage. There's no question about that in my mind.”

Another key lesson Porter has taken to heart is the importance of the Bank being a “key part of the economic fabric and social fabric of every country where we operate.”

“We try to think long term as a public company. It’s not always easy. But our long-term success is fundamentally intertwined with our customer, whether they’re households in Canada or Mexico or Chile.”

Banks are drivers of prosperity, and Scotiabank looks to facilitate success in businesses large and small in order to help the economic fabric grow, Porter added.

“That's the way we've conducted ourselves since 1832. Different ways, perhaps, obviously times have changed,” he said. “But we're very proud of what we've done, whether it's on the ESG front or whether it's ScotiaRISE, in terms of the impact that we're having at a grassroots level in each of the countries where we operate.”