Book co-authored by Schulich Prof. James Darroch earns Donner Prize

Schulich School of Business Professor James L. Darroch, along with co-author Patricia Meredith, were awarded the $50,000 Donner Prize for their book Stumbling Giants: Transforming Canada’s Banks for the Information Age. The award is distributed annually to the best public policy book in Canada.

James L. Darroch

James L. Darroch

In the book, published by Rotman-UTP Publishing, an imprint of University of Toronto Press, the authors outline how Canada’s big six banks survived the 2008 financial crisis by hewing to traditional and tested banking practices, making them a safe harbour at that time. However, as the modern global information economy continues to develop, the banks must confront their innovation crisis or they will become increasingly irrelevant.

Darroch is an associate professor of policy; CIT Chair in financial services; area coordinator, policy/strategy; and director of the Financial Services program at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

“Joining the list of nominees, along with my co-author Pat Meredith, for the 2018 Donner Prize in Public Policy was a highlight of my career. Winning left me speechless,” said Darroch.

In Stumbling Giants, Darroch and Meredith present a new vision for the Canadian banking industry that is a call to action for all interested stakeholders to work together in moving the banking system into the 21st century.

In its deliberation, the jury noted: “In this timely and original book, Meredith and Darroch argue that Canadian banks are ignoring the dramatic and disruptive effects of info-tech changes that are threatening their very existence. The book is a policy manifesto, developing a compelling case for the need for fundamental change from the branch-focused business model of current Canadian banking, to a model that conforms to the habits of the mobile-app era. The authors offer a cohesive set of recommendations to put Canadian banks on track to deal with the challenges and opportunities offered by the fintech age. This book will be of interest to the general reader given this sector’s significance, but it is essential reading for every financial sector manager, board member and policy-maker in Canada.”

Darroch said the journey toward writing the book started in the Faculty of Administrative Studies (now the Schulich School of Business) at York University. He did his doctoral thesis on the globalization of the Canadian banks and had Al Litvak as Chair and Dezso Horvath and Dawson Brewer on the committee.

“They made me acutely aware of the importance of public policy and its interactions with strategy,” he said.

Later, discussions with Jim Gillies, Sandy Borins, Charley McMillan, Tom Wilson and Fred Gorbet enhanced his understanding of the importance of public policy.

“When Pat, another Schulich PhD, asked me to join her in her project, primarily because of my policy expertise, I was flattered. Together we made a strong team,” he said, adding this recognition could not have happened without the grounding he experienced while pursing his PhD.

“The journey has been a long one and involved working with a tremendous number of financial services executives, policy-makers and educators,” he said. “To have this capped off with the recognition of my work by the Donner Committee is unbelievable. I know it will increase the impact of my work on the tension in financial sector policy between stability and innovation.”

The winner of the Donner Prize was chosen from 78 submissions by a five-member jury: David A. Dodge (jury Chair), Eva Busza, Jean-Marie Dufour, Jennifer Jeffs and Peter Nicholson. The jury Chair commented on this year’s short list, saying, “These books are shining exemplars of the Donner Prize – relevant and important topics of Canadian public policy, based on sound and original research and analysis, and accessible to a general audience. They cover the waterfront of issues specific to Canada and faced by most parts of the Western world.”

The Donner Prize, established in 1998, annually rewards excellence and innovation in Canadian public policy thinking, writing and research. In bestowing this award, the Donner Canadian Foundation seeks to broaden policy debates, increase general awareness of the importance of policy decision making, and make an original and meaningful contribution to policy discourse.

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