Andrew Cribb was a teenager in his native England when he first felt the thrill of being in full control of a situation in which a slight mishap could be disastrous.
He was in the Royal Air Force (RAF), dreaming of becoming a fighter pilot. He was learning to fly small planes and had completed countless takeoffs and landings as part of a military exercise called “touch and go.”
He would take off, fly around and then touch the runway without fully slowing down before taking off again. Each time, his instructor would watch carefully to try to detect errors.
Finally, the instructor told him to stop completely on his next touch of the runway.
“‘I’m getting out,’” Cribb recalls the instructor saying. “‘You’re good enough to do it yourself.’”
The instructor radioed air traffic controllers to alert them that a novice pilot would be making a first solo flight. Garage doors at an emergency services building started to creak open and a fire truck and ambulance soon drove onto the tarmac to be ready if needed.
“It was pretty off-putting, to be honest,” Cribb recalled with a chuckle.
Newly at the helm of the Toronto-Dominion Bank (TSX:TD) in B.C. and the Yukon as senior vice-president and head of branch banking in the Pacific region, Cribb reflected back to that memory from his RAF days when describing what gives him confidence in unfamiliar situations.
Since officially starting in his role on January 2, he has visited staff at dozens of TD bank branches. His goal is to visit all 163 B.C. branches by the end of April, and to meet as many of his 2,500 employees as he can.
In a whirlwind of trips, he has shuttled across the province with stops in northern B.C. towns such as Dawson Creek and Chetwynd, Vancouver Island communities such as Parksville and Nanaimo and Okanagan centres such as Kelowna and Vernon – all the while tweeting his experiences from his informal @AndyCribb_TD account.
Cribb started renting a home on the North Shore in February, but the entire month of January he was living out of a suitcase.
With occasional interruptions from the sound of screeching sirens in downtown Vancouver, Cribb chatted with Business in Vancouver at a table in his third-floor corner office in the TD Bank building at the corner of West Georgia and Granville streets.
He relayed with excitement his first short spell as a teller in a bank branch the day before – a guest stint aimed at giving him insights into day-to-day operations.
It was in Fort St. John and he was not fast enough to use the automated technology, so a teller was helping him.
Unlike in an episode of Undercover Boss, the staff knew who he was, although the customers did not.
“He’s no good,” Cribb joked, assuming the voice of a fictional customer criticizing his performance. “He can’t use the system. He’s too slow.”
It is experiences such as that temporary teller gig, however, that he credits for giving him valuable insight into how services are being delivered and allowing him to flag any potential glitches for the customer.
Cribb said his role as leader calls on him to set the overall vision for the company, with a clear sense of priorities.
His nine district vice-presidents then get aligned and determine how to get to the destination.
“My job is to make sure that I’m clearing roadblocks for them and getting us aligned on where we’re going,” Cribb said.
Goals that Cribb has in mind include taking real estate lending market share from competitors, hiring more financial planners and being the bank of choice for new immigrants and professionals.
“More than anything, my goal is to make sure we’re providing our customers with confident advice by investing in employees and making sure our employees have the tools that they need,” he said.
Aside from running the bank’s consumer branch banking division, Cribb chairs a committee that includes the heads of TD’s commercial banking unit and the unit that handles wealth management largely for high-net-worth individuals. The idea is that the committee will work together to give customers seamless accesss across those three divisions.
Overall, the TD bank has about 4,500 employees in B.C., and Cribb’s division – the branches, personal banking and mortgages – is the largest.
Managing 2,500 people may be daunting for some, but for Cribb, it is a smaller team than he was overseeing last year.
Between November 2017 and December 2018, Cribb was in charge of a team of 4,500 people who work in the bank’s Canadian call centres division.
He had worked his way up to there after stints as vice-president for personal and indirect lending and, before that, associate vice-president of personal lending.
He took that first job at TD because he saw the bank as having a wider range of potential jobs to grow into than was likely at his previous company, Capital One, where he was head of product management and marketing strategy and served as credit officer until July 2013.
Capital One was the first employer he chose after he sidelined his dream of being a fighter pilot. His thinking at the time, just before the end of the millennium, was that he didn’t quite have what it takes to be a front-line fighter pilot. He also wasn’t completely happy with the idea of the typical pilot schedule, in which flying represented only about 10% of the workweek.
He had graduated with a physics degree from Nottingham University and he wanted to put his analytical skills to work with what he saw as a rapidly evolving banking sector where analysis of data would be key.
A wanderer at heart, he and his girlfriend – now his wife – Kate were keen to see what living in Canada would be like.
Though it was February and -30 C in Toronto, Cribb said he and Kate immediately took a shine to their new country, where they are raising two daughters, aged eight and 10.
“What I appreciated about Andy was his very clear thinking, and his being able to describe things quickly and very concisely – to cut to the chase right away,” said Mandy Thomson, who is president of and chairwoman at Camp Quality Canada, a non-profit organization that organizes summer camp for children who have cancer.
Thomson told BIV that she recruited Cribb to Camp Quality Canada’s board several years ago and credits him with providing strategic advice for how to evolve that board into one that is more policy driven.
A member of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Cribb anticipates that he will become active with the United Way of the Lower Mainland, which is a partner with the bank.
Outside work, Cribb loves to ski and to cycle, although he describes himself as a fair-weather cyclist. •