G7 Finance & Development Ministers Meetings 2018: A View from the Inside

G7 Finance & Development Ministers Meetings 2018: A View from the Inside

In the lead-up to the now-(in)famous G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, many global finance leaders – including Canadian federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva – met quietly in Whistler to discuss “Growth That Works for Everyone,” and Leith Wheeler portfolio manager Catherine Heath was one of only a few dozen people invited to attend.

We sat down with Heath to talk about what she heard, what it was like to discuss global risk one-on-one with former Bank of Canada (BOC) and current Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, and finally, how her involvement with Women in Capital Markets likely attracted the attention of organizers.

It was a star-studded affair and, with Morneau seated to her left and BOC Deputy Governor Tim Lane to her right, Heath openly admits she was a bit overwhelmed at first. “I was pretty geeky,” she said. “I was star struck in the sense that it was a much more senior audience than I was expecting and such a small group.”



Leith Wheeler portfolio manager Catherine Heath attended the recent G7 meetings in Whistler.


Heath had received a somewhat cryptic email from Morneau’s office just the week prior, inviting her to the symposium and requesting she RSVP. Details of the event itself were limited to a brief description of the three topics (Economic Resilience and Stability, Economic Growth for Everyone, and Women’s Economic Empowerment), and a date and time. Other than Morneau, the guest list, which also included Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, Canadian Ambassador to France Isabelle Hudon, and Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, remained secret.

Her question to Carney during a break centred on the potential for a repeat of the global credit crisis of 2008 given increasing signs of overvaluation. “He acknowledged this to be occurring in pockets,” she said, “but in his view global economies weren’t facing the same risk of synchronized collapse due to better banking regulatory controls.”


U.S. Global Trade and Cybersecurity Hot Topics

Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin joined Carney and others on the panel for the first session and the key position of those in the room was clear: the collection of countries and global organizations would be uniformly against any kind of (U.S.-initiated) trade disruption, describing it as potentially very damaging to the world economy – with the most pronounced impact felt by the most vulnerable.


“It was ostensibly for the benefit of [U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin,“ Heath said, “but unfortunately, despite being in town to meet separately with Morneau, he didn’t attend the symposium.”

“Cybersecurity was also a topic that was of huge concern to Carney,” Heath continued, a sentiment echoed by Rotman School of Management Dean (and former BOC Senior Deputy Governor) Tiff Macklem in light of the recent hacks of BMO and CIBC client data. “Carney’s position was that ‘data is the currency of the future’ and that anything that compromises that confidence is damaging.” To that point, he suggested that cryptocurrencies should be subject to regulatory oversight.

Empowering Women

The third session focused on advancing women’s economic empowerment, a theme that ran through all three days of the Whistler portion of the G7 meetings.


Heath recalled a particularly astute analogy from World Bank head Georgieva, who cautioned the room on the vagaries of taking averages at face value. “She compared the quality of ‘average’ global economic growth to putting your head in the fridge and your feet in the oven,” Heath explained. “’You’d achieve a reasonable average human temperature,’ she said, ‘but you’d be dead.’ Her point was that hot economies will pull up global averages. And among the poorest nations, the most disproportionately disadvantaged are women.”

Heath speculates that her work with Women in Capital Markets (WCM), in particular helping grow its initiative “SheBiz” in Vancouver, may have put her on the radar of event organizers interested in furthering the dialogue on global female empowerment. SheBiz promotes careers in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) for young women and is expected to host 300 female high school students for a day on the SFU campus in November. “For someone in Grade 10, it can be hard to visualize what a career in math might look like,” Heath said. “Through this event, we hope to open their eyes to the opportunities available to them.” 

WCM is also hosting SheBiz events in Calgary and Toronto in the Fall. Check out their page here to learn more.

By Mike Wallberg, CFA, MJ | Vice President, Marketing & Communications