Busy McBee: how a Texas-born banker is making a name for himself in Edmonton
Daniel McBee is a rising star in Alberta’s real-estate lending market
by Conal Pierse
The trouble with being a rising star in Edmonton is that you hit the ceiling that much faster. That’s where Daniel McBee found himself in the summer of 2011, with six years at RBC under his belt and not much left to do in the city but leave or wait for someone to retire.
Photograph Jessica Fern Facette
Most of the top Canadian jobs in McBee’s field of real-estate finance are located in Vancouver and Toronto. In Alberta, Calgary has traditionally been home to the top players, partly because of the city’s historically-more-favourable attitude toward developers and partly because not many skilled young professionals are willing to stick it out in the cold northern capital. But leaving is something McBee isn’t even considering.
The 36-year-old Texan moved to Edmonton in the summer of 2005, following his wife, Carol, back to her hometown. The pair met while she was studying at McBee’s alma mater, the University of Texas in Arlington. After graduation, Carol wanted to move back north, so Daniel packed a bag.
The choice, he said, was simple, since he’s an only child and she has a large, close-knit family.
And once here, he says, he liked the small, homey feel of the city. “I grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which is huge and filled with traffic and freeways,” McBee says. “Here I’m always running into people I know, and if I don’t know someone, I can make one phone call and be in touch.”
He got his start locally with RBC in March of 2006, where he provided financial expertise to commercial and residential developers as well as general and trade contractors. In that time, McBee was part of a highly successful team that led an initiative to bring contractor clients under the umbrella of the real estate division. Before that, McBee says, many of RBC’s contractor clients were primarily being handled by other divisions, while developers were dealt with separately. Under the leadership of a local vice-president, McBee’s team consolidated the two groups and the division was re-branded as real estate and construction services – a change that would eventually go company-wide.
“Edmonton was the first one to truly brand our group,” McBee says. “We drew a line in the sand saying, ‘This is what we want to do.’”
McBee worked hard to carve out his niche in the construction business and was eventually asked to put his name forward for the Edmonton Construction Association’s board of directors –a position he was elected to in 2009 for a two-year term.
But despite his successes, McBee began to sense in 2011 that his forward momentum was grinding to a halt. Concerned about his future, he went to his step-father-in-law, Bernie Moore, who has served as a de-facto mentor, for some advice. “I said to him, ‘My daughter is coming along, and we’re thinking about a second, but I’m looking about three to five years down the road and I’m kind of capping out,’” McBee says.
“He said, ‘I’ve got somebody that I know that’s right in what you do. I’m going to email him. You guys should meet.’”
Moore put him in touch with CIBC’s vice-president of commercial banking for Alberta, and the pair met to discuss McBee’s future. In the ensuing weeks McBee met with other local executives from CIBC and was told they were thinking of creating an Edmonton position in their real estate division, but it had been difficult to find someone who was young and had a lot of skill that wanted to stay in the city.
McBee was encouraged to apply for the job, and he now serves as the bank’s director of the Alberta and Prairies Real-Estate Finance Division, managing a portfolio of $300 million that he hopes to grow to $1 billion. “Sometimes it’s about having the right skills, and other times it’s about being in the right place at the right time,” he says. “Sometimes you’re waiting for someone to retire because [the company] is not going to create additional roles.”
Outside of banking, McBee’s is equally driven. Named one of Avenue Edmonton’s Top 40 under 40 in 2009, he has worked hard to advance himself in the city’s business community. He was selected in January to chair the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce’s finance and taxation committee following two years as vice-chair.
“Daniel stood out in his eagerness and willingness to contribute and the fact that he followed through to his commitment to the chamber,” says Robin Bobocel, the chamber’s vice-president of public affairs. “He also allows us to have a conduit into that demographic [the young business person] so we can learn first-hand what their challenges and opportunities are and speak with a more credible voice.”
The Edmonton committee, which drafts tax and finance policies based on the federal, provincial and municipal budgets, also develops the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s national fiscal policy, Bobocel says. “Out of all chambers across Canada, they chose Edmonton because of our level of expertise,” he says. “That’s something we’re quite proud of.”
With so much on the go, McBee says it’s often difficult to balance work and family life. But as with all his success, he says it comes down to one thing: his wife, who was herself named to Avenue’s Top 40 under 40 in 2012 and who operates two successful businesses. “There’s no way I could balance it without her taking away all the hard stuff that goes into life, and family, and being a dad, and being a parent,” he says. “She makes it really easy, so I can focus on work during the week and focus on the career.”