RBC's Tony Loffreda

In business and the law a rainmaker is someone who brings in important clients. Keeps the money flow coming, and in a big way. But there are two aspects to rainmaking. And it is not everyone who can pull it off with grace and effectiveness. RBC’s Tony Loffreda may be first among equals.

Leaders come in two categories. Insiders and outsiders. A few, a very few, manage to be both. We have all met rainmakers whose sole concern is money. Whether it be a businessman, banker, lawyer, they are people who focus all their energy on a constant round of power breakfasts, meetings and presentation. They may be charitable with their money, but frankly have little time left to give of their talent. These are the insiders.

There are other rainmakers who become the public face of an enterprise or firm. They lend their names, or that of their organizations, to many worthy causes – and that is good – but their direction is driven by what their company or firm demands. What the insiders demand. These are wonderful people, but sometimes the direction they want to take an organization is not followed because they are considered good souls, and competent, but the insiders’ clout carries the day.

RBC’s Tony Loffreda is one of those rare people who is both Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. And oh how he uses his talents for the good.

Tony is the recently appointed Vice-Chairman of RBC Wealth Management. This is Teddy Roosevelt’s quintessential man who “speaks softly but carries a big stick.” And he uses that stick as a staff for the vulnerable.

Most men in his position, would be happy to sit back and enjoy the fruits of a successful career. Not Tony. He has lent his name, and active participation, in literally hundreds of important causes. I cannot think of an organization that has not benefitted from his patronage. The name Tony Loffreda as co-president or chair of an event guarantees its success. He has helped raise millions for the relief of the sick, the vulnerable and the poor. The breadth and depth of his involvement is singularly unique and it crosses all communities. But he doesn’t just lend his name.

I have witnessed first hand his effectiveness at working the phones, or working a room. Dozens of times we have talked late at night about a particular cause or event. I constantly ask him if it’s not too late and his response is always the same. “I just finished. Never enough hours but it’s ok, this is important.” That’s Tony, “It’s ok, this is important.” He understands his responsibilities. The kid from Ahuntsic has never let his success go to his head.

Tony is the quintessential Montrealer. Fluently trilingual, he has never let the two solitudes, or the fake walls politicians set up, separate him from the city and community that he loves. His commitments are incredibly diverse both in objectives and geography. From the east end to the west island he is there. Whether heading a drive for Santa Cabrini, or the Jewish General or the kidney foundation or West Island Community Shares. He is there. He supports, and works, for some 40 events a year benefitting the entire gamut of charitable institutions.

But Tony is not a man who is there just for the limelight or the big galas. There is not an event that I have asked him to help with that he has refused. Even if it is at the last moment. While so many in his position consider that deference and accolades are owed them, Tony instinctively and viscerally believes that he owes. Another Tony expression that I can hear as I write this is, “Sure, of course I’ll help. No question.” That was his answer to me when my Institute for Public Affairs was helping attorney Brigitte Garceau and the Garceau Foundation with an event benefitting brain injured Canadian veterans from Afghanistan. His words that night were from the heart. And more than a few tears welled up.

It’s interesting how we met. When I was starting the Institute, I needed some help for a conference. I was introduced to an extraordinary man named Charles Sheridan Coffey. Charlie, as he likes to be called, was RBC’s Executive Vice-President for Public Affairs until retirement. He was renowned for his social activism. As a matter of fact, here was a banker who had as one of his best friends Buzz Hargrove, the president of the United Auto Workers of Canada. Charlie and Buzz were constantly involved in a variety of causes that aided the vulnerable. They even recently went on a speaking tour of high schools teaching financial literacy to teens. Charlie immediately agreed to help and said I would be getting a call from someone in a few days. Well that someone was Micheline Martin who was the director general of RBC in Quebec. She said to me that Charlie had told her to give me all the help I needed. After describing the conference she said, “I know just the man you need. He’s a friend of Charlie’s. He’ll call you soon.” Soon turned out to be just a few minutes. That man turned out to be Tony Loffreda. And the rest, as the great line from Casablanca goes, has been a beautiful friendship.

Charlie Coffey once told me that he’s “Just a farm boy from New Brunswick.” Tony never forgets that he’s “Just a kid from Ahuntsic.” It is not feigned modesty or false piety from either. It is a common cultural trait that has stood both in good stead. And it is that humanity and conscience that makes Tony Loffreda Montreal’s Rainmaker par excellence. A first among equals.

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