Sir Herbert Holt
Holt Financial takes its name from Sir Herbert Holt, the only businessman in Canadian history to ever match the influence of a Rockefeller, a Carnegie, or a Ford.
The Holt legacy began with Sir Herbert Holt, who emigrated from Ireland to Canada in 1873. In Montreal, he focused his energy on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He also became a pioneer developer in Quebec’s emerging energy industry. Along with a partner, he founded the Montreal Light, Heat & Power Company, now known as Hydro-Quebec.
In 1928, at the height of his power, he was said to control companies with assets worth more than $3 billion ($42 billion today) or 10 times greater than the currency then in circulation in Canada. As the president of 27 companies and a director of over 300 companies, he was involved in banking, mining, railroads, streetcars, forestry, flour mills, shipyards, movie theaters, life insurance companies, and utilities.
“Sir Herbert is the business brain of Canada,” wrote the Daily Express of London in 1926. “He holds a position in the commercial and industrial life of the Dominion, for which it is impossible to find any parallel. He is certainly a more important figure in the Canadian world than the prime minister is in that of Great Britain.”
His influence and power was so great that in the late 1920s, one Montrealer groused that “we get up in the morning and switch on one of Holt’s lights, cook breakfast on Holt’s gas, smoke one of Holt’s cigarettes, read the morning news printed on Holt’s paper, ride to work on one of Holt’s streetcars, sit in an office heated by Holt’s coal, then at night go to a film in one of Holt’s theaters.”
He served as the Royal Bank of Canada’s President from 1908 to 1934, and remained a board member until his passing in 1941. In the forty years before his death, three hundred companies on four continents swelled under his influence.
His prosperity has been preserved for generations to come and today, we stand as proof of his success.