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Royal Bank of Canada CEO Gordon Nixon.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

The heads of Canada's biggest banks are being coy about their retirement plans.

Though Bank of Nova Scotia appears to be the bank most poised for a CEO change, having recently named long-time executive Brian Porter, 51, as president, chief executive officer Rick Waugh told investors Tuesday that his departure is "not imminent." That said, Mr. Waugh, 65, acknowledged he is "on the downward slope" of his tenure. He has been at the helm of Canada's third-biggest bank since 2003.

Speaking at the RBC Capital Markets annual bank CEO conference, other CEOs were also leaving their retirement plans open. Royal Bank of Canada CEO Gordon Nixon, who has served atop Canada's largest bank for more than 11 years, also said his retirement "won't be imminent."

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Mr. Nixon, who turns 56 this month, is the longest-serving head of a Big Six Canadian bank.

Ed Clark, CEO of Canada's second-largest bank, was the least definitive. When asked whether he would be at next year's conference, 12 months from now, the 66-year-old head of Toronto-Dominion Bank joked that he was leaving it up to organizers. "Invite me for next year, and I'll show up," Mr. Clark quipped.

Bank succession plans are closely watched on Bay Street, given the economic influence and hefty compensation the jobs carry. A generational shift is expected to take place in the sector over the next few years. The average tenure of the heads of Canada's six largest banks is more than eight years, which is longer than the global average of 6.6 years for all CEOs, according to a 2010 Booz & Co. survey of 2,500 of the world's largest companies.

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