Big Five (banks)

Big Five (banks)

Big Five is the name given to the five biggest banks that dominate the banking industry in Canada. All five banks are operationally headquartered in Toronto, Ontario.

The Big Five Banks are all classified as Schedule I banks that are domestic banks operating in Canada under government charter. The banks' shares are widely held, with any entity allowed to hold a maximum of twenty percent, and there are also restrictions on foreign ownership. [cite web|url=|title=Bank Act - Part VII: Ownership of Banks]


The Big Five banks, listed in order of market capitalization on the TSX (largest to smallest, as of July 2008) with their current corporate brand names and total deposit liabilities (as of 2007 Annual Reports), are:

In modern history, Royal Bank has always been the largest by a significant margin. Up to the late 1990s, CIBC was the second largest, followed by Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, and TD Bank. During the late 1990s and beyond, this ranking changed due to several re-organizations. Royal Bank acquired Royal Trust, then the second-largest trust in Canada, in 1993, while Scotiabank purchased National Trust in 1997. As Scotiabank found no merger partners among the other banks in the big five group, it instead expanded its international operations (outside of the US) and passed the Bank of Montreal in size. TD Bank merged with Canada Trust, which was for a long time the largest trust in Canada, thus vaulting TD temporarily into the number two spot. While there were no major changes to Bank of Montreal, CIBC's unsuccessful foray into the US market led it to shed its assets there, dropping it to the number five spot.

The term Big Six Banks is frequently used as well. The "Big Six" also includes the National Bank of Canada, though it is significantly smaller than the other major banks and is focused in the province of Quebec. The Big Six chartered banks participate in the Large Value Transfer System (LVTS) together with eight other banks (including the Bank of Canada).

Proposed mergers

In 1998, the Bank of Montreal proposed a merger with Royal Bank around the same time that CIBC proposed to combine with the Toronto-Dominion Bank. The banks argued that these mergers would enable them to compete globally with other financial institutions.

This would have left Canada with only three major national banks. Thus, the mergers were reviewed by the Competition Bureau of Canada. The Competition Bureau declared that negative effects (such as higher user fees and local branch closures) from the mergers would far outweigh the benefits of allowing the mergers. Ultimately, it was then Finance Minister Paul Martin who rejected both proposed mergers. [ [ Canadian Bank Mergers Decision 1998 ] ] The issue since has not been revisited by succeeding Finance Ministers.

Potential foreign forays

The strength of the Canadian dollar and relative weakness of U.S. bank prices have led commentators to suggest that the big five banks could consider an expansion into the United States. The weakness of the Canadian dollar, as well as high U.S. bank stock prices, were commonly cited as obstacles to purchasing assets south of the border.

Due to the recent 2007 Subprime mortgage financial crisis, the Toronto-Dominion Bank's market capitalization now exceeds that of Merrill Lynch. Royal Bank of Canada has now eclipsed Morgan Stanley in terms of market valuation. According to figures compiled by a recent Bloomberg report, investors today are willing to pay about $2.60 for every dollar of book value at a Canadian bank, compared with $1.70 in the United States. That ratio is about the reverse of where it stood in late 1999.

The last time the U.S. financial markets were weak, many Canadian bank CEOs were criticized for not making a more concerted buying effort. Some believed that these CEOs preferred to wait for Ottawa to bless domestic mergers before expanding into the US. Ending up, the federal government refused to allow the mergers, and is unlikely to do so now. Analysts also pointed out that Canadian banks have much stronger balance sheets today than they did 10 or 15 years ago, putting them in an even better position to be aggressive. [ [ Purchase this article ] ]

In October 2007, TD purchased Commerce Bancorp, a medium sized US bank with a strong branch networkin the middle Atlantic and Florida.As of March 2008, their stated plan was to merge Commerce with their existing TD Banknorth subsidiary, calling the new bank TD Commerce Bank. [ [] ]

See also

* Banking in Canada
* Credit Union
* List of banks in Canada


External links

* [ Bank of Montreal]
* [ Bank of Nova Scotia]
* [ CIBC]
* [ National Bank of Canada]
* [ Royal Bank of Canada/RBC]
* [ TD Canada Trust]

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