Canada Banks Won’t Press for Mergers in Review, Lobby Group Says

Canadian banks won’t press the federal government to allow the lenders to merge or sell insurance in branches during a review of industry rules next year, the head of the Canadian Bankers Association said.

The next five-year bank review will probably focus on “technical issues” related to capital, Chief Executive Officer Nancy Hughes Anthony said.

“Those issues that talk about changing structural powers for banks, there doesn’t seem to be any appetite for that,” Hughes Anthony said yesterday in an interview at the association’s Toronto headquarters. “Having gone through the incredible upheaval in the financial crisis of the last couple of years, these questions are really just not on right now.”

Canadian banks, ranked the world’s soundest for three straight years by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum, have been prevented since 1998 from buying each other after the federal government blocked two proposed mergers. They’ve also been banned since 1923 from selling insurance in their bank branches.

Those issues -- as well as requests by banks to offer auto leasing to clients and advertise insurance services online -- aren’t likely to be pursued in the next review, Hughes Anthony said. The government is likely to focus on issues tied to regulation and capital management.

“We need a period where we can actually assess the competitive position of the Canadian financial institutions, the needs of consumers and how they’re being met,” said Hughes Anthony, 61. “Maybe just take a bit of a pause.”

Banks Adapt

Hughes Anthony, who is retiring Feb. 28, has been with the bank group since 2007 following a stint as CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The bank lobby group represents 51 domestic banks.

The issue Hughes Anthony would most like to see resolved is a single securities regulator for Canada, the only msg industrialized country in the world without one.

“I’d like to see that happen in my lifetime,” Hughes Anthony said. “It’s an international embarrassment, and that’s certainly unfinished business.”

Hughes Anthony will be replaced on March 1 by Terry Campbell, who has been with the organization since 1997, most recently as a vice president of policy.