Big Five (banks)

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Big Five is the name colloquially given to the five largest banks that dominate the banking industry of Canada. All five banks are operationally based in Toronto.[1][2] All five banks are 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.[3]

According to Bloomberg, in 2011 the big five dominate the world's ten strongest $100-billion-asset banks, with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto-Dominion Bank, National Bank of Canada and Royal Bank of Canada at 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place, respectively, while Bank of Nova Scotia sits at 18th place.[4]


The Big Five banks, listed in order of market capitalization on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of December 31, 2011, with their current corporate brand names and corporate profiles according to their latest annual report, all monetary amounts are in billions of Canadian dollars, are:

Official names Bank brand Operational head office Legal incorporation Assets Deposits Capitalization Branches
(Canada only)
(Full-time equivalent)
Royal Bank of Canada RBC Royal Bank Royal Bank Plaza, Toronto[5] Halifax[6] $860.8 $558.4 $73.0 1,372 74,247 [7]
Toronto-Dominion Bank TD Canada Trust Toronto-Dominion Centre, Toronto[8] Toronto[8] $862.5 $543.4 $88.37 2,600 85,000 [9][10]
Bank of Nova Scotia Scotiabank Scotia Plaza, Toronto[11] Halifax[11] $743.8 $514.9 $76.6 3,330 83,000 [12]
Bank of Montreal BMO Bank of Montreal First Canadian Place, Toronto[13] Montreal[13] $477.4 $302.9 $34.8 920 47,180 [14]
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce CIBC Commerce Court, Toronto[15] Toronto[15] $353.7 $255.4 $28.3 1,100 42,239 [16]

In modern history, Royal Bank has always been the largest by a significant margin.[17] Up to the late 1990s, CIBC was the second largest,[18] followed by Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, and TD Bank.[19] During the late 1990s and beyond, this ranking changed due to several reorganizations. Royal Bank acquired Royal Trust in 1993,[20] 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 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.[21] While there were no major changes to Bank of Montreal, CIBC's first unsuccessful foray into the US market led it to shed its assets there, dropping it to the number five spot.[22]

Other banks with substantial operations in Canada[edit]

All monetary amounts are in billions C$

Official names Operational head office Assets Deposits Capitalization Branches
(Canada only)
(Full-time equivalent)
National Bank of Canada Montreal $156.3 $87.1 $11.8 448 20,100 [23]
HSBC Bank Canada Vancouver $80.0 $46.6 145 6,000 [24]
Laurentian Bank of Canada Montreal $24.5 $20.1 $1.0 158 3,700 [25]
Churchill Investments Group Montreal $22.6 $19.3 $14.6 12 1,100 [26]
Canadian Western Bank Edmonton $14.8 $12.5 $2.0 40 1,796 [27]
ATB Financial Edmonton $12.8 $12.0 $1.9 57 5,905

Proposed mergers[edit]

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.[20] The banks argued that these mergers would enable them to compete globally with other financial institutions.[28]

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.[29][30] The issue since has not been revisited by succeeding Finance Ministers; it has been cited as a reason that the Canadian economy easily weathered the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis compared to other nations.[31]

Potential foreign forays[edit]

The strength of the Canadian dollar and the 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 and high U.S. bank stock prices were commonly cited as obstacles to purchasing assets south of the border.

Because of the recent recession, 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 allow domestic mergers before expanding into the US. The federal government ended up refusing 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.[32]

In October 2007, TD purchased Commerce Bancorp, a medium sized US bank with a strong branch network in 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.[33] However, the name was challenged by a "Commerce Bank" in New England. As a result, TD renamed its US banks TD Bank at end of 2009.[34] TD is the sixth-largest bank by branch network in North America, after JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC, and US Bank.

Banking regulation[edit]

Canada's federal government has sole jurisdiction for banks according to the Canadian Constitution, specifically Section 91(15) of The Constitution Act, 1867 (30 & 31 Victoria, c.3 (UK)), formerly known as the British North America Act, 1867.[35] Meanwhile, credit unions/caisses populaires, securities dealers and mutual funds are largely regulated by provincial governments.[36]

The main federal statute for the incorporation and regulation of banks, or chartered banks, is the Bank Act (S.C. 1991, c.46), where Schedules I, II and III of this Act list all banks permitted to operate in Canada under these three distinct categories.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hazel Duffy (2004). Competitive Cities: Succeeding in the Global Economy. Taylor & Francis. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-203-36231-0. "Canada's five largest banks and 80% of the foreign banks in Canada are headquartered in Toronto, as well as five Canadian pension plans and Canada's top insurers, which are responsible for 90% of the national industry's assets." 
  2. ^ Keith Dinnie (2011). City Branding: Theory and Cases. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-230-24185-5. "Toronto is home to 40 per cent of the nation's business headquarters... many of the corporate global players are headquartered there: three of the world's 25 largest banks and all of Canada's five largest." 
  3. ^ "Bank Act - Part VII: Ownership of Banks". 
  4. ^ "Canadians Dominate World’s 10 Strongest Banks". Bloomberg. May 3, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Royal Bank of Canada: Annual Report 2010" (PDF). RBC. 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ Sasha Yusufali. "Royal Bank of Canada". Royal Bank of Canada. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  7. ^ "RBC Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "TD Bank Financial Group - Corporate Information - Corporate Profile". Retrieved 22013-08-26. 
  9. ^ "TD Annual Report 2011: Management's Discussion and Analysis" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  10. ^ "TD Annual Report 2011: Consolidated Financial Statements" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Ian Bushnell (2013). The Federal Court of Canada: A History, 1875-1992. scotiabank. p. 278. ISBN 978-0-8020-4207-1. 
  12. ^ BNS Annual Report 2011[dead link]
  13. ^ a b Christopher Kennedy (August 9, 2011). Evolution of Great world Cities: Urban Wealth and Economic Growth. University of Toronto Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-1-4426-9477-4. 
  14. ^ "BMO Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Mike Filey (2002). A Toronto Album 2: More Glimpses of the City That Was. Dundurn. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-55488-059-1. 
  16. ^ "CIBC Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  17. ^ James Hayton; Michal Biron; Liza Castro Castro Christiansen; Bård Kuvaas (2012). Global Human Resource Management Casebook. CRC Press. p. 581. ISBN 978-1-136-66324-6. 
  18. ^ Steven D. Jones; Michael M. Beyerlein; Jack J. Phillips (1998). Developing High-Performance Work Teams. American Society for Training and Development. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-56286-079-0. Retrieved August 28, 2013. 
  19. ^ Thomas James Wesson (2007). Canada and the New World Economic Order: Strategic Briefings for Canadian Enterprise. Captus Press. pp. 307–. ISBN 978-1-55322-063-3. 
  20. ^ a b Wallace Clement; Leah F. Vosko (2003). Changing Canada: Political Economy as Transformation. McGill-Queen's Press. pp. 250–251. ISBN 978-0-7735-7099-3. 
  21. ^ Wallace Clement; Leah F. Vosko (2003). Changing Canada: Political Economy as Transformation. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-7735-7099-3. 
  22. ^ "CIBC re-enters U.S., after being badly burned before | Butler Mortgage News & Events". April 29, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  23. ^ "BNC Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  24. ^ HSBC Annual Report 2011[dead link]
  25. ^ LBC Annual Report 2011
  26. ^
  27. ^ "CWB Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  28. ^ Charles W. L. Hill; Richardson, Tim; Thomas McKaig (2006). Global Business Today. McGraw-Hill Ryerson. p. 424. ISBN 978-0-07-094709-2. 
  29. ^ Peter F. Trent (2012). Merger Delusion. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 539. ISBN 978-0-7735-3932-7. 
  30. ^ "Canadian Bank Mergers Decision 1998". July 13, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  31. ^ "BBC News - 'Stodgy' financial planning kept Canada in the black". February 6, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  32. ^ Purchase this article[dead link]
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Robert A. Battram (2010). Canada in Crisis (2): An Agenda for Survival of the Nation. Trafford Publishing. p. 400. ISBN 978-1-4269-3393-6. 
  36. ^ International Monetary Fund (2003). Canada: Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes--Data Module, Response by the Authorities, and Detailed Assessments Using Data Quality Assessment Framework. International Monetary Fund. p. 131. GGKEY:7K0G04ZL1HJ. 
  37. ^ "Bank of Canada Act". Retrieved August 27, 2013.