Big Five (banks)

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Not to be confused with Big Four (banking).

Big Five is the name colloquially given to the five largest banks that dominate the banking industry of Canada: the Bank of Montreal (BMO), the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD).

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 a ranking produced by Bloomberg, in 2011, the Big Five are among the world's 20 strongest $100-billion-asset banks, with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Nova Scotia at 3rd, 4th, 6th and 18th place, respectively, while non-big five National Bank of Canada sits at 5th place.[4]


The Big Five banks, listed in order of market capitalization on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of December 1st, 2016, 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 name Bank brand(s) Operational head office Legal incorporation Assets (C$ bn) Revenue (C$ bn) Capitalization (C$ bn) Branches
(Canada only)
(Full-time equivalent)
Royal Bank of Canada RBC Royal Bank Royal Bank Plaza, Toronto[5] Halifax[6] $1074.28 $38.2 $130.1 1,355[7] 74,246 [8]
Toronto-Dominion Bank TD Canada Trust Toronto-Dominion Centre, Toronto[9] Toronto[9] $1104.37 $34.35 $118.1 1,165[10] 85,000 [11][12]
Bank of Nova Scotia Scotiabank (full-service)
Tangerine (direct)
Scotia Plaza, Toronto[13] Halifax[13] $856.49 $26.4 $89.6 1,040 89,000 [14]
Bank of Montreal BMO Bank of Montreal First Canadian Place, Toronto[15] Montreal[15] $641.88 $20.9 $57.2 939[16] 47,180 [17]
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce CIBC (full-service)
President's Choice Financial[n 1] (direct)
Commerce Court, Toronto[18] Toronto[18] $463.60 $14.8 $42.1 1,100 42,239 [19]

In modern history, Royal Bank (RBC) has always been the largest by a significant margin,[20] although TD Bank has caught up to RBC in recent years. Up to the late 1990s, CIBC was the second largest,[21] followed by Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, and TD Bank.[22] During the late 1990s and beyond, this ranking changed due to several reorganizations. Royal Bank acquired Royal Trust in 1993,[23][24] 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 into the number two spot.[25] 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.[26]

In the province of Quebec, these financial institutions are overtaken by Caisses Populaires Desjardins.[citation needed] Since the 1990s, Desjardins was able to have an account in the Bank of Canada. However, Desjardins is not a bank, but a credit union.

Other large Canadian banks[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 Complexe Maisonneuve, Montreal $156.3 $87.1 $11.8 448 20,100 [27]
HSBC Bank Canada HSBC Canada Building, Vancouver $80.0 $46.6 145 6,000 [28]
Laurentian Bank of Canada 1981 McGill College, Montreal $24.5 $20.1 $1.0 158 3,700 [29]
Churchill Investments Group 1250 René-Lévesque, Montreal $22.6 $19.3 $14.6 12 1,100 [30]
Canadian Western Bank Canadian Western Bank Place, Edmonton $14.8 $12.5 $2.0 40 1,796 [31]
ATB Financial ATB Place, 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.[23] The banks argued that these mergers would enable them to compete globally with other financial institutions.[32] This would have left Canada with only three major national banks. The mergers were reviewed by the Competition Bureau of Canada, which 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.[33][34] 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, and the aforementioned recognition of numerous Canadian banks on the Bloomberg 2011 list of twenty strongest large banks in the world.[4][35]

Potential foreign forays[edit]

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. However the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis reversed this trend. In the aftermath of the crisis, the Canadian dollar steadily climbed against the U.S. dollar, achieving parity in early 2008 and trading as high as 30 cents above the USD in late 2008. 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.

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.[36]

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.[37]

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.[38] However, Commerce Bank based in Worcester, Massachusetts challenged the new name. As a result, TD renamed its US banks TD Bank at end of 2009.[39] TD is the sixth-largest bank by branch network in North America, after JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC, and US Bank. It is also the largest foreign bank in the United States holding almost $200 billion (USD) in deposits.

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.[40] Meanwhile, credit unions/caisses populaires, securities dealers and mutual funds are largely regulated by provincial governments.[41]

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.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joint venture with supermarket operator Loblaw Companies. Figures here only include PC Financial products issued by CIBC; some PC Financial products (such as credit cards) are provided directly by subsidiaries of Loblaw.


  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". Archived from the original on October 4, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Alexander, Doug; Pasternak, Sean B. (May 3, 2012). "Canadians Dominate World's 10 Strongest Banks". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  5. ^ "Royal Bank of Canada: Annual Report 2010" (PDF). RBC. 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ Yusufali, Sasha. "Royal Bank of Canada" (PDF). Royal Bank of Canada. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  7. ^ (PDF)  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "RBC Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "2013 Annual Report: Note 1" (PDF). TD Bank Group. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  10. ^ (PDF)  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "TD Annual Report 2011: Management's Discussion and Analysis" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  12. ^ "TD Annual Report 2011: Consolidated Financial Statements" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Ian Bushnell (2013). The Federal Court of Canada: A History, 1875-1992 (PDF). Scotiabank. p. 278. ISBN 978-0-8020-4207-1. 
  14. ^ "2011 Scotiabank Annual Report" (PDF). November 2, 2011. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ (PDF)  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "BMO Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ "CIBC Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  20. ^ Hayton, James; Biron, Michal; Christiansen, Liza Castro Castro; Kuvaas, Bård (2012). Global Human Resource Management Casebook. CRC Press. p. 581. ISBN 978-1-136-66324-6. 
  21. ^ Jones, Steven D.; Beyerlein, Michael M.; Phillips, Jack J. (1998). Developing High-Performance Work Teams. American Society for Training and Development. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-56286-079-0. Retrieved August 28, 2013. 
  22. ^ Wesson, Thomas James (2007). Canada and the New World Economic Order: Strategic Briefings for Canadian Enterprise. Captus Press. p. 307. ISBN 978-1-55322-063-3. 
  23. ^ a b Clement, Wallace; Vosko, Leah F. (2003). Changing Canada: Political Economy as Transformation. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 978-0-7735-7099-3. 
  24. ^ Clement & Vosko 2007, pp. 250-251.
  25. ^ Clement & Vosko 2007, p. 250.
  26. ^ Robertson, Grant (April 25, 2013). "CIBC re-enters U.S., after being badly burned before". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  27. ^ "BNC Annual Report 2011" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  28. ^ "HSBC Annual Report and Accounts 2011" (PDF). HSBC Canada. December 31, 2011. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  29. ^ "2011 Annual Report" (PDF). Laurentian Bank. October 31, 2011. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  30. ^ "The Richest Banks in Canada". TheRichest. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-29. 
  31. ^ "Canadian Western Bank Group 2011 Annual Report" (PDF). Canadian Western Bank Group. October 31, 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 22, 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  32. ^ Hill, Charles W. L.; Richardson, Tim; McKaig, Thomas (2006). Global Business Today. McGraw-Hill Ryerson. p. 424. ISBN 978-0-07-094709-2. 
  33. ^ Trent, Peter F. (2012). Merger Delusion. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 539. ISBN 978-0-7735-3932-7. 
  34. ^ "Canadian Bank Mergers Decision 1998". July 13, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2013. 
  35. ^ "'Stodgy' financial planning kept Canada in the black". BBC News. February 6, 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ Purchase this article Archived February 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  38. ^ "TD Bank Financial completes Commerce Bank buy". Philadelphia Business Journal. March 31, 2008. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  39. ^ "Commerce Bank name to vanish, replaced by TD Bank". Reuters. October 31, 2008. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  40. ^ Battram, Robert A. (2010). Canada in Crisis (2): An Agenda for Survival of the Nation. Trafford Publishing. p. 400. ISBN 978-1-4269-3393-6. 
  41. ^ 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. October 2003. p. 131. GGKEY:7K0G04ZL1HJ. 
  42. ^ "Bank of Canada Act". Retrieved August 27, 2013.