Bank of Montreal’s acquisition of Minneapolis investment bank Greene Holcomb Fisher this month is the latest example of Canadian banks increasing their presences abroad. 

Stephen Clark, co-chair of Canadian law firm Fasken Martineau, says this recent increase is a result of the environment Canadian banks found themselves in following the crisis of 2008.

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“Canadian banks survived the recession very well. They came out of it very nicely. The Canadian market is a mature market and they’ve done well so they needed to find other places in order to make investments,” he said.

Since then, most Canadian banks’ acquisitions and expansionary activities have taken place in the US.          

South of the border

Toronto Dominion bank has been making inroads into the north-eastern US’s retail banking sector, while Bank of Montreal has been expanding similarly in the Midwest, making Chicago a hub for its operations. Additionally, the Royal Bank of Canada last year acquired City National in Los Angeles for $5bn. It has also had a large presence in New York in the corporate investment sector.          

Mr Clark says the Canadian banks are “taking some of the areas where they have strengths and making the decision that where appropriate, they are buying in the US”.       

There has also been activity in the UK, although Canadian banks are unlikely to be entering the rest of Europe. The Bank of Nova Scotia is unusual in that most of its international activity occurrs in Latin America.         

Mr Clark believes the number of international acquisitions will only increase. “I think it will continue unabated,” he said. “The policy of Canada, with appropriate caution, is that it is quite happy to see Canadian financial institutions continue to export their services and expand abroad.”