BUSINESS

Meet Canada's Trillion-Dollar Banks

03/02/2015 12:57 EST | Updated 03/02/2015 12:59 EST
Toban B./Flickr
The architectural sublime --- In Toronto, Ontario Canada on a foggy winter day At the top of the building on the right there is an enormous banking company logo. The building on the left is the "Royal Bank Plaza"; the windows are a shiny gold colour --- (I've tilted the photo a little with a digital editing program -- so that the building on the left is less slanted.)

There’s a new top dog among Canada’s banks, but this dog is used to being number one.

Royal Bank of Canada has edged out TD Bank as the country’s largest bank by assets, and both financial institutions have passed a significant milestone, becoming the first Canadian banks with total assets exceeding $1 trillion.

TD Bank was the country’s largest bank for the past 15 months, Bloomberg reports, having unseated RBC, which had claimed that spot for “most of the last century.”

So does it matter that Canada has trillion-dollar financial institutions?

There are many benefits of having large banks, such as the ability to finance large projects that smaller institutions can't handle. And there is clearly prestige associated with having a trillion-dollar financial institution.

But in the wake of the financial collapse in the U.S. in 2008, many will wonder whether Canada's banks are becoming "too big to fail," making them a potential risk to taxpayers should a crisis ever occur.

The IMF last year said Canadian banking is more concentrated than U.S. banking, making Canada's "too big to fail" risk larger than the U.S.'s. But Canadian banks are generally seen as being among the most stable in the world.

Colleen Johnston, chief financial officer of the dethroned former top dog, TD Bank, said it’s not the size of the balance sheet that counts.

“We tend to focus more on our operations and what we’re doing for our shareholders in terms of returns and results,” she told Bloomberg.

Here are Canada’s largest banks, by assets, in the first quarter of fiscal 2015. Scotiabank only reports Q1 earnings on March 3 so numbers from the fourth quarter of 2014 are used.

  • National Bank
    Canadian Press
    Total assets: $214.5 billion
  • BMO
    Getty
    Total assets: $672.4 billion
  • Scotiabank
    Getty
    Total assets: $805.7 billion
  • TD Bank
    Getty
    Total assets: $1.08 trillion
  • CIBC
    Getty
  • RBC
    Getty
    Total assets: $1.086 trillion

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