04/09/2013 10:14 EDT | Updated 06/09/2013 05:12 EDT

Scotiabank CEO says his bank doesn't plan to outsource jobs in foreign workers

HALIFAX - Scotiabank is not planning to outsource jobs at the bank to temporary foreign workers, but will expand the use of international call centres, chief executive Rick Waugh told the bank's annual meeting Tuesday.

Ottawa is investigating whether the Royal Bank outsourced dozens of Toronto jobs to a company that brought in temporary foreign workers for training in Canada.

The controversy prompted a shareholder to ask the chief executive if Scotiabank was doing something similar.

Waugh said it wasn't part of the bank's plan.

"I'm not aware of these details that have come up over the last day or two but it's certainly not... in our strategy to do temporary outsourcing of jobs," he responded.

He also said the bank intends to create more jobs in Canada, "while still expanding and maintaining some efficiences ... contact centres around Canada and around the world."

The company said it is not its practice to replace permanent positions with offshore workers, however it did currently contract out some IT services to augment project work.

Canada's most international bank has made much of its profit by expanding its presence in foreign countries, though it has also been expanding its Canadian workforce, Waugh said during a speech at the meeting.

"This year we expect GDP growth in our key international markets to be more than twice what it is in Canada and the U.S.," he said.

Now that Canada is through the recession, he said there is a window of opportunity for more in exports and investments overseas.

"The timing is right ... People want to do business with us," he said.

The strategy of looking abroad is paying off for the country's third-largest bank.

Last year, Scotiabank earned a record $6.47 billion, which was 21 per cent higher than in 2011. The results included gains from the sale of its headquarters in 2012.

As the Canadian market for private-sector loans has become increasingly saturated, Scotiabank turned to Colombia, Peru and Mexico — where Waugh said there is, "lots of room to grow."

The bank has indicated that it expects its profits to increase overall between five and 10 per cent this year, said Waugh.

However, he adds that while business will grow in Canada, Latin America will show a faster increase in profits.

"If we do attain that, it will be another record year of earnings," he said.

Scotiabank has also been on an acquisition spree over the past year, scooping up ING Bank of Canada from its Dutch parent company in a $3.13-billion deal.

The bank has made less progress in China, where it wants to acquire just under 20 per cent of the Bank of Guangzho.

However, the deal has been on hold for more than a year awaiting Chinese approval.

Waugh said in an interview after the meeting that Scotiabank president Brian Porter will travel to China "within the next few months," to hold further talks.

"We still would like to go forth with Guangzho, but it has been a long time, there has been changes with our partners and we have to reconfirm with them they want to go forward," he said.

He said the bank will be looking for a clear timeline of how a deal might unfold.

In Canada, Waugh said he expects the Canadian housing market will have a "soft landing" rather than face a major downturn this year.

He noted that delinquency rates with its clients are "slightly elevated," but appear to be under control and did not anticipate the bank will endure any significant losses from unpaid mortgages.

Following the meeting, Waugh said that delinquency has gone up "one or two basis points"

Canada's housing market is expected to soften this year as fewer people buy homes and construction of new homes starts to slow.

There has been speculation that Waugh might retire from soon with Porter seen by many as his successor.

However, Waugh said there's still no definite date.

"I still intend to stay as chief executive officer for now, so my departure is not imminent," he said.

Also on Tuesday, the bank named current bank president Brian Porter and Aaron Regent, former president and CEO of Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX), to its board of directors.