Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce announced that its customers can now use the newly launched Apple Watch to conduct mobile banking operations – a first among the Big Six banks – as traditional lenders continue to build an awkward relationship with Apple Inc. and other technology companies that are moving into the financial arena.
The mobile app is fairly basic at this point, providing the ability to check balances, transfer funds or search for a nearby ATM.
But in announcing the new app at CIBC's annual general meeting on Thursday, the bank has taken a decidedly different approach from many of its peers in the way it views Apple and other companies.
A number of other Canadian bank chief executives have been talking about the competitive threat posed by new players in the banking space because they offer customers the ability to make payments from their smartphones, pushing aside the traditional role of banks in the customers eyes.
Royal Bank of Canada is wary that these new competitors could lower the profile of traditional banks. Toronto-Dominion Bank, while recognizing the threat, pointedly refused to mention Apple by name at its annual general meeting.
But Victor Dodig, CIBC's chief executive, appears to be taking a more pragmatic approach. Asked if he views Apple as a competitor, he said that he prefers to see things from the consumer's perspective.
"What does the consumer want?" he said in an interview prior to bank's shareholder meeting. "If my consumers and clients want it, you embrace it and try to integrate it into your system."
He said that making the new technology safe, in terms of security features, is important. It also has to add value to the banking relationship with clients.
"I'd say with the new entrants, some of them are offering new technologies and interesting ways of transacting that I think are of interest," he said. "I don't think they want to be banks; I think they want to participate in the financial system."
"That is the reality of the day. One of the reasons we've been able to have a leadership position in technology is we've always embraced these changes."