The consumer watchdog probing sales practices at Canadian banks has revamped the timeline to deliver its findings, and now plans to issue a full report in the early months of the new year.
Since April, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) has been operating at full capacity to conduct a wide-ranging review that looks at issues of consent, disclosure and employee incentives. The investigation follows media reports that documented concerns from mostly anonymous sources about banks' conduct and allegedly aggressive sales tactics.
By June, the review was in full swing, and FCAC commissioner Lucie Tedesco told members of Parliament that the agency intended to publish its "initial findings" by the end of 2017, followed by a full report by next summer. But a spokesperson said the FCAC said that's no longer the case. Instead, the agency aims to produce a single document assessing the systemic forces that drive sales cultures and their impact on consumers.
"FCAC has since determined that the better approach would be to issue one report in the first quarter of 2018," spokesperson Lynne Santerre said in an e-mail.
Early in 2017, media reports alleged that some front-line staff at major banks felt intense pressure to meet ambitious sales targets, which may have led to improper behaviour in some cases. But bank executives denied that there was any evidence of widespread misbehaviour within their ranks.
Since the spring, the FCAC has reviewed thousands of consumer complaints, interviewed more than 500 people – from bank directors and chief executives to front-line staff – and reviewed training documents and internal control protocols. Industry sources have said the agency's requests for bank information were detailed.
"The purpose of our review is to identify and assess the systemic drivers of sales practices that could lead to breaches of consumer protection obligations," Ms. Santerre said.
Canada's banking regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), is running a concurrent probe focused on the risks aggressive selling could pose to banks' reputations and financial health.
At least some of Canada's largest banks including Toronto-Dominion Bank, which became the focus of some of the allegations about improper sales practices, have already conducted their own internal investigations.
In a recent interview, TD CEO Bharat Masrani said "it was a shock when we heard what was going on, or purported to be going on within TD." The bank launched an internal review to ensure that "every stone" had been turned, Mr. Masrani said, and found "no widespread unethical behaviour going on" among its 85,000 staff. But he acknowledged "there are opportunities to enhance some of our training and understanding. We are doing all that."
TD collects feedback from customers daily, and Mr. Masrani said there's no evidence so far that clients feel differently about the bank since the allegations emerged. But he'll wait to see the FCAC's findings. "If there are any lessons to be learned, let's learn them," he said.