Skip to main content

A Canadian Western Bank branch in Calgary.TODD KOROL

Canadian Western Bank wants to expand beyond its core business, and wealth management will be one of the key tools to make that happen, the company's president said.

"As we think about what we have in terms of market opportunities, wealth management really tailors well with our commercial focus," said Chris Fowler, chief executive officer of the bank.

The bank announced a deal for majority control of McLean & Partners Wealth Management Ltd. late on Monday, a deal that not only doubles the size of the bank's wealth management business, but gives it access to a firm that specializes in high-net-worth clients.

Mr. Fowler has also set his sights on further expansion "We continue to look within our Western footprint – at Vancouver and Winnipeg as well – for other opportunities," he said. That could come through further acquisitions, or through expanding through McLean's business.

Geography was a large part of the appeal of McLean, which is rooted in Calgary. Canadian Western Bank acquired a majority stake in Edmonton-based Adroit Investment Management Ltd. in 2008. Adroit had roughly $1-billion in assets under management when the bank bought it, but the unit has so far been unable to grow beyond that.

Wealth management has been a point of increased focus for Canada's big banks and insurers over the past few years, but Canadian Western Bank isn't too concerned about competition, seeing the business as a way to build on relationships with the bank's customers. "If you build the platform with your existing clients, you have more touch points and you become more strategic to your clients. That's part of being competitive," Mr. Fowler said.

Mr. Fowler took the reins in March when the bank's long-time leader, Larry Pollock, retired. The bank is approaching its 100th straight quarter of profitability.

Through the McLean deal, Canadian Western Bank will buy 55 per cent of the business, leaving McLean's management with the remaining 45 per cent. The small, all-cash transaction is expected to close within 30 days (pending regulatory approvals), but full financial details haven't been released.

(Jacqueline Nelson is a Globe and Mail Financial Services Reporter.)

Return to Streetwise home page.