Don't let the record profits fool you. Canadian banks are tightening their belts.
After realizing that loan growth is moderating and admitting that they've been a bit lucky, the lenders are cutting costs to shore up their operations for an uncertain year.
HSBC Bank Canada is the latest institution to tout its 'efficiencies,' reporting on Tuesday that the "bright spots" in its earnings included the growth of its commercial loan portfolio and "our success in continued sustainable operating expense savings."
The bank dubbed its campaign an "organizational effectiveness programme," and noted the initiative has resulted in employee termination costs.
But HSBC is not alone. Last quarter Toronto-Dominion chief executive officer Ed Clark said that his bank is doing a thorough review of its operations, and is already looking to save money by consolidating some branches, particularly in the U.S. Bank of Nova Scotia also stressed the importance of trimming any fat.
Some banks are even ahead of the curve. In the past two years Bank of Montreal has endured $255-million in restructuring costs as it tried to shore up its operations. (HSBC has been cutting costs over this time period as well.)
While cost cutting is in many cases synonymous with layoffs, the banks do have other ways to scale back. Many financial institutions are spending heavily on back-office tech systems, for instance, and they have the option to limit the amount of capital that they plunge into these projects.
The Big Six banks report their next set of earnings during the first week of December, and such cuts could be used to satisfy investors who have plowed boatloads of money into bank stocks in the past few weeks.