The big banks have finished reporting their fiscal first-quarter results, with numbers that eased concerns about rising loan losses and slowing economic growth – for now.
But which bank walked away with the most impressive results? That depends entirely on which number you look at.
Best earnings beat
For the most part, banks reported profits that were about two percentage points above the consensus expectation among analysts. But Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce was the outlier, with profit that was 7.4 per cent above the consensus.
But before CIBC accepts the trophy, consider that analysts were puzzled by two things: the lender's relatively low provisions for bad loans, and expenses that trailed revenue growth at a time when banks are investing piles of money in technological enhancements.
"While CIBC certainly delivered the strongest result so far this earnings season … we are left with a number of lingering questions about these results," Meny Grauman, an analyst at Cormark Securities, said in a note released last week.
Biggest profit gain
This measure ignores expectations and focuses instead on actual gains in reported profits, year-over-year. The award goes to Toronto-Dominion Bank, which reported a 7.9-per-cent increase that appeared to make a mockery of the notion that the domestic economy needs government help.
Okay, the results were given a boost by the strong U.S. dollar, which helps TD more than its peers because of the bank's sizable retail operations on the eastern seaboard. But international diversification is supposed to work like that.
Biggest dividend increase
Quarter-over-quarter increases can be lumpy, so let's turn to the year-over-year changes, where the winner is TD, with a 17-per-cent boost since the first quarter of 2015. The bank boosted its payout twice over this period, bringing it to 55 cents a share from 47 cents.
Honourable mention goes to CIBC, which increased its dividend by a total of 14.6 per cent, and has raised its payout for six straight quarters.
Best asset growth
Royal Bank of Canada wins this category easily, with assets up an impressive 10.5 per cent over last year, to $1.2-trillion. That surpasses TD, which had a slight edge over RBC in the fourth quarter, and might instill some additional competitive rivalry between these two heavyweights.
It might also create a new rival: Bloomberg News pointed out last week that RBC has now surpassed Goldman Sachs as North America's fifth-biggest bank by assets.
No doubt, the growth was helped by RBC's acquisition of Los Angeles-based City National Bank, completed in November. But even RBC's Canadian asset growth bested its peers, rising 5 per cent over last year.
Biggest profit adjustment
National Bank of Canada, the award is all yours. The bank's sizable investment in Maple Financial Group disappeared after regulators shuttered its German subsidiary in February, handing National Bank a $165-million writedown in the first quarter.
The hit to its bottom line was big: Profit fell 37 per cent from last year, to $261-million.
But the writedown obscured some pretty good results in National Bank's operations, such as the 8-per-cent increase in personal and commercial profit. And besides, big writedowns are one-time events, right?
So, excluding the writedown, and a few other things, the lender's adjusted profit was actually 4-per-cent higher than last year, at $427-million.
Biggest pay increases
This category is open to some debate, given that different currencies and different markets can complicate things.
But if you divide a bank's total compensation by its total work force, and then compare the result with last year, you can get a ballpark estimate.
Using this approach, TD and Bank of Montreal look like the most generous banks, raising pay by 7.2 per cent each.