Bank CEOs juggling careful spending with new consumer habits during COVID-19

TORONTO — The CEOs of Canadian big banks say the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed their companies to balance quickly adapting to new consumer habits with a careful approach to combating economic pressures.

Speaking at Scotiabank's annual financial summit, which is being held virtually this year, executives say they have spent recent months watching Canadians stop spending and stash away money because their careers have been impacted by COVID-19 or the businesses they frequent have been closed.

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Bank of Nova Scotia CEO Brian Porter says the situation has reminded him that good companies invest in bad times, but he is still trying to be disciplined and prioritize regulatory and customer experience expenses over other costs.

He says the bank has deferred some expenses on items that would have been nice for the bank, but aren't critical for operations during a pandemic.

Royal Bank of Canada CEO Dave McKay says his bank is seeing lots of activity and expenses around mortgages and deposits, but he anticipates those costs to return to normal eventually.

He says he is keeping an eye on low interest rates because he knows that will challenge expenses, but he is intent on focusing capital on areas that will drive growth like hiring new advisers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BNS, TSX:RY)

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