Local banks react to merger denial

After hearing federal Finance minister Paul Martin give a thumbs down to plans by four of the Canada’s five largest banks to merge on Monday, local bank managers have offered mixed responses to how they and their corporations are approaching the decision.
“We haven’t really had time to consider the full impact yet,” said Dawn Nash, personal banking manager at the Royal Bank here. “But we do stand behind Minister Martin’s decision.”
“It’s business as usual for now,” noted local CIBC community manager Shaun Clarke. “But in the long-term, the business is changing anyway.”
Although it is reported banks may have to restructure their operations after the proposed mergers were turned down this week, Clarke noted it isn’t CIBC policy to close small branches, such as those in Emo and Rainy River.
“We see the branches as the heart of our operation,” he stressed. “[CIBC] isn’t big on closures. We’re trying to turn branches into financial planning centres.”
Clarke also felt the mergers–the Royal Bank with the Bank of Montreal and CIBC with Toronto Dominion–should have gone through. “There was nothing the federal Competition Bureau reported that couldn’t have been overcome,” he argued.
Jim Kilmister, branch manager of the TD Bank here, declined to comment, noting the TD Bank Financial Group has made it its policy to have media refer to its corporate and public affairs offices.
In a press release, CEO A. Charles Baillie said the government’s decision to decline the mergers was “not purely unexpected” but added he believed “a merger would have been in the best long-term interests of Canadians and shareholders.”
In a joint statement released Monday following word of Martin’s decision, the TD and CIBC announced the termination of their agreement to merge as equals.