Bloomberg News

Scotiabank Turns to Immigrants to Boost Canadian Banking

April 03, 2012

Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada’s third- largest bank, plans to increase the share of banking services it offers for newcomers to the country, said Anatol von Hahn, the lender’s group head of domestic banking.

“Emigrating India, China or Mexico, we try to get you before you arrive to get you to open some of your banking services,” von Hahn said yesterday during an interview in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where the Toronto-based bank is holding its annual meeting.

By gaining a larger share of immigrants, which von Hahn said enter Canada at a rate about 250,000 per year, Scotiabank can increase its “share of wallet” for services such as mortgages and credit cards. Von Hahn estimates the bank has a 17 percent to 18 percent share of newcomers to Canada, with the biggest “opportunity” to expand being with skilled workers who come to Canada for a short period.

“The bigger objective is, we need to get more customers through the front door so that we can provide them with our services,” said von Hahn, who has been with Scotiabank since 1984. “That’s of course a very hard thing to do in a mature market when most of your customers are already banked, and it’s difficult to switch them.”

Domestic banking accounted for 32 percent of the lender’s C$5.3 billion ($5.35 billion) in record net income last year, and von Hahn’s unit was the biggest contributor to profit. The lender uses its moniker of being “Canada’s most international bank,” with operations in more than 50 countries, as a starting point to seek out new clients before they move to Canada.

Scotiabank often receives referrals from immigration consultants in the countries it does business in for clients moving to Canada. The bank also has a three-person branch inside Mexico’s Canadian embassy, where newcomers to Canada often visit and explore banking relationships before they leave the country, von Hahn said.

In addition, Scotiabank plans to bolster domestic banking profit by expanding auto lending and small banking businesses, von Hahn said.

“There’s a lot more in the small business segment where we can continue to grow,” said von Hahn, who has worked for the bank in Chile, Argentina and Mexico. “I think that’s an area you’ll continue to see us grow in.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sean B. Pasternak in Toronto at spasternak@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net; David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net


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