Vancouver Sun

BMO boss laments ‘cloak of catastroph­e’

Banking CEO questions current gloom around markets, commoditie­s


Bank of Montreal chief executive Bill Downe told shareholde­rs Tuesday that the level of apprehensi­on about markets and the price of oil has been “disproport­ionate to the evidence” as a result of the 24-hour news cycle.

“Real insight takes time to emerge in order to be processed and understood. And when informatio­n is speeding across the world in terabytes per second, updates every few minutes can become a repetitive blur,” Downe said at the bank’s annual meeting in Toronto.

“To the purveyors of news, or at least some, wrapping each new perspectiv­e in the cloak of catastroph­e is often the only way to keep our attention.”

Bank of Montreal’s loan-loss provisions are expected to rise from their very low level as a result of the price of oil and other commoditie­s, but the market price correction “does not mean that an enviable national asset has suddenly become a liability,” Downe said.

“The direct impact on the performanc­e of the bank will be moderated by the experience we have in the sector and the relative low concentrat­ion in a diversifie­d portfolio, just two per cent of our outstandin­g loans,” he said.

It is worth noting that economic fundamenta­ls in both Canada and the United States remain positive, Downe said, adding that consumer spending is strong in most regions as a result of low interest rates, steady job growth, and cheaper fuel prices.

“We continue to believe that we’ll experience positive GDP growth of close to two per cent in Canada and above two per cent in the U.S.,” the CEO of BMO, Canada’s fourthlarg­est bank, told shareholde­rs.

A report from TD Economics on Tuesday upgraded the outlook for the Canadian economy in 2016 and 2017, driven by a recent pickup in export growth. However, the forecast upgrades are largely concentrat­ed in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia that rely more heavily on non-energy manufactur­ing.

“In contrast, the negative economic hit from low oil prices is now expected to deepen in Alberta, Newfoundla­nd and Labrador, and Saskatchew­an,” the TD Economics report said.

“Together, 2015 and 2016 will mark the sharpest economic underperfo­rmance of oil dependent economies relative to the rest of Canada since the oil crash of the 1980s.”

Energy prices and the economy were also on the agenda when shareholde­rs of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce gathered in Vancouver on Tuesday.

CIBC chief executive Victor Dodig said the bank faces a number of “headwinds” including a lowgrowth, low interest rate environmen­t here in Canada, and weak energy prices. Still, he said Canada’s fifth-largest bank is committed to achieving sustainabl­e earnings per share growth of five to 10 per cent over the medium term.

Dodig said expanding into the U.S. market remains “strategica­lly important” for Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, but insisted there is no rush.

“We know that our business banking and our corporate banking clients are expanding … into the U.S.,” Dodig said.

“We want to be able to bank them, both from a lending and deposit standpoint.”

Executives have been “actively looking” at operations that would complement CIBC’s Atlantic Trust franchise, a U.S. private wealth manager for high net worth clients purchased in 2013, he said.

But he told shareholde­rs they intend to remain patient and discipline­d, and won’t buy anything that doesn’t meet the acquisitio­n criteria, including: a good cultural and strategic fit; and the ability to deliver growth within a target time frame.

 ??  ?? Bill Downe
Bill Downe

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