Are Canada’s small-town bank branches doomed?

Scotiabank's chief, Brian Porter, suggested this month banks will seek to close branches experiencing falling foot traffic as more customers shift to online banking. Ryan Carter/Canadian Press

Are bank branches doomed in the age mobile and self-service banking? That depends on what bank CEO you ask.

According to recent comments from Brian Porter, who helms the Bank of Nova Scotia, at least some are destined to close as more and more customers turn to smartphones, tablets and computers to conduct their day-to-day financial affairs.

But on Tuesday, Victor Dodig, chief of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said the physical bricks-and-mortar retail networks owned by banks won’t go away, just their core functions will evolve.

Porter said at a wealth management conference earlier this month “all the banks” are reviewing their footprints, especially in smaller centres in Canada where foot traffic might be under pressure.

“As all the banks look at their retail banking footprint in small town Canada, I think you will see some branch closures from a retail banking perspective,” Porter said at the Women in Wealth management conference in Toronto earlier this month, according to a published report.

Story continues below advertisement

“We are going through that as an institution now and there are other ways to serve customers,” he said.

Falling foot traffic to branches has been an measurable trend at U.S. bank branches for some time, with institutions shrinking their retail networks accordingly. For its part, Scotiabank said last fall it was shuttering 120 international branches as it centralizes and automates some processes.

Fewer tellers

In a separate address Tuesday, CIBC’s Dodig said branches are set to move away from hubs that facilitate deposits and other routine transactions toward delivering more in-person financial advice, serving to nurture and maintain customer relationships with the institution.

Dodig made his comments to the Empire Club of Canada, after the bank announced it is backing mobile payment app Suretap, which allows people to make in-store retail purchases with their smartphones.

— With a file from Canadian Press

Sponsored content