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Silicon Valley Bank’s Toronto branch seized by Canada’s banking regulator amid collapse

Click to play video: 'Canadian branch of SVB has assets temporarily seized'
Canadian branch of SVB has assets temporarily seized
WATCH: Canadian branch of SVB has assets temporarily seized – Mar 13, 2023

Canada’s banking regulator has temporarily seized the assets of Silicon Valley Bank’s lone Canadian branch after the financial institution collapsed.

U.S. banking regulators were forced on Friday to urgently close the California-based institution after billions of dollars were withdrawn by fearful depositors, leading to a run on the bank, which caters heavily to tech sector firms.

There are now fears other banks could face similar difficulties, but U.S. President Joe Biden stressed Monday morning that Americans can have confidence in the U.S. banking system.

“Americans can have confidence that the banking system is safe. Deposits will be there when you need them,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Biden outlines measures that secured American banking system following SVB collapse'
Biden outlines measures that secured American banking system following SVB collapse

Investors, however, are another matter. Biden said they will not be covered by a federal backstop on deposits, and that they knowingly took risks on a bank that later failed.

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“They knowingly took a risk, and when the risk didn’t pay off, investors lose their money. That’s how capitalism works,” he said.

In a statement released Sunday, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) said Silicon Valley Bank’s Toronto branch has been primarily lending to corporate clients, and that the branch does not hold any commercial or individual deposits in Canada.

A person walks toward an entrance to Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, Calif., on March 10. SVB Financial, a Silicon Valley bank that caters to the industry surrounding startup companies, has plunged more than 60 per cent this week as it raises cash to relieve a crunch. Analysts have said SVB Financial is in a relatively unique situation, but it’s still led to concerns a broader banking crisis could erupt. SVB’s stock was halted Friday morning. Jeff Chiu/AP

Superintendent Peter Routledge said in the release that he has also given notice of an intention to seek permanent control of the Canadian branch’s assets, and is requesting the attorney general of Canada apply for a winding-up order.

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By taking temporary control, OSFI is acting to protect the rights and interests of the branch’s creditors, Routledge added.

“I want to be clear: the Silicon Valley Bank branch in Canada does not take deposits from Canadians, and this situation is the result of circumstances particular to Silicon Valley Bank in the United States,” he said.

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The size of Silicon Valley Bank’s holdings and operations in the country make it a relatively small lender in Canada’s financial system. It had $435M in loans outstanding as of the end of last year in Canada, and $864M in total assets, according to OSFI records. Silicon Valley Bank opened its Canadian branch in 2019.

Silicon Valley Bank served mostly technology workers and venture capital-backed companies, including some of the industry’s best-known brands. It is one of the biggest bank failures in U.S. history.

Bank shares in Europe and Asia plunged on Monday as the United States’ move to guarantee the deposits of Silicon Valley Bank failed to reassure investors that other banks remain financially sound.

After opening lower on Monday, by mid-afternoon Wall Street’s main indexes in what appears to be a volatile trading day. Meanwhile, Canada’s TSX Composite index opened at 19,549 points – 225 points lower than when it closed Friday at 19,774. It was at 19,687 as of noon eastern daylight time.

Click to play video: 'Silicon Valley Bank collapse: What does it mean for Canadian customers?'
Silicon Valley Bank collapse: What does it mean for Canadian customers?

Canada’s big six banks all saw their stocks open the week on the TSX at prices lower than last Friday’s close, but shares were showing signs of recovery by noon on Monday.

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After a dramatic weekend, U.S. regulators on Sunday stepped in after the bank’s collapse. Silicon Valley Bank’s customers will have access to all their deposits starting Monday, and regulators set up a new facility to give banks access to emergency funds. The Federal Reserve also made it easier for banks to borrow from it in emergencies.

Click to play video: 'What impact will SVB failure have when markets reopen?'
What impact will SVB failure have when markets reopen?

Regulators also moved swiftly to close New York’s Signature Bank, which had come under pressure in recent days. Smaller banks also remained under pressure.

Biden said on Monday that bank customers will still have access to their deposits, and that no losses will be borne by the taxpayer. Instead, the money will come from fees that banks pay into the U.S. deposit insurance fund.

Biden also said bank management will be fired if U.S. regulators take them over, and vowed his administration will take action to ensure these collapses don’t happen again.

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Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement on Sunday night that she had spoken with Canadian financial sector leaders and the Bank of Canada, and that the country’s “well-regulated banking system is sound and resilient.”

Meanwhile, OSFI said it has closely monitored Silicon Valley Bank’s Canadian branch since the onset of the bank’s difficulties. It added that consistent with globally accepted international Basel III standards, it “continues to undertake diligent supervision of federally regulated banks in Canada, including robust requirements for capital and liquidity adequacy.”

Silicon Valley Bank began its slide into insolvency when it was forced to dump some of its treasuries at a loss to fund its customers’ withdrawals. Under the Federal Reserve’s new program, banks can post those securities as collateral and borrow from the emergency facility.

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The U.S. Treasury has set aside US$25 billion to offset any losses incurred. Fed officials said, however, that they do not expect to have to use any of that money, given that the securities posted as collateral have a very low risk of default.

— with files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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