Money: The Changing Face of Banks in Canada

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As a newcomer, you may feel that you have little impact on this new country. But you have more power than you think. In fact, did you know that you are changing the way Canadian banks offer their services and hire employees?

By 2017, in Toronto and Vancouver, the visible minority will likely become a visible majority at 51 per cent. Large financial institutions are aware of this demographic shift and are responding to the needs of our growing immigrant population. By offering their services in a variety of languages, getting involved with local communities and hiring a diverse workforce, banks are leading the way in meeting the needs of newcomers.

Here is a brief snapshot of how Canada’s top five and other national banks are competing for your attention.


One of BMO’s mandates is to build lasting relationships with newcomers by offering financial advice as well as tips on how to adjust to Canada, including how to get a social insurance card and enroll in school. In addition, their Asian offices often help future immigrants set up their accounts and credit cards ahead of time so they have one less worry when they arrive in Canada.

BMO offers online services in English, French, Chinese and Korean. Telephone services also offer Mandarin and Cantonese and many of their automatic banking machines (ABMs) have Chinese screens. All of their branches have multilingual staff that fit with the communities they serve.

They recruit a diverse workforce, even offering transfers from their offices in Asia. Here in Canada, they advertise job openings in community newspapers and participate in organizations that mentor new immigrants in order to give newcomers opportunities to apply.


CIBC is ranked number two on the Canadian Business-OMNI survey of top workplaces for visible minorities. In fact, they lead all other banks in Canada for having the largest percentage of visible minorities on staff. CIBC credits its top-notch equal opportunity hiring practices but also its many links into the community. By taking part in a host of community initiatives, including sponsoring organizations geared to newcomers, they are able to do a lot of word-of-mouth hiring. In areas where there is a large concentration of newcomers, branches are fully staffed with specialists who speak the language of the community.

While they don’t provide services directly aimed at newcomers, they say that all credit decisions are based on various financial circumstances and the ability to repay a loan. They also work to provide flexible funding for any small business that qualifies.

RBC Royal Bank

Just one of the ways RBC serves the growing population of new Canadians is to help immigrants get credit despite no Canadian credit history. By adjusting their credit policies, employees understand newcomers’ needs and make decisions based on other criteria.

Other initiatives include developing programs to help better integrate new employees into their workforce. Successful programs include mentoring arrangements, English business language classes for new employees and cross-cultural awareness training for their recruitment and human resource professionals—the first training of its kind in Canada.

RBC’s mobile mortgage specialists, together, speak more than 35 different languages, their telephone banking service provides dedicated Chinese language support and 300 ABMs across Canada provides a Chinese language option.


Scotiabank wants to be recognized as an employer that reflects the community and attracts talent from a variety of backgrounds. They actively recruit multilingual employees to help meet the cultural and linguistic preferences of their customers. Their most in-demand services are available in several languages. Telephone banking services are offered in English, French, Mandarin and Cantonese. To help branches build better links in distinct communities, the bank’s local area marketing program provides Chinese language customer materials, including fact sheets and advertisements, which Chinese-speaking personal banking officers can customize and print for their customers.

TD Canada Trust

TD Canada Trust has flexible services for immigrants by looking at your credit history in your home country and being open to discussing mortgages and other credits for newcomers.

Internet services are provided in English, French, Chinese and Japanese. Telephone banking also offers Cantonese and Mandarin. And you’ll find employees speaking the language of the community, whether that’s Portuguese, Italian or Hindi. More than half of the mortgage specialists who meet one-on-one with clients speak more than two languages.

TD Canada Trust claims to hire by skills and the demands of the community, while also actively participating with organizations that encourage professional development for immigrants.

Other national banks

Laurentian Bank – Of its nearly 3,500 employees, the staff of the seven main branches serving Montreal’s ethnocultural communities represent 18 ethnicities and speak about 15 different languages. Laurentian is the only financial institution to offer Western Union’s person-to-person money transfer service that is adapted to the needs of newcomers sending money to relatives in their homeland.

National Bank of Canada – Though this institution does most of its business in Quebec, it does have branches in the Maritimes, Ontario and the west. Their customer service representatives speak different languages in all branches to reflect the needs of their communities. They also offer more flexibility to newcomers who don’t have a credit history background, along with generous community sponsorship and donation programs.

Citizens Bank of Canada – Though they have no formal program in place to address the needs of newcomers, Citizens Bank’s human resources department has helped a number of employees with their Canadian immigration process. Their employees speak a broad range of languages and are always willing to assist members with their banking needs in their preferred language. However, members must speak enough English to request this since this western Canada bank does not have an official program for multi-language banking.

Western Bank of Canada – This institution only operates in western Canada where there is a lower concentration of newcomers, so all of their services are offered in English. However, they are an equal opportunity employer and recruiters try to recognize equivalent experience from other countries when hiring the best person for the job.

Banks are constantly evolving to meet the needs of a changing Canada. If we’ve learned anything it’s that you shouldn’t overlook financial institutions when job searching and don’t be afraid to ask for services in your mother tongue and services to meet your unique needs.

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