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A Tale of Two Banking Sectors: Canada vs. U.S.

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A Tale of Two Banking Sectors: Canada vs. U.S.

A Tale of Two Banking Sectors: Canada vs. U.S.

Regardless of which side of the 49th parallel you are on, banking sectors play a crucial role in both the financial system and the economy.

But while banks on each side of the border perform many similar functions, and have comparable economic impacts, the fact is that the U.S. and Canadian banking systems are very different.

Comparing Canadian and U.S. Banks

Today’s infographic comes to us from RBC Global Asset Management and it compares Canadian and U.S. banks directly based on a variety of factors.

The histories of both banking sectors are contrasted, but subjects such as the regulatory environments, market forces, the number and size of banks, and post-crisis landscapes are also compared. An outlook for investors on both sectors is also provided.

The end result is an interesting depiction of two banking sectors that are related in many ways, but that also have distinct differences and ways of doing business.

General Differences:
Historically, the Canadian banking system favors a limited quantity of banks, and many branches. It also carries the British influence of valuing stability over experimentation. Meanwhile, U.S. banking is more decentralized and localized, and more open to experimentation. This has led to trial and error, but also the world’s largest bank system.

Regulatory Focuses
Canada’s banking system tends to promote safety and soundness, while the American system keys in on privacy, anti-money laundering, banking access, and consumer protection measures.

Market Environment
The Canadian market is worth C$142 billion (US$111 billion) per year, while the U.S. market is over 10x bigger at US$1.4 trillion. Interestingly, these market sizes explain why Canadian banks often seek growth opportunities in the U.S. market, while U.S. banks just focus on the massive domestic sector for growth.

Number of Banks
There are 85 banks in Canada, and 4,938 in the United States.

Market Share
Canada’s five biggest banks hold a whopping 89% of market share, while America’s five biggest banks only hold 35% of market share.

Biggest Banks
Canada’s “Big Five” Banks:
RBC: C$142 billion
TD: C$130 billion
Scotia: C$93 billion
BMO: C$62 billion
CIBC: C$49 billion

The Biggest Four Banks in the U.S.:
JPMorgan Chase: US$377 billion
Bank of America: US$310 billion
Wells Fargo: US$260 billion
Citigroup: US$179 billion

In Canada, there are no other institutions worth over C$25 billion, but in the States there are eight that are worth between US$50-$100 billion.

Outlook for Investors

Not only are the two banking environments quite different in terms of character – but Canadian and U.S. banks are at different points in their market cycles, as well.

Post-2008 Reaction
Banks in Canada were minimally impacted by the Financial Crisis, and have been permitted to use lower risk weights than U.S. Banks. As a result, they’ve been able to hold less capital for each loan (i.e. higher leverage)

Banks in the U.S. have spent the past number of years building capital. Regulators required U.S. banks to be conservative in their approach post-crisis. As a result, U.S. banks have lower leverage than Canadian peers.

Leverage (Asset/Equity)
Canada’s “Big Five”:
18.3

Five Biggest U.S. Banks:
9.3

Dividend Yield
Canadian Banks: 3.9%
S&P/TSX Composite: 2.9%

Top 15 U.S. Banks: 2.5%
S&P 500: 2.1%

Which Sector Should Investors Choose?

There are compelling reasons to consider the financial institutions of either country:

Canada

  1. Canadian banks have a proven track-record of delivering steady dividends that have grown over time.
  2. Canadian banks have a strong global reputation for reliability and safety due to Canada’s sound regulatory framework and their relatively risk-averse approach.
  3. Canadian bank stocks can also be a good source of consistent income, with dividends that pay higher than the market. Canadians also doubly benefit, since to the Canadian dividend tax credit.

United States

  1. U.S. banks have significantly improved their balance sheets and capital structure over the past decade to be better positioned for future market cycles.
  2. Stronger U.S. economic growth combined with changing monetary policy creates a positive environment for U.S. banks to benefit from increased business and consumer demand and wider interest rate spreads.
  3. Recent tax cuts and deregulation are likely to benefit U.S. banks, as savings stand to contribute to earnings per share, and potentially lead to higher dividend payouts along with share buybacks.

Canadian and U.S. banks are similar in many ways – but their differing histories, competitive frameworks, and economic environments each provide unique exposure for investors.

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Banks

Why It’s Time for Banks to Make Bold Late-Cycle Moves

As we enter a late-cycle economy, a staggering 60% of banks are destroying value. Here’s the steps they can take in order to succeed.

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Why It’s Time for Banks to Make Bold Late-Cycle Moves

An economic downturn is approaching on the horizon. Amid low interest rates and a manufacturing slowdown, industries and investors alike are scrambling to prepare as the window of opportunity closes.

Banking is no different. After a decade of expansion, the industry is showing many signs of a late-cycle economy. On top of this, a staggering 60% of banks are destroying value. Today’s infographic from McKinsey & Company explores the steps banks can immediately take to succeed in the next economic cycle.

How is Value Created?

In the banking sector, three main factors contribute to value creation:

  • The location of the bank
  • The scale of its operations
  • The effectiveness of its business model

Given that geographic reach is mostly out of a bank’s control, and scale takes time to build, banks must focus on their business model.

There are three universal business model levers that all banks can immediately act on to change their destiny.

1. Risk Management
Banks can protect returns in an economic downturn by managing risk. For example, new machine-learning models can predict the riskiest customers with 35 percentage points more accuracy than traditional models.

2. Productivity
To radically reduce costs, banks can transfer non-differentiating activities to third-party “utilities”, through outsourcing, carve-outs, or partnerships. This has the potential to increase return on equity by as much as 100 basis points.

3. Revenue Growth
When customers are satisfied, they generate more value for banks—and vice versa. For instance, customers who report low satisfaction with their mortgage experience are almost seven times more likely to refinance with a different bank.

By materially improving decisive points in the customer experience, banks can increase revenue and reduce churn rates within 12-18 months.

The Four Banking Archetypes

Beyond these universal performance levers, a bank should prioritize late-cycle economic decisions based on the archetype it falls under.

  • Market leaders are top-performing financial institutions in attractive markets
  • Resilients are top-performing operators despite challenging market conditions
  • Followers are mid-tier organizations generating returns due to favourable market conditions
  • Challenged banks are poor performers in unattractive markets

Different archetypal levers are available depending on each bank’s unique circumstances.

  1. Ecosystem
    Banks can find new revenue streams across and beyond banking, leveraging customer relationships and white-label partnerships.
  2. Innovation
    Banks can create value by developing new methods, ideas, products and services. To implement this effectively, banks must set goals for the return on innovation as well as the timeframe.
  3. Zero-based budgeting
    By justifying expenses for each new period, banks can drastically reduce costs. This involves starting from a “zero base” rather than prior years’ numbers.

Here’s how banks across the various archetypes can take action:

 
Ecosystems
Innovation
Zero-based Budgeting
Market Leaders
-
Resilients
Followers
-
Challenged
-
-

For example, while market leaders’ large capital base is best used for ecosystem and innovation plays, challenged banks need to radically rethink their business model or merge with similar banks.

Reinvent, Scale, or Perish

As the late-cycle economy slows even further, no banks can afford complacency. In fact, history has shown that 35% of market leaders drop to the bottom half of peers in the next cycle.

Now is the time for banks to take bold action through universal and archetypal levers—or risk being left behind.

For a more detailed breakdown of the actions that banks can take in this market environment, check out the full report by McKinsey & Company.

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The World’s Most Powerful Reserve Currencies

Here are the reserve currencies that the world’s central banks hold onto for a rainy day.

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The World’s Most Powerful Reserve Currencies

When we think of network effects, we’re usually thinking of them in the context of technology and Metcalfe’s Law.

Metcalfe’s Law states that the more users that a network has, the more valuable it is to those users. It’s a powerful idea that is exploited by companies like LinkedIn, Airbnb, or Uber — all companies that provide a more beneficial service as their networks gain more nodes.

But network effects don’t apply just to technology and related fields.

In the financial sector, for example, stock exchanges grow in utility when they have more buyers, sellers, and volume. Likewise, in international finance, a currency can become increasingly entrenched when it’s accepted, used, and trusted all over the world.

What’s a Reserve Currency?

Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it breaks down foreign reserves held by countries — but what is a reserve currency, anyways?

In essence, reserve currencies (i.e. U.S. dollar, pound sterling, euro, etc.) are held on to by central banks for the following major reasons:

  • To maintain a stable exchange rate for the domestic currency
  • To ensure liquidity in the case of an economic or political crisis
  • To provide confidence to international buyers and foreign investors
  • To fulfill international obligations, such as paying down debt
  • To diversify central bank portfolios, reducing overall risk

Not surprisingly, central banks benefit the most from stockpiling widely-held reserve currencies such as the U.S. dollar or the euro.

Because these currencies are accepted almost everywhere, they provide third-parties with extra confidence and perceived liquidity. This is a network effect that snowballs from the growing use of a particular reserve currency over others.

Reserve Currencies Over Time

Here is how the usage of reserve currencies has evolved over the last 15 years:

Currency composition of official foreign exchange reserves (2004-2019)
🇺🇸 U.S. Dollar 🇪🇺 Euro🇯🇵 Japanese Yen🇬🇧 Pound Sterling 🌐 Other
200465.5%24.7%4.3%3.5%2.0%
200962.1%27.7%2.9%4.3%3.0%
201465.1%21.2%3.5%3.7%6.5%
201961.8%20.2%5.3%4.5%8.2%

Over this timeframe, there have been small ups and downs in most reserve currencies.

Today, the U.S. dollar is the world’s most powerful reserve currency, making up over 61% of foreign reserves. The dollar gets an extensive network effect from its use abroad, and this translates into several advantages for the multi-trillion dollar U.S. economy.

The euro, yen, and pound sterling are the other mainstay reserve currencies, adding up to roughly 30% of foreign reserves.

Finally, the most peculiar data series above is “Other”, which grew from 2.0% to 8.4% of worldwide foreign reserves over the last 15 years. This bucket includes the Canadian dollar, the Australian dollar, the Swiss franc, and the Chinese renminbi.

Accepted Everywhere?

There have been rumblings in the media for decades now about the rise of the Chinese renminbi as a potential new challenger on the reserve currency front.

While there are still big structural problems that will prevent this from happening as fast as some may expect, the currency is still on the rise internationally.

What will the composition of global foreign reserves look like in another 15 years?

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