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Canada's bank oligopoly is good for consumers, says outgoing TD CEO

TD CEO Ed Clark says the banks compete "vigorously" with each other in the current environment and that's good for consumers. But on the eve of his retirement, Clark would like to see the government tighten lending rules to deal with household debt.

Ed Clark retires November 1st as head of Toronto Dominion bank after 12 years

Ed Clark talks with Amanda Lang about his career and the future of TD ID: 6:10

TD Bank chief executive Ed Clark admits the Canadian banking sector is an oligopoly, but that structure has been and will continue to be good for the consumer.

Oligopolies "give enormous benefits to consumers because [the banks] compete so vigorously," said the outgoing CEO in an interview with CBC's The Exchange with Amanda Lang. "It’s been good for Canada that we’ve had big strong banks. This has been a pretty good deal for the consumer as well as the investor."

Clark sat down with Lang this week ahead of his retirement on November 1st after 12 years at the helm of Canada's second largest bank.

Since his appointment in 2002, Clark has led a massive expansion south of the border through a series of acquisitions. TD now has more branches in the U.S. (1,300) than it does in Canada (1,100), putting it in the top ten largest banks in the U.S.

Chosen to continue that growth is Bharat Masrani, the head of TD's U.S. retail operation. He'll replace Clark immediately upon retirement.

The dilemma with low rates

With one foot out the door, Clark says he'd like to see the government tighten lending rules to deal with the threat of asset bubbles.

"Low interest rates create these asset bubble," said Clark, adding that Ottawa should provide a framework on lending because it's unrealistic for the bank to make consumers borrow less.

"If we lean against people borrowing more, but no one else leans, it doesn't do any good and household debt will continue to rise," said Clark.

According to Statistics Canada, the household debt to income ratio rose to 163.6 per cent in the second quarter of the year — just shy of the record 164.1 per cent hit last year.​