TD latest bank to earn billions and dole out job cuts

Toronto-Dominion is the latest of the big Canadian banks to dole out pink slips to staff. And employees tell CBC News they expect more layoffs to come as the company looks to cut costs.

Streamlining starts in upper layers as banks face low rates and business downturn

TD Bank has already let go some executive staff and there are more layoffs to come say employees. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Toronto-Dominion is the latest of the big Canadian banks to dole out pink slips to staff. And employees tell CBC News they expect more layoffs to come as the company looks to cut costs.

Although they're still pulling in billions in profits, TD and other big banks are trying to protect their bottom line in a slow growth economy.

TD recently laid off some senior executives as part of an "organizational review," according to internal company emails obtained by CBC News.

Two corporate employees said they know of a handful of layoffs and anticipate this is just the beginning as the bank attempts to streamline departments, mainly at the corporate level. Both spoke to CBC News on the condition of anonymity.

Top down cuts

People are a little pensive right now, worried.- Anonymous TD employee

"They're starting at the top and kind of working their way down. What I don't know is at what level they would stop," said an employee.

"There's probably, I'm assuming, an expense number that they're trying to get to."

Another employee said: "They're methodically going through sort of layer by layer, so the full impact is yet to be seen. People are a little pensive right now, worried."

TD was unwilling to give numbers.

"It's too early in the process to speculate on the number of people affected," said TD spokeswoman, Ali Duncan Martin in an email. The bank has more than 85,000 employees.

Duncan Martin confirmed to CBC News that TD is focusing on streamlining departments, currently targeting executive and corporate management positions outside of personal banking.

"We are at the beginning stages of this initiative and we have no specifics to announce at this point," she said.

"We are working harder to become a fitter and faster organization."

Both corporate employees told CBC News that TD has hired an American consulting firm to advise on its cost-cutting strategy.

"It feels like a different culture," said one of them. "The bank has described the culture in the past as a caring performance culture and people are a little worried on the caring part because it seems to be a little more businesslike."

Belt tightening in tougher times

TD's new CEO, Bharat Masrani, emphasized cost cutting during the bank's quarterly earnings conference call in February when it was announced that TD's profit topped $2 billion.

"I said previously that we would redouble our efforts to increase efficiency and streamline our cost base ... we know we have to do more and we are," said Masrani, according to a transcript of the call.

The CEO concluded that belt tightening at the bank "is simply a reality of today's slower growth world."

He said that "a number of economic headwinds will continue to challenge the industry in 2015." Two of his top concerns were low oil prices and lower lending rates which could eat into bank profits.

"There's no question that the Canadian banks are going to be in for a rough year this year," said Carleton University business professor Ian Lee.

He stressed that the big banks will still remain healthy, but that lower profits don't go over well with shareholders.

"There's these feedback loops that are causing [the banks] to do things like raising their prices and laying off some employees to try to maintain their profit margin," said Lee, who spent almost a decade working in the banking industry.

Fees up, jobs down

Many of the big banks are hiking some customer service fees and TD's layoffs come on the heels of a trio of other job cut announcements at banks.

In late 2014, Scotiabank announced it was cutting 1,500 jobs, including about 1,000 in Canada. The bank said it planned to reduce staff at its head office and eliminate some of its international branches.

In January of this year, CIBC told CBC News it had decided to "selectively reduce a number of positions." Another media report said more than 500 jobs would be cut, citing anonymous sources.

Royal Bank is downsizing some international wealth management operations. It stressed the move affects only a small segment but could not provide CBC News with numbers.

"While regrettably there will be some job losses, it would be premature at this stage to estimate the number of employees that will be impacted," spokeswoman Claire Holland wrote in an email.


Sophia Harris

Business reporter

Based in Toronto, Sophia Harris covers consumer and business for CBC News web, radio and TV. She previously worked as a CBC videojournalist in the Maritimes where she won an Atlantic Journalism Award for her work. Contact: