'It's just lip service': Former TD worker skeptical of bank's ability to reform

A former TD Bank employee has little faith the company will succeed in fixing its dysfunctional workforce, amid allegations that staff faced incredible pressure to squeeze profits from unsuspecting customers.

'Some of the staff may try pressure tactics just to make their numbers'

TD Bank customers who have fraud claims denied say the bank needs to do more to ensure investigations are thorough. (Aaron Harris/Reuters)

A former TD Bank employee has little faith the company will succeed in fixing its dysfunctional workforce, amid allegations that staff were pressured to squeeze profits from unsuspecting customers.

The former employee worked as a financial services representative and financial adviser at Calgary and Edmonton branches of the bank for more than five years. CBC has agreed to protect his identity because he still works in the banking industry and worries he may lose his job if his identity is revealed.

He doesn't believe TD Bank will be successful in changing its practices in the wake of the allegations revealed by CBC News.

"it's just lip service," he said, adding that as long as the bank continues to take its front-line workers for granted, customer service will continue to suffer.

"I remember hearing the bank say, 'We're only accountable to the customer.' Well, with previous management they said, 'You know what, the staff are the assets.'

"It's us who are running the company and are at the front lines."

TD Bank says it is reviewing "all of the concerns raised" by recent CBC News stories that revealed unscrupulous sales tactics by front-line bank employees.

After a Go Public report detailing "unrealistic" sales targets at the bank, hundreds of current and former TD employees wrote to Go Public to share their experiences. 

Some of those employees felt they had to break the law to meet sales targets and keep their jobs. Others said the strain caused psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.

'Culture of sales revenue'

Sales have always been a component of the job but the pressure to meet strict quarterly targets have intensified. Documents provided to CBC News show the tellers' sales revenue goals have more than tripled in the past three years.

Though he was usually able to meet his targets, the former TD bank teller was not surprised to hear other employees struggled under the pressure.

"There [weren't] any verbatim messages that you have to push or lie or any of that, but the culture was, bring in the units, do your work …That part I wasn't threatened by," said the former Alberta branch employee.

"It's not about pressuring the customer … but I can see, if the skills are not taught well enough, then some of the staff may try pressure tactics just to make their numbers."

TD fallout

7 years ago
Duration 2:21
CBC's Jacqueline Hansen has more on allegations over the bank's sales tactics

But the problems are more complex than just the sales tactics. He said the company suffers from high turnover, ineffective top-down management, and operates in a "culture of sales revenue," not customer service.

He said many workers would avoid any transactions that did not create handsome returns for company shareholders, such as government pension withdrawals and transfers.

"Those types of transactions actually do a negative hit on sales revenues so now you have staff receiving a negative impact because the number is a withdrawal," he said.

"So as a consumer, I'm unable to get the work done because the employee doesn't have the incentive to process the transaction in a prompt manner, or do it correctly or even return phone calls — and this is a publicly traded company."

TD said the bank has "procedures in place designed to monitor sales practices and to detect issues should they arise," including a system for tracking customer complaints. Company officials say they're committed to compliance and "doing the right thing."

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investment is monitoring the ongoing complaints.

'One slap in the face after another'

The employee allegations come amid reports last week of record profits for Canadian banks.

TD Bank Group reported fiscal first quarter earnings of $2.5 billion — up 14 per cent from a year ago. Revenue rose six per cent to $9.1 billion, making it the largest bank in Canada, based on assets.

But employees who help the company reach those handsome returns are not adequately rewarded for their work, said the financial adviser.

When he landed a $10-million contract and brought in nearly $30 million in business in the first half of 2008, he was rewarded with a small bonus and a stern warning from his manager that the contract he had landed "better not be the last."

Already frustrated with management at his branch, he said the lack of remuneration felt like "one slap in the face after another." He quit last year.