By Miles Clyne
All five major banks are in the hot seat. It will be interesting to see if the parliamentary committee of MPs exploring the allegations of questionable sales practices will find any wrong doing or if it is business as usual.
The CBC said that after its initial report it received nearly 1,000 emails from employees of Canada’s five largest banks. The workers alleged in the emails that they felt pushed to "upsell, trick and even lie to customers" to reach targets set by their employers.
When the allegations emerged, Ander Pilkington, TD’s executive vice-president of branch banking said, he travelled to his company's locations across Canada to find out if employees felt intense pressure to sell. He concluded that "Our employees — the vast majority — feel that's just not the case".
You have to commend Mr. Pilkington for his efforts. Wikipedia states that TD is the 19th largest bank in the world according to Forbes and has over 85,000 employees worldwide. In Canada, TD has over 1,150 branches and 11 million customers. The task of meeting and discussing this with employees at the 1,150 branches in Canada would have been a huge task for anyone to undertake. My hat is off to him. This had to have been a super human task he placed on himself.
James McPhedran, a Scotiabank executive vice-president, testified that his bank always makes it clear to employees that it does not compromise its ethics to meet sales or other targets. That is music to my ears. But honestly, it would be pretty risky if an institution had a policy that stated employees are obligated to compromise ethics. Seems prudent to say you don’t condone this type of behavior until proven otherwise.
Other bankers had similar comments that reflected on the high standards they expect from their employees to take clients’ interests first.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada commissioner Lucie Tedesco has stated her agency has launched a review of bank business practices and said the initial findings are due by the end of the year. And if laws were broken there could be penalties against financial institutions.
As citizens we put a lot of trust in the organizations, governmental or otherwise, expecting that the consumer will be protected, especially when it comes to savings and capital we need for our day-to-day existence and future financial needs. Regardless of the employer, if an employee is expected to do something they feel is not in the interests of their clients or customers and are afraid to speak out, there is likely a culture of fear within that organization. We should not be allowing this to happen as a society.
It is hard to imagine that out of a 1,000 people there is not some truth to the issues that are being raised. I’m thankful we live in a country where, even if we can’t speak openly, there are ways to get our message out to the public. And make no mistake. The public gets the final say in what they want to believe, and who they will trust. It is their money.