A little game of a rank-a-bank

miloHey Pal:

Maclean’s magazine recently released its “Who Earns What” issue. It included the annual incomes of the big five Canadian bank CEOs, ranging from $9.2 million to $12.6 million.

That’s a lot more than a heart surgeon ($500,000 in Ontario), a lot less than Justin Bieber ($55 million), and about the same as Sidney Crosby ($12 million).

Pretty impressive, eh? Some people might resent such hefty incomes for these titans of Canadian finance. I do not. These men (No women yet. Soon?) do ridiculously complicated and important jobs. Most of us can’t manage our own household finances, but these guys manage organizations with $800 billion in assets and 80,000 employees. As far as I’m concerned, they earn their dough.

But have they earned mine?

Now there’s a questions: which bank deserves my business?

Pal, if you’re like me (and I suspect everyone else), you are with your current bank by default. It was your parents’ bank. Or it was the closest. You didn’t really choose it.

So I decided to do a little experiment. If I were to choose a bank solely on the strength of what we see every day – that is, their advertising and corporate identities – which of the big five would I choose?

Like most people, I worry about money. I’m afraid I don’t make enough. I’m afraid I spend too much. I’m afraid there won’t be enough when I retire. I want a bank to convince me they can make it all better, and do so with minimal pain and effort. And, if that bank happens to make an interesting and noble contribution to Canadian society at the same time, all the better. I want a bank I can trust, a bank I can believe, a bank I can like.

So, with that in mind, which of these venerable institutions would have the honour of helping me manage my puny net worth and give this financial moron a shot at retiring before he’s 80?

Here’s how they rank, from worst to first:

5.  CIBC – For what matters

CIBC -- logo + slogan

With all due respect, CIBC, who are you trying to attract?

                         CIBCswitch_web1 cibc_chip

It’s all so bland and forgettable. I saw your latest TV ad. A desk flipped over (neat special effect, I suppose) and I was invited to “find my bundle”. These days, everything is bundled. I expect bundles. Big whoop.

And what’s with the logo? What are those two lines zooming towards the horizon? Is that the road my money travels as it moves ever farther away from me? Or is that my rapidly receding retirement?

And I really don’t know about that tagline: “For what matters”.

For what?

What matters?

What does it mean?

I’m not getting it.

At least you have the CIBC Run for the Cure…


…a great cause that is forever and deeply associated with the brand. But it’s not enough. I am poor and dumb with money – I need a bank to inspire me and make me believe they can make it all better!

CIBC, you give me no such confidence. The search continues…

4. RBC – Advice you can bank on


Well this is a little more interesting.


Who’s this fellow?


Turns out his name is Arbie and he was created to personify the biggest bank in the land and make it seem approachable and friendly. This makes RBC the only big five bank with a mascot.

Some have argued that if a bank wants to seem less stuffy, a fellow in a suit and a bowler hat is not the way to do it, but I like the little guy. I’d go to the movies with him.

Speaking of which, RBC sponsors the Toronto International Film Festival.


I like that! Very cool.

But I’m not so sure about that tagline – “Advice you can bank on”. A little too cute, if you ask me, with the double entendre. I want inspiration, RBC, not puns. I need to believe you can make my life better. This doesn’t do it.

Also, that logo makes me nervous: an enormous lion holding the entire world, like it’s about to devour it. I get it, RBC, you’re huge and powerful! You could gobble us all up anytime you felt like it. No need to rub my nose in it.

It’s clear that you need Arbie. Use him even more. Have him hugging Earth. Then maybe we’ll talk.

3. BMO – Making money make sense


Well what do we have here?

bmo-kids soccer

Kids playing soccer. I have kids. They play soccer. Now you’ve got me thinking about my kids. Good start, BMO!

Speaking of soccer, you’ve got the whole BMO Field and Toronto FC thing going on. That’s pretty cool. Mind you, I’ve never seen a Toronto FC game and I’m not that into soccer generally. This picture is awesome…

02_BMO-Scarve 0090 sel

…but is a little confusing because it’s all red and you’re supposed to be blue.

I do like the blue room commercials, where people magically step out of a real life setting, like a subway or a restaurant, into a super quiet blue room where a smiling financial advisor from BMO is waiting to sort out their money problems.

bmo-blue room

And “Making money make sense” sounds very good to me. That’s what I need! Plus I am a sucker for alliteration.

Your logo is a little flimsy-looking, but it’s fun with letters, and at least it’s not a planet-crushing carnivore.

Overall, not bad. But there are better…

2. Scotiabank – You’re richer than you think



Scotiabank. The bank that remains a word while all others have gone acronym; and the other bank ambitious enough to put the whole world in its logo, but at least you are generous enough to give it wings (or something like wings).

Truth is, Scotiabank, you had me at “richer”.

“You’re richer than you think”.

Take a moment to savour those beautiful words: yrtyt_en

My favourite tagline of all time.

Because it is so much more than a tagline: it is a vision statement – a joyful blast of hope and optimism made even better because it carries the ring of truth. Deep down I’ve always suspected that I shouldn’t really be living paycheque to paycheque. That my income is actually big enough and that my expenses are not really out of control. That I actually have everything I need – I just need someone to put it all in order and show me how to manage it.

Maybe, just maybe, I really am richer than I think. Thanks for helping me imagine the dream, Scotiabank.

And just look at those words in print – multi-coloured. Like a rainbow, the most famous symbol of hope and promise.

The exact right message, perfectly presented.

If that tagline were all you had, Scotiabank, it would be enough to put you high on this list.

But that’s not all! You are a big supporter of the arts, and not predictable, ordinary arts either.

You sponsor Nuit Blanche, an all-night, city-wide art show:

Nuit_blanche_toronto_city_hall_2009       scotia-nuit blanche

And Buskerfest:


You also support the Giller Prize, one of the country’s most important literary awards.

Yes, Scotiabank, you’re cool. Very cool. There is only one cooler…

1. TD – Banking can be this comfortable

TD - logo

TD. The green machine.

Just look at that logo – green and sturdy and proud. Rock solid.

“Banking can be this comfortable,” the tagline declares. And if you have any doubts, just look at that chair.


What a great chair. Scotiabank has you beat on the tagline, TD, but I like where you’re going with the symbol.

While RBC went with a mascot, you went with a chair – a clever, unique and memorable symbol of your promise to make my life easier. It shows confidence and class. I believe you really do possess the expertise to make financial planning a painless experience. I see your branches as cosy. Homey.

If I can’t be richer than I think, it’s nice to know I can be comfortable.

But beyond that, TD, you have a lot going for you.

You were the first bank bold enough to brand itself the pro-gay bank:

TD - pride chairTD-couple

Not only is that progressive, it’s smart; an excellent strategy to target a large and affluent segment of the market. I respect that move on every level.

TD is also the “green” bank, not just literally but figuratively, taking the lead on environmental causes through your Friends of the Environment initiative:


Very well done, TD.

But wait. There’s more. TD also has the TD Comfort Zone at the Rogers Centre:


I confess that I and three friends snuck into these seats during a Blue Jays game. We lasted about 30 seconds before we were booted back to our regular seats. But they were the greatest 30 seconds of live baseball I have ever experienced. Yes, those chairs are every bit as comfortable as promised.

And so, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, the green machine takes the prize. I like Arbie. I like kids playing soccer. I really like the idea that I am richer than I think. But more than anything else, I want to be comfortable. And I want to be comfortable with a bank that is cool, forward-thinking and progressive.

So, there you go, TD, you get the business. I’m all yours. Finances mystify me. Help me pull up a chair and let’s make it all better.

And, Pal, just so you know, it’s not like I’m looking for any compensation for this post. I did it for my own amusement and I was honest in my rankings. I certainly did not set out to create what now occurs to me is a nice little plug for TD.

So like I said, I’m not looking for any compensation.

But, hey, if TD is pleased with the outcome and if it should feel compelled to recognize its pleasure with a little token of appreciation, and it should choose to give me tickets to a Blue Jays game in the comfy chairs, I certainly wouldn’t object.

Just sayin’.

Later, Pal.


3 responses to “A little game of a rank-a-bank

  1. What about those two annoying old guys who can’t understand TD bank being open on weekends? Every time that ad came on, I immediately switched channels.

    (By the way, while you were creating this ranking, TD hit you with at least a $20 service charge. Check your statement to confirm – although checking your statement will result in another service charge.)

  2. I actually love the old guys – I only left them out of the post to save space.
    As for the service charges, well, all the more reason why they owe me Comfy Jays tix!

  3. Wrong! PC Financial is number one (via CIBC). No service charges. Decadent Chocolate Chips and Fudge Crackle Ice Cream.

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