Investment industry not quite immune to crisis, but resilient

By James Langton | February 18, 2021 | Last updated on February 18, 2021
2 min read
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The investment industry mostly endured the effects of Covid-19 in 2020, according to an Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC) report, as revenues largely held up, firms mostly remained profitable and employment climbed.

The trade group reported that, in 2020, total industry revenues slipped from $33.2 billion in 2019 to $30.1 billion. The dip in revenues was largely driven by the plunge in interest rates.

With rates being slashed to near-zero in response to the pandemic, industry interest revenues dropped by almost half. In 2020, total interest revenues came in at $6.1 billion, down from $11.9 billion in 2019.

Yet, in most other areas, industry revenues either rose, or at least held steady, largely offsetting that weakness, the report showed.

Total industry commission revenues almost doubled, jumping from $2.1 billion in 2019 to over $4.0 billion last year.

Fee revenues (which excludes trailer fees and corporate advisory fees) climbed from $9.1 billion in 2019 to $9.9 billion in 2020.

Overall investment banking revenues rose from $3.1 billion to $3.54 billion in 2020, as both debt and equity underwriting increased amid a rise in financing activity.

Equity underwriting revenues jumped from just under $1.1 billion in 2019 to almost $1.4 billion, and debt underwriting edged up from just under $900 million to $1.1 billion in 2020.

Mutual fund revenues and fixed-income trading revenues were both essentially flat in 2020.

On the cost side, operating expenses climbed from $9.5 billion to $9.95 billion in 2020.

Ultimately, the vast majority of firms (83%) finished the year in the black. The IIAC reported that just 29 of 170 industry firms recorded losses for 2020.

As well, industry employment rose from 43,356 before the pandemic hit to 44,529 by the end of the year.

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James Langton

James is a senior reporter for and its sister publication, Investment Executive. He has been reporting on regulation, securities law, industry news and more since 1994.