No advisors affected in National Bank’s 600 staff cuts

By Katie Keir | October 27, 2016 | Last updated on December 6, 2023
4 min read

Like it or not, bank customers’ habits are changing: fewer are visiting branches and more are looking for digital services.

“We’re trying to adjust our talent pool to hire people with more of a digital-savvy profile,” says Claude Breton, National Bank’s vice-president of public affairs and investor relations, after the bank announced plans to cut 600 employees to make way for more sales, services and IT jobs.

In its release, the bank says it will take a restructuring charge of about $128 million after taxes in Q4.

“The Canadian economy is transforming, so that’s what we’re doing [as well],” Breton says, noting the bank started its restructuring process a year ago with 400 layoffs. Breton says 900 people are affected this time.

“Six hundred will be let go, and that will be done over 12 months. On top of that, [we] have 300 that will be reassigned into open positions that we have across the bank or offered faster retirement—and those are people that are very close to retirement,” he says. In total, the bank has 400 to 600 open positions for which the employees will be considered, he adds.

Asked whether any advisors would be cut in the process, Breton says, “No, not at all.”

This isn’t surprising, given the bank said in August 2016 that its 6% profit jump in Q3 was mainly due to the strength of its wealth management segment and its personal and commercial business. At that time, net income from wealth management was $80 million, up 5% from $76 million a year earlier.

Read: Amid rapid rise of fintech, consumers still need advice

“These cuts are broad-based and mainly touch administrative jobs—so, the type of job that you don’t need anymore or that you need less than before,” Breton says. He refers to back-office filing positions, for which the bank plans to use more digital solutions and tools.

“You don’t need that kind of expertise anymore,” Breton says. “We’re still hiring into sales and services. But there’s a lack of talent [in that area] in Canada, so that’s always a challenge. We’re also hiring IT and trading people.”

National Bank had 19,860 employees in Canada and 1,871 outside the country as of July 31, according to its most recent financial statement. In Canada, says Breton, 15,000 employees work in Quebec and they will be affected most, but the cuts will be “across all sectors and all provinces.”

Read: Top National Bank advisors move to Canaccord

The Canadian Press notes 50 people will be laid off per month over the next year, beginning November 1.

When asked if more cuts should be expected, Breton says: “We’re continuing down the path we started one year ago, but are good now until after 2017. It’s difficult to call for 2018 and 2019 because we will need to constantly adjust to [industry trends], but that’s it for the next 12 months.”

Industry transformation

National’s cuts are part of a broader trend for the industry as other banks look at restructuring in an accelerating digital environment.


Banks have been slow in responding to customers’ changing needs, says Paul Battista, EY’s financial services advisory leader. EY recently released its 2016 Consumer Banking Survey, which found nearly one third of Canadian consumers are less dependent on banks.

“If you think about what’s going on with retail banking, and what’s been going on for a while, customers expect that the organizations they deal with will know a lot about them and, as a result, will be able to customize services, offers and advice,” says Battista, who couldn’t comment directly on National Bank.

“Banks are facing a market threat and they’re all actively trying to address this. They’re transforming their businesses and operating models, and the old model has to change dramatically,” he says.

Read: Industry reacts to robos aligning with advisors

So what can you do to boost client service?

Says Battista, “The best banks and advisors know that you need to get a deep understanding of your customers’ needs […] Then, you understand how customers want to be served and what their expectations are.” And, you can develop products and services that meet those needs, he says.

Read: How to work with small investors

Today’s investors want to have more control over how and when they interact with their banks and advisors, and under what terms, he says. Battista suggests continuing to offer face-to-face meetings but also finding ways to incorporate digital tools and services that boost productivity.


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Katie Keir

Katie is special projects editor for and has worked with the team since 2010. In 2012, she was named Best New Journalist by the Canadian Business Media Awards. Reach her at