A new study from the Bank of Canada suggests the Canadian banks that make up the largest share of the country’s savings pool are also the ones that have the highest interest rates.
The research found that the top 10 banks in the country each pay about $3.5 billion in interest, with a median payment of $2,000.
Bank of Montreal’s average interest rate for the five-year period ending in March 2018 was 4.33 per cent, followed by Royal Bank of Scotland’s 3.56 per cent and TD Bank’s 3 per cent.
BMO’s average rate was 3.8 per cent for the period.
“The banks that have more exposure to risk are those that have higher rates, and that is a concern,” said Peter Reuter, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
“But what we have to do is look at how we are able to diversify, so we don’t go back to the status quo.”
Bank of America, which had the second highest average interest rates among the top 20 banks in Canada in the same period, paid just $1,800 per year for the same five-years period, the Bank noted.
The median interest rate was 5.2 per cent across all banks in that period.
That compares to the average of 3.2 to 4.5 per cent in the S&P 500 index, which has been hovering around the 2 per cent mark for several years.
TD Bank had the third-highest average interest of $1.8 million, while BMO paid the third lowest average of $719, and Bank of Nova Scotia, the fourth-lowest average of about $2.7 million.
“I think it’s a little surprising, given the size of the banks that are involved in the economy, that they have the average interest,” said Paul Reuter.
“There’s some very good news in there.”
Bank officials declined to say how much they were paying to their regulators and how many people they were working with on their regulatory compliance.
But, they said, it is part of their “regular” business.
Reuter said that even though the average rates for the banks are lower than they were a year ago, the bank’s average monthly balance is still higher than the national average.
“This is the second year in a row we’ve had this type of trend.
That’s a concern for us,” he said.
“We have to be able to manage the risk that we’re taking, and the amount of risk we’re willing to take.”
The Bank of England’s benchmark interest rate is currently 1.75 per cent with the lowest rate of all of the major central banks.
The Bank also released its annual survey of the financial industry on Wednesday, which found that bank profits rose by almost 9 per cent year-over-year in 2018.
The bank said it expects the same trend to continue.
“It’s good news for the broader economy, but there is a clear need for banks to be a little more proactive in their risk management,” said BMO vice-president for research and analysis John Riehl.
“Banks have a lot of responsibility to their customers, including on the margin.
They also have a responsibility to shareholders.”
Bank shares fell 2.6 per cent on the news, falling 2.9 per cent from their record high on Feb. 18.
The S&s stocks index was little changed at 2,979.10.
The TSX composite index fell 2 per.cent, while the Canadian dollar was up 1.9 cents at 106.95 cents US.