April 10, 2018 / 1:42 PM / a year ago

Scotiabank CEO optimistic NAFTA deal will be reached

TORONTO (Reuters) - Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) Chief Executive Officer Brian Porter said on Tuesday the bank was optimistic a deal will be reached to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

FILE PHOTO: A Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank) sign is seen outside of a branch in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The United States, Canada and Mexico have been in talks for more than eight months to update NAFTA after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to abandon the pact unless it was reformed to his liking.

“As a strong proponent of the agreement, we will continue to do what we can to promote its merits, and we remain optimistic that an agreement will be reached in the near future,” Porter told shareholders at the bank’s annual meeting.

Scotiabank, Canada’s third biggest lender, has substantial operations in Mexico and Porter said it had been working with governments and businesses in both countries to promote a deal.

“The bank has been involved in discussions with Canadian and Mexican government officials. We have also helped to facilitate a number of meetings between private and public sector leaders in Canada and Mexico,” he said.

Scotiabank also announced a plan to invest C$250 million ($198 million) over the next ten years in retraining staff. Banks are responding to customers choosing to bank online or via mobile apps rather than in branches.

Despite that, Porter told reporters after the meeting that Scotiabank was not planning large-scale cuts to its network of 963 branches in Canada. Last year Scotiabank had a net reduction of 16 branches in its home market.

“I expect you’ll see a similar number this year. The utility of the branch is changing but branches are still important,” Porter said.

Canada’s financial watchdog last month published an industry wide review into sales practices at Canada’s six biggest banks and said it is investigating potential breaches of market conduct obligations by some banks.

Porter said Scotiabank had already made changes to some of its practices and was waiting to receive its individual report from the FCAC which he expected in the next four to six weeks.

Porter said he was not aware of Scotiabank being a subject of the investigation into market conduct obligations.

“I haven’t been notified of that by the FCAC,” he said. “I’ll wait until we get our report and go through it with them.”

Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Alistair Bell

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