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Can Canada’s banks seize their chance?

The credit crisis has left the country’s banks relatively unscathed, and regulators around the world want to find out why. But is a conservative culture stopping local players achieving their global potential? Helen Avery investigates.

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THERE HAS BEEN a growing sense of pride among Canadians over the past 12 months, and rightly so. Since the beginning of the global financial crisis, not one Canadian bank has had to be bailed out – indeed, the majority have remained profitable.

Recognition of the country’s success in averting a financial mess similar to those witnessed elsewhere has been growing. In October last year, the World Economic Forum ranked Canada as the world’s soundest banking system, with executives rating the country’s banks 6.8 out of 7 on a scale of insolvent to healthy. And the latest accolade has come from US president Barack Obama himself, who hinted that elements of the Canadian banking model might be emulated in the US.

Timothy Thompson, head of investor relations at TD Bank, says: "Some Canadians love to hate their banks, and for years banks have been perceived negatively by the public and media. That sentiment has now changed. There has been more support and some pride in the Canadian banking system over the last nine months."

National pride aside, there are valuable lessons to be learned from Canada’s banking regime.