(Adds comments from bank executives, investor rights group)
* Scotiabank had 8 complaints about sales practices in 2016
* Scotiabank says it scrutinized practices after Wells Fargo
* BMO CEO says no evidence of increased customer
* Investor group asks securities regulators to review banks
By Matt Scuffham and Solarina Ho
TORONTO, April 4 Bank of Nova Scotia
and Bank of Montreal, two of Canada's biggest banks, on
Tuesday defended their sales practices after media reports that
staffers were pressured to meet targets.
Canada's financial watchdog is investigating sales practices
at the country's banks and expects to conclude its investigation
by the end of the year.
The probe follows media reports that staff at the country's
biggest banks were pressured into meeting sales targets by
moving customers to higher-fee accounts and raising credit card
and overdraft limits, both without customers' permission.
Scotiabank Chief Executive Brian Porter told shareholders at
the bank's annual meeting on Tuesday that he believed the bank's
sales practices were "very sound".
"We have over 8 million customers in Canada, we did over 400
million transactions last year and we had only eight customer
complaints about sales practices," he said.
Scotiabank Chairman Thomas O'Neill told the meeting the bank
had already been paying greater attention to its sales practices
after U.S. bank Wells Fargo & Co agreed to a $185
million settlement with regulators last year following
allegations its staff opened unauthorized customer accounts.
O'Neill said attention on the issue was heightened further
following the recent media reports in Canada and the board spent
an hour reviewing the topic at a meeting on Monday.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, James O'Sullivan,
Scotiabank's group head, Canadian banking, said the bank was
sifting through customer data to assess its sales practices.
"Since the Wells Fargo issue, we've been looking at it very,
very deeply," he said. "Our sales practices are sound. That is
not opinion. That's a reasoned conclusion based on the
information and the data that we have."
Speaking to shareholders at Bank of Montreal's annual
meeting on Tuesday, Chief Executive Bill Downe said he had a
"high degree of confidence" in the bank's staff and believed the
bank had good practices with regard to sales.
"With respect to our bankers, I have confidence that they
know we're not in business to push products. We guide our
customers in picking services that best meet their needs."
Downe said the bank had been reviewing its procedures since
"We track incidents of customer or employee dissatisfaction
and I've seen no movement in the numbers in the most recent
period," he said.
Fair Canada, a group advocating for investor rights, on
Tuesday called on the Canadian Securities Administrators, an
umbrella body of all of Canada's provincial securities
regulators, to address the recent reports.
(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and