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Nov 28, 2018

Scotiabank CEO unfazed by tumbling crude, credit concerns

Scotiabank CEO unfazed by tumbling crude, credit concerns

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The chief executive of Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada’s biggest lender to oil and gas companies, says the bank is ready for whatever comes next in the country’s energy sector.

“Our exposure to companies that are non-investment grade, that would have exposure to Western Canadian Select, for this bank is about $144 million, which is not material and very easily managed,” Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Wednesday, when asked about the bank’s exposure to the current steep discount on Canadian crude.

Porter pointed to his bank’s past experience weathering the 2016 oil price collapse as proof that it’s ready for the worst.

“You have to be careful,” he said. “We went through [it] in 2016 when oil prices dipped down to US$30. People said: ‘Oh, you had the largest exposure.’ It was to the energy complex, which includes upstream, downstream, midstream, refineries, etc. and it was 70 per cent investment grade at the time.”



“Quality matters, in any business. Our credit performance throughout that cycle was first or second-best among our peer group.”

The bank reported record fourth-quarter earnings from international banking on Tuesday, helped in large part by its push into the Latin American market.

Porter said the region is incorrectly labelled as an emerging market in its entirety due to instability in countries like Venezuela and Argentina.

“If you look at Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia – that’s an economic bloc called the Pacific Alliance. It’s 228 million people,” Porter said. “If you look at that, that’s six times the population of Canada, and we’re the fourth largest bank in the region.”

Porter said 2019 will be a year “all about integration” between these operations and the bank’s Canadian business, and said Scotiabank will continue to be “credit-focused” despite concerns over a potential deterioration in global credit quality.

“I think there’s still a lot of scar tissue out there among market participants and analysts going back to 2008,” Porter said. “I think the sentiment has become a little bit too negative in the last quarter or two.

“We’ve always been a credit-focused bank and we’ll continue to be focused … We run the bank on the basis of being downturn-ready. So, we’re not stretching for business.”