Brokers question banks’ refusal to match overnight rate

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One big bank has offered an explanation for why its prime rate doesn’t match the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate, but brokers aren’t exactly sold.

“For years it was always if the Bank of Canada drops its rate by a quarter point, you’d see prime drop by a quarter point, but I think it really caught everyone by surprise that they actually dropped it because there was talk for the past year that the rate was going to go up and prime was going to increase,” Al Roberts of Dominion Lending Centres The Roberts Group told

The Bank of Canada lowered its overnight rate by 25 basis points last week and the banks have all lowered their prime rates by 15 basis points. It took the banks almost a week after the central bank lowered its overnight rate to slash their own prime rates.

According to one analyst, the decision not to match the overnight rate was done to ensure a healthy economy.

“The absence of a full prime cut slows the stimulus into the housing market late in the cycle while the negative impact on Canadian bank profitability is dulled by the fact that it is only a partial move,” Robert Sedran, analyst at CIBC World Markets said in a note to clients, according to the Financial Post. “We’ll see if this balance holds or if another cut in the overnight rate is coming.”

The delay – and the refusal to match the benchmark rate – is viewed by some as a bid to maintain the highest possible profits.

Others, however, think it’s a subtle push-back by the banks that were caught off guard by a central bank that unexpectedly slashed its rate – a move that caught many, including most Canadian economists, off guard.

“On the one hand they’re milking (clients) on the other hand they have never seen this situation before; they were caught by surprise by the bank lowering its rate and them refusing to match it could be a case of the banks pushing back a bit,” Micheal Kafenzakis of Verico Groupe Conseil Hypotheque told “In my forty years of experience, usually when the government drops their rate the banks follow. I suspect in the months ahead, they’ll come around and bring their rates down (to match the Bank of Canada rate). Otherwise they’re just gouging.”

  • Broker Advisor on 2015-01-30 11:30:34 AM

    My advice to Brokers is to stop putting fuel to the fire. We have to realize that the one's with the money have all the say, unfortunately that would be the BIG 5! The more we disagree, the more we put another dagger into our hearts, just a thought.

  • len lane on 2015-01-30 11:34:43 AM

    I would more question the 5 yr rates, banks spread even at 2.79 is almost 2% which isabove the so called comfort zone. As another article pointed out 5yr rates should be at about 2.25% fixed.

  • James - Sub Broker on 2015-01-30 12:13:43 PM

    I am really surprised to hear the suggestion that we as professionals stop putting fuel to the fire that is against the grain of big bank profitability.
    I am not against the idea of profitability, but I am against greediness.
    We are not only here to transact, we are also here to work on behalf of the client and all Canadians.

  • janette on 2015-01-30 1:27:36 PM

    I am agree with James and Len.
    The banks are being 100 percent greedy.
    When the bank of Canada raises the rates it
    is instantly passed on to the consumer. The
    banks are making more money then ever.
    The economy moves better when the consumer has a larger cash flow and for those who are frugal the reduction of debt. I don't under how the banks and oil companies can get away with not passing on the savings and can instantly increase when things are in reverse. CANADIANS need to stop being so PASSIVE. Lets make the Banks and Oil companies accountable.

  • Fomer Banker on 2015-01-30 4:44:39 PM

    I think it was about 5 or 6 years ago ( Not certain on the date), the Banks did the same thing. The BOC dropped their rate by .50 points and the Major banks only responded with a .25% drop. They have since kept that spread and now are increasing that spread again.

  • len lane on 2015-01-30 4:54:46 PM

    As Mr Oliver said this week, they are free enterprise and what they decide to do is entirely up to them. As I tell my clients, the banks aren't your friends, just try missing a couple of payments and see how friendly they are :)

  • Keith on 2015-01-30 4:58:34 PM

    lets be reasonable. the LIBOR cost is what the banks are facing, their borrowing cost has very little to do with the BOC rate, that was abundantly clear in 08 and why the variable discounts aren't P-.85 any more....

  • len lane on 2015-01-30 5:10:22 PM

    true there is a lot more to it than just the one factor, but variable are getting very close to it. .80 in a couple cases this morning.

  • Ex Banker on 2015-01-31 8:47:10 AM

    As a former banker I can only say that those who deal only in mortgages face different issues than banks who have to be concerned about a lot more factors, defaults on loans, fraud, premises costs, salaries versus commission based payouts, and on and on. Perhaps brokers are concerned they might still lose mortgage business to banks so they have to make them the heavy in their articles.

  • John on 2015-02-02 1:46:05 AM

    The Bank of Canada lowered the rate to stimulate the economy. The Big 5 don't care about that. Their agenda is to maintain a healthy profit so they kept a bit of that rate decrease for themselves. Similar to when the US Fed increased the liquidity hoping the banks would lend to small businesses but instead they invested the money and made a bundle for themselves. This is just how the banking world works.

  • Ex Banker on 2015-02-02 9:24:25 AM

    You have your view John as perceptually misguided as it may be. So guess we will just have to agree to disagree and you can go on feeding the profit envy in your soul.

  • John on 2015-02-02 3:02:45 PM

    Why would anyone expect the banks to put our interests before theirs? We didn't hire the CEO. The CEO has no duty of care to us. He is working for the shareholders. He needs to make money for the shareholders so he can collect his bonuses. Simple economic incentive.

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