Scotiabank was one of two banks to report that it is in a better financial position now than before Covid-19 became widespread in Canada.
Scotiabank said on Tuesday that it had a profit of $2.4 billion or $1.86 per diluted share in the three months ending Jan. 31, up from nearly $2.33 billion or $1.84 per share in the same period last year.
Although the novel coronavirus was identified in Canada in late January last year and sent the economy into a downturn by March, Scotiabank executives said that Canadian and international banking “showed marked improvement” by this winter.
“Economic conditions continue to improve across our Americas footprint,” said Scotiabank chief executive Brian Porter on a conference call with analysts.
Economic growth forecasts have been revised higher, which bodes very well for the outlook, he added.
Provisions for credit losses for the quarter amounted to $764 million, down from $926 million a year ago.
Daniel Moore, the bank’s chief risk officer, said the bank is pleased with its allowances for credit losses.
“In fact, we’re more confident than we have been — more confident than ever — about the adequacy of our reserves, and the potential for future allowance releases going forward.”
Scotiabank’s results were better than analysts expected. The bank said it earned $1.88 per diluted share on an adjusted basis, up from $1.83 per diluted share in the same quarter last year.
Revenue totalled $8.07 billion, down from $8.14 billion.
Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of $1.57 per share on $7.74 billion of revenues, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.
Moore told analysts that he did not expect delayed losses to rear their head at Scotiabank next year.
“I think the bottom line is that our customer assistance programs did their job,” said Moore, pointing to very few accounts remaining in deferral.
“We are seeing our customers get back on their feet. Customer balance sheets are stronger than ever and we’ve seen an increase in their deposit balances.”
In its Canadian banking business, Scotiabank said it saw a 7% year-over-year increase in residential mortgages. Meanwhile, the global wealth management business saw revenue rise 20% amid higher brokerage fees from elevated iTrade volumes. The bank also noted that the number of active mobile users on its apps has grown more than 70% since 2018.
But the executives did face questions about the international banking business, where profits declined from this time last year. Ignacio Deschamps, the head of the international banking group, said that while lockdowns were tighter in regions like Peru, it is expected to have a strong rebound. Meanwhile, Chile is among the leading countries in rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine, said Deschamps.
Porter said that as the company looks to the future, Scotiabank’s presence in a wide range of markets will be key.
“We look forward to increased flexibility in the future, including share buybacks. The power of diversification in deriving these results cannot be overstated,” said Porter.
“As a leading bank in the Americas, we are highly diversified with four major business lines across six core markets. Our diversification and competitive strength provides stability during times of economic stress, and is now showing us earnings power during economic recovery. “
Scotiabank shares gained $2.30 or 3.2% at $74.38 in early afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.