Yonge + St. Clair
October 4, 2016
Canada’s first Mobile Bank was born at Yonge + St. Clair
We sat down to talk about EQ Bank, the rise of mobile in Canadian banking, and his feelings about Yonge + St. Clair. Andrew Moor joined the company in March of 2007 and in his tenure has seen the assets under Equitable grow to $14.4 billion, establishing Equitable as a major participant in Canadian banking.
What sets Equitable and EQ Bank apart from other banks?
We’re what you’d typically call a challenger bank, or a bank with no branches. Equitable is the 9th largest bank in Canada, but we operate entirely through digital and brokers, with the majority of our employees working out of the Yonge + St. Clair office.
What effect has smart phones had on the banking industry?
It has had a massive effect. EQ Bank is the first bank in Canada that was born in a mobile world, and the traditional set up of even online banking – sitting at your computer – is no longer the climate. Everything is moving towards becoming more phone-enabled; being able to sign up for an account, manage and monitor transactions, depositing cheques remotely, and EQ Bank was founded with mobile banking in mind.
Although, there are limitations with digital banking – you can’t write cheques or receive paper statements, but it’s a step towards the future and thinking about banking in a new way.
Mobile is the wave of the future.
How does going mobile from the beginning separate you from the big banks?
With EQ Bank having a much smaller rental footprint, none of those street front location costs play a factor and it allows us to do things like offer the highest savings account interest rate in the country, or avoid charging fees for e-transfers – we even allow our customers to pay their bills through their saving accounts.
We have a great situation at Yonge + St. Clair, as we can run our entire bank from floors 3 through 8 at 30 St. Clair West. When you think about the cost that the big banks have to bear with having all those branches, with the advertising positioned as “come on in and we’ll take care of you.” It’s enormously expensive to deliver good service without either the product suffering, or the customer paying for it in some way.
So does this mean that EQ Bank doesn’t offer chequing accounts?
The one big thing we do that is unique in the Canadian marketplace is that your payroll can come into your savings account with a 2.0% interest rate on it, and you can pay your bills and send money to your friends directly out of that same savings account.
Most other banks require you to move money between savings and chequing accounts, but why is that? Our worldview on the matter is that fewer and fewer Canadians write cheques so it doesn’t make sense for most to have two accounts.
We’re trying to change that view of how banking should work.
You’ve mentioned the 2.0% interest rate from your Savings Plus account. EQ Bank generated a ton of buzz when it released that account last year. How has the reaction to this savings account educated Equitable about Canadians and their finances?
What it showed you is that Canadians are not necessarily satisfied with the options provided by the big banks and they’re prepared to try something new. We certainly hoped that would be the case when we launched the digital bank, but it turned out that Canadians were really looking for better solutions.
I recall reading that EQ Bank had to establish a weekly cap to the number of accounts it could open when it launched due to demand, is that still happening?
That was such a strange thing to happen – who has ever heard of a queue to sign up for a bank account? We did indeed have to set up a digital line-up to deal with demand at the time, but today anyone can visit our website and sign up.
What’s next for EQ Bank?
We’ve really only taken the first step in what’s going to be a long journey. Our goal is to become the bank that is widely regarded in Canada for offering the very best product and service to Canadians. It’s a pretty lofty goal, but we think we’ve got some great infrastructure to do that – we’re built on a great technology platform and have wonderful people that are committed to that cause.
In the next few years we want to keep on delivering new products and services that make sense for everybody, and work towards being known as a safe, simple, and trustworthy bank.
Any tips or advice for young Canadians just starting out on their financial journey?
Shop around. Don’t just walk into your parent’s bank branch and think that they will have all the answers for you. Go and compare and see if there are better answers out there. I really do think that a majority of Canadians are too complacent about their banking, but like buying anything else, you have to shop around and see what the best option is for you.
What drew Equitable to establish their Corporate Office at Yonge + St. Clair?
We’ve actually been here since 1992 and what drew Equitable to establish their office here was because many of our customers on the savings and GIC side were thought to live in midtown, so it was an effort to be more convenient to the customer.
We actually just renewed our lease at 30 St. Clair West as we really do enjoy the area; it has great transit connections, it’s a good location for employees that live uptown and downtown to commute to, and it’s a place that has its own unique feel. It’s not lost in the canyons of downtown Toronto, with a very unique neighbourhood character to it. It’s kind of cool in some ways.
You also have a lot of other facilities around here like the Goodlife Fitness, Moksha Yoga, and many other things that people want. Yonge + St. Clair has everything we need without being swallowed up in the downtown noise.
What’s your favourite lunch spot in the area?
Capocaccia for sure. Go down and see Sal at Capocaccia, he’ll look after you. [laughs]
[Laughs] Thanks Andrew.