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Scotiabank’s $10.7 Billion Tech Spend Is Paying Off in Pandemic

Doug Alexander

(Bloomberg) -- Bank of Nova Scotia’s C$15 billion ($10.7 billion) of technology spending over the past five years is paying off during the coronavirus pandemic.

The investment has allowed 60% of Scotiabank’s roughly 100,000 employees to work from home, Chief Executive Officer Brian Porter said Tuesday at the bank’s annual investors meeting. That mobilization, along with what Porter has called “great stability” in the lender’s operating systems, has let Scotiabank continue serving customers around the world through the disruptions.

“To date, tens of thousands of employees have been mobilized to work from home and provide seamless operations almost overnight,” Porter said at the meeting.

Such capabilities have allowed the Toronto-based bank to reach people via their phones or at home quickly and easily, Porter said. “We are using our digital capabilities to rapidly develop solutions for our customers, particularly credit relief.”

Banks have been adjusting their operations for weeks amid coronavirus shutdowns around the world, expanding work-from-home policies, enforcing social distancing within offices, reducing branch hours and ramping up digital banking efforts.

For Scotiabank, whose operations span about 30 countries in regions including Latin America and the Caribbean, this is not business as usual.

“We have reconfigured work spaces including installing plexiglass screens at our branches,” Porter, 62, said. “We are regularly updating our employees with relevant communications on all aspects of Covid-19. We are also hosting employee calls with nurses and our chief medical officer, so they can have their questions addressed.”

The bank has offered additional paid leave, emergency paid leave and special payments to employees still working at branches or offices.

Porter also highlighted the “impressive” collaboration within Canada between government, policymakers and the banking regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, to help protect the economy from the worst impacts of the pandemic.

“Canada is unique in that our leading banks, regulators, and government officials can work quickly and collaboratively to develop solutions,” he said. “The cooperation and coordination we have seen with the federal Ministry of Finance and other ministries, as well as provincial governments, the Bank of Canada, and OSFI has been impressive.”

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