November 29, 2020

When visiting a Laurentian Bank, CIBC, Scotiabank or Canada Trust (TD bank) location, it’s not uncommon to notice fewer employees in the building. That’s because more banks across Canada have begun to introduce “cashless or tellerless” branches. These locations have less employees, no tellers to speak to and cash is only accessible via ATMs.

According to The Bank of Canada, the use of cash is on the decline, and since more people are switching to mobile banking, Canadian banks are “experimenting” with the removal of tellers at banks in order to “reduce cash handling costs.”

Michael Ugiomoh, a personal banking associate at a TD bank help and advice centre in Kitchener said, “For the younger generation it’s kind of easy for them to go through this change, but for the older generation there are kind of mixed feelings. They still need to interact with people, even though they can do it online.”

Help and advice centres are what TD bank calls their tellerless locations, and their website says they are not a regular branch and have no tellers, just financial specialists.

The location Ugiomoh works at has been open for just over a year, and he said the bank has received some complaints about a lack of human interaction. 

A Google review of that TD location from Chris Dubya reads, “Deserves a no star rating. What kind of “bank” doesn’t have tellers to assist with cash services…”

The idea of cashless banks originates from Sweden, with 55 per cent of their current bank branches being cashless, according to The Bank of Canada. Some of them don’t even have ATMs to withdraw any money. The term “cashless” is used more in Sweden for that reason, and “tellerless” is used more in Canada, although both countries are heading towards the same model.

“In five to ten years, yeah banks are going to look like this, tellerless, and everything is going to be done online. It’s the way the world is going right now, even grocery stores too with the self-checkouts,” said Ugiomoh.

Front door of the TD help and advice center in Kitchener, Ont., on Jan. 18, 2020 (Kirsten Kitto/ Spoke news)

According to Google maps, there are currently 16 help and advice TD bank locations across Canada that only offer cash through an ATM service. These branches have posters on the front doors notifying bankers “Cash available only at ATM.” 

As well, CIBC has about 185 tellerless branches, making up 18 per cent of CIBC branches in Canada in 2019, according to the same Bank of Canada paper.

So what does 2020 look like for the future of Canadian banking? Well, it’s still unknown.

There were an estimated 6.6 million mobile payment users in Canada in 2019 and 7.3 million in 2020, according to eMarketer, a digital marketing and advertising website.

But the Bank of Canada concluded, “Given that ATMs in Canada are multifunctional— providing a range of services to bank customers—the development of tellerless bank branches itself seems unlikely to have a significant adverse impact on cash demand in Canada.” 

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