190 years old, Scotiabank has worldwide reach

Posted on February 04, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments

When you use your Scotiabank card, do you ever wonder how this institution came to exist? Originally known as The Bank of Nova Scotia, Scotiabank has almost 200 years of history, dating back to the 1830s. What started as a solution for accessible banking has grown into Canada’s third largest bank, with impressive international operations. Now having over 25 million customers worldwide, it all started in Halifax, N.S.


An illustration of the John Romans’ Building, Scotiabank’s first location that opened on August 29, 1882. (photo credit: Scotiabank)


N.S.’s First Charter Bank

The Bank of Nova Scotia (now Scotiabank) was founded in Halifax, N.S., in 1832, becoming the province’s first commercial bank. Before Scotiabank, banks in the province were private, so becoming a client was a selective process. After a meeting to discuss the need for better access to banking, 184 business owners and citizens signed a petition for a public bank. On March 30, 1832 the government approved the proposal and it was incorporated. The Bank of Nova Scotia officially opened its doors in August, operating from the John Romans’ building.


A drawing of Scotiabank’s main office building in Halifax, built in 1931 by architect John M. Lyle, it’s still in operation today. (photo credit: Scotiabank)


Growing Beyond Home

Scotiabank had its share of challenges during early operations, including currency wars and heavy competition. Initial growth was slow and started in the Maritimes with new branches in N.S. and then expanded to New Brunswick in 1874. From there, nine more branches opened throughout N.B. and Scotiabank merged with the Union Bank of Prince Edward Island in 1883.

The bank’s first venture outside of the Maritimes was in Winnipeg, and then it shifted focus to the U.S., opening branches in Minneapolis and Chicago. Next, was a Canadian first. Scotiabank opened a branch in Jamaica in 1889, becoming the first Canadian bank to expand internationally aside from the U.S. or the U.K. In 1900, Scotiabank officially moved general offices to Toronto to aid with growth.


A Scotiabank ad from 1961 advertising their loan plan. (photo credit: Scotiabank)


Picking Up Speed

Scotiabank continued development internationally and throughout Canada at the beginning of the 20th century. They also made several acquisitions to accelerate growth, including The Bank of New Brunswick in 1913, The Metropolitan Bank in Toronto and The Bank of Ottawa in 1919. By 1923, Scotiabank had grown to 306 branches and $227.8 million in assets. Rapid expansion led to the construction of the now historic Hollis Street building in 1931, still Scotiabank’s main branch in Halifax.

Scotiabank found creative ways to build business outside of government investment after the war. They launched Scotia Plan in the ‘50s, a first of its kind loan program. Also, Scotiabank began investing in gold trading, a niche market.

Other notable acquisitions include McLeod Young Weir Ltd. in 1988 to grow in the stock brokerage market, Montreal Trust Company and National Trust Company in the ‘90s and ING Direct Canada in 2012 (now Tangerine Bank and operating as a separate entity).


A modern Scotiabank branch, the ‘S’ shape logo and name Scotiabank was officially adopted in 1975. (photo credit: The Globe and Mail)


21st Century Operations
Today, Scotiabank is the third largest bank in Canada with 92,000 employees, over 25 million customers and $31.3 billion revenue reported in 2020. Scotiabank remains a leader in trading precious metals, international operations and continues to expand.

With Atlantic Canadian roots, Scotiabank has grown worldwide.

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