August 13, 1997 In this article, the author outlines the recent changes made to the way Canada's bank notes are distributed. The new system allows financial institutions to exchange notes directly with one another at designated points across the country, rather than through Bank of Canada agencies, as was previously the case. The institutions communicate with the Bank of Canada through a computerized inventory-management system. Two Bank of Canada operations centres monitor note quality and supply new notes to the financial institutions. While the Bank continues to maintain firm control over the distribution of Canada's bank notes, the management of information rather than physical notes will improve efficiency and allow significant cost savings to the Bank of Canada and to the government.
May 14, 1997 Over the last 30 years, the business mix of banks in Canada has changed significantly. Progress in information-processing technology, legislative changes, and market forces have combined to blur the traditional distinctions between banks and other financial institutions and have allowed banks to offer a much wider range of products and services. In this article, the author reviews the expansion of bank lending to households over this period and their recent movement into personal wealth management. While these trends were facilitated by revisions to legislation, they also reflected the changing needs of the "baby boom" generation, first as home-buyers and, more recently, as middle-aged investors. On the commercial and corporate side, banks reacted to the rapid expansion of securities markets (and to the reduced demand for intermediation by both lenders/depositors and borrowers) by moving into investment banking, after legislative changes opened this business to them in the late 1980s. They also used their expertise in credit assessment and risk management to provide credit guarantees and to act as counterparties and intermediaries in derivatives markets. Notable in this broadening of bank activities has been their more recent entry into the trust, mutual fund, and retail brokerage business. The banks have also made preliminary forays into insurance. The expansion of off-balance-sheet activities has made fee income an increasingly important part of bank earnings. The article also looks at the emerging tools and techniques that will most likely transform the structure of banking in the future.