Laurentian slashing Toronto office space, bucks banking trend

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Laurentian Bank of Canada is slashing its Toronto office space by two-thirds as it leans into a hybrid work model and seeks cost savings amid a broader strategic revamp.

The lender recorded charges of $13.2 million in the fiscal second quarter “mainly related to the impairment of its premises,” it said in a statement Friday. The reductions wouldn’t affect Laurentian’s Montreal headquarters, corporate offices in Burlington, Ontario, or network of retail bank branches, the company said.

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Laurentian has about 1,000 employees in Toronto and currently leases three floors at 199 Bay St., the Commerce Court office tower that formerly housed Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s headquarters.

“We operate on a hybrid work approach,” Laurentian Bank spokesperson Merick Seguin said in an email. “Our Bay Street offices are being used at 20 per cent, so we’ll have plenty of space to accommodate our employees who commute downtown to complete their daily tasks.”

The bank’s approach stands in contrast to Wall Street firms that made an early push to bring staff back to the office, with JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief executive Jamie Dimon and Morgan Stanley Chairman James Gorman among remote work’s most vocal critics. The effort renewed recently as Citigroup Inc., HSBC Holdings PLC and Barclays PLC ordered more staffers to report to company offices five days a week as U.S. regulatory changes make it trickier for the finance industry to allow working from home.

Laurentian’s shares fell 5.6 per cent to $25.19 at 11:24 a.m. in Toronto after reporting a net loss of $117.5 million for the three months through April. The bank earned 90 cents a share on an adjusted basis in the quarter, higher than the 88-cent average forecast in a Bloomberg survey. But results were affected by impairment and restructuring charges of $196.8 million, including the charges related to office space.

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The company — the eighth-largest bank in Canada — is holding an investor day Friday afternoon to unveil a new strategic direction. The bank has conducted two recent rounds of job cuts, including eliminating close to 50 roles and doing away with its equity research team earlier this month, as it tries to simplify its business.

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Last year the bank failed to find a buyer after putting itself up for sale, and later replaced CEO Rania Llewellyn — the first woman to lead a major domestic bank in Canada — following a days-long mainframe outage, which affected customer deposits, bill payments and other services.

With assistance from Sally Bakewell.

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