CIBC CEO heeds caution on technology amid cyberthreats, bullish on U.S.

TORONTO — Adopting technology too fast can create more risks amid a growing cybersecurity threat for the financial system as a whole, said the Canadian Imperial Bank Of Commerce’s chief executive.

CEO Victor Dodig made the comments Wednesday during a presentation to investors when asked about potential risks as the bank targets between five to 10 per cent earnings growth over the next three years, fuelled by its U.S. business.

“If any particular institution is affected, the entire system gets affected,” Dodig said.

“We have to work as a unified voice, and a unified industry to make sure that we are investing for cybersecurity and resilience of the Canadian system… and the U.S. system and the global financial system overall. That’s something that we all need to be mindful of,” he told investors.

“So as new technologies come in, adopting too fast can create more risks.”

His comments come days after Canada’s privacy commissioner opened a formal investigation into a large data breach that ride-sharing company Uber publicly disclosed in November that may have impacted 815,000 Canadian riders and drivers. The privacy watchdog continues to probe a data breach earlier this year at credit company Equifax that impacted 145 million Americans and about 19,000 Canadians and, in some cases, included credit card information.

Dodig’s concerns also come as Canada’s fifth-largest bank was bullish on its earnings growth ahead on the back of the acquisition of Chicago-based PrivateBancorp for roughly US$5 billion in June.

Dodig estimated that its U.S. business would account for 17 per cent of its earnings by 2020. That’s up from six per cent in 2015 and nine per cent this year, Dodig added, and in line with CIBC’s previously stated target of generating roughly 25 per cent of its earnings south of the border in the long term.

CIBC’s latest quarterly earnings got a 25 per cent bump to $1.16 billion, helped by the first full quarter since the acquisition.

“One of the risks that we faced as an institution was we had a high reliance on one market for our business,” he told investors. “And we told you three years ago that we’re going to diversify away from that. We’re diversifying into a market that’s also deposit rich.”

Dodig also said he expects that growth to be largely organic and the bank is not looking at any other major acquisitions.

Meanwhile, CIBC (TSX:CM) also said it is considering a U.S. stock listing for its Caribbean bank subsidiary.

Dodig told investors said no decision has been made, but a U.S. listing would provide FirstCaribbean International Bank access to a larger investor base, enhanced liquidity and greater access to capital to support long-term growth.

“We look at various options for our bank in the Caribbean, including listing some of those shares in New York, as a way of tapping into the deepest capital pool. Because it is already a listed company,” he said.

FirstCaribbean was formed in 2002 when CIBC West Indies Holdings and Barclays Bank PLC Caribbean operations merged. CIBC acquired Barclays’s stake in 2006 and became the majority shareholder.

Based in Barbados, FirstCaribbean has over 2,700 staff and operates in 17 countries. It has stock market listings in Barbados and other small markets in the region.

Dodig said FCIB is “performing very, very well even though it’s (going through) incredible natural hardships, particularly over the last little while.”

He added that a U.S. listing for FCIB is one of the options under consideration to recognize its value, as CIBC aims to grow its dividends “sensibly” and remain near the midrange of its the dividend payout ratio.

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