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June 09, 2008

Hiding Behind Initials

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Yes, it seems to be happening everywhere and has been happening for a long time.

But I was reminded of the phenomenon last week when we visited Victoria, British Columbia and went looking for an ATM to get some Canadian money.

Canada used to have five or so major banks whose names were familiar even to Yanks such as me who occasionally wandered north of the line. Instead of those grand old names, what did I see on bank buildings but

  • BMO
  • CIBC
  • HSBC
  • RBC
  • TD

Plus, there was something called "Scotiabank."

To be fair, the "BMO" was followed by a small logo and the familiar words "Bank of Montreal." That was helpful, so I used their ATM. And Scotiabank isn't terribly far removed from Bank of Nova Scotia.

HSBC stands for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Company which wasn't one of the big five Canadian banks, but now is fairly strong in British Columbia perhaps because of the many Hong Kong residents who moved to Canada when the Sino-British treaty expired.

As for the others. CIBC was Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, RBC was Royal Bank of Canada and TD was Toronto Dominion Bank. RBC still uses the words "Royal Bank" but I don't recall seeing them on the building signs (correct me if I mis-remembered).

I'm pretty sure most Canadians know perfectly well what all those initials stand for. And I imagine that tourists with little experience in Canada have no idea what they mean.

[Puts on just-for-fun conspiracy hat]

Could it be that those Canadian banks are trying to hide something? Secrets from the dark days before the country became a paradise of political correctness? Let us delve.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce -- Clearly a double-whammy of evil!! I'm all but certain that those imperialist lackeys of capitalism and trade were also white males; how could they be otherwise?

Toronto Dominion Bank -- The cowardly behind-initials-hiding scum at least recognize that Canada finally threw off the chains of empire to become a shining Trudeaupia [thanks for that word, Mark Steyn]. Nevertheless, could that "D" be nothing but a fig-leaf waiting to be peeled off when the forces of reaction opt to rejoin the empire and restore the hated Red Ensign to the flagpoles of Canada?

Royal Bank of Canada -- Well. That tells us all we need to know. The hand on the lever behind the curtain has been revealed!



posted by Donald at June 9, 2008


That's not as bad as that soon to be bought out "crying cow" bank, aka WahMoo, er WaMu.

Posted by: AP on June 9, 2008 6:38 PM

Sounds like either you've been drinking highly caffeinated coffee or the extra kick in Canadian beer has kicked in the paranoia.

Stop by in Ohio to see Fifth Third Street Bank and continue your bank rant all the way through Pittsurgh (PNC Bank) and...

Posted by: DarkoV on June 9, 2008 10:29 PM

Seems to me time to shamelessly promote one of my old posts:

Posted by: Thursday on June 10, 2008 12:47 AM

The saddest sight in the world to my eyes is the view of the Bund in Shanghai from the Pudong area. They sit on the opposite sides of the Huangpu river.

On the Bund side is a concentration of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen. All decorative western-style buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century. All of them are a reminder that the west was so much stronger in the past when it had confidence and didn't cringe in embarrassment at being better than the rest of the world (at commerce, architecture and in military power).

Today we're more enlightened; the HSBC building isn't owned by HSBC (that might be "colonialism") and our rulers have horrible taste in architecture, don't much care for our military or the caste that runs and serves in it and are pretty wary of commerce unless it's under their control.

On the other side of the river is a collection of modernist buildings which, while not actively ugly, are a gaudy cartoon compared to the graceful beauty on the other side of the river.

Western decline and a rising China all in one square mile.

At least our priestly class of university professors and journalists got to stick it to their class enemies. Great.

Posted by: Steve Johnson on June 10, 2008 12:58 AM

You're on to something. I never really looked it at that way and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Posted by: Marc on June 10, 2008 2:08 AM

HSBC used to be referred to as "Honkers and Shaggers", which isn't the epitome of PC.

Posted by: dearieme on June 10, 2008 9:37 AM

I think the reason for the omnipresence of these Canadian banks' abbreviations, is that these initials figure prominently in their URLs - I believe 'BMO' originally stood for 'Bank of Montreal On-line', but now has morphed into the common initials of the banks itself, as a whole, not just its online presence. Now there's a paranoid conspiracy theory for ya! :)

Posted by: Will S. on June 10, 2008 12:06 PM


I seem to remember that these acronyms only really began to be promoted when our banks started reaching down into the USA for clients. They probably thought that TD Waterhouse would be looked upon more kindly--or at least more neutrally--than Toronto-Dominion Waterhouse. Ditto for the other trigger words you mentioned... "Royal", "Imperial" and, of course, "Canada", in these days of anti-Canuckistanism and all...

Posted by: Alex on June 10, 2008 2:29 PM

Well, Alex, why not exploit the most positive of all Canadian images? I give you "The Mountie Bank".

Posted by: dearieme on June 10, 2008 5:45 PM

Alex is correct. When the banks starting moving into international markets, they started to de-emphasize the "Canada" in their names by using acronyms.

Posted by: gunther on June 10, 2008 9:42 PM

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