Canada’s big five banks continue to post record profits and the pressure to achieve ever-increasing sales targets has filtered its way down to the front line. Three TD Bank tellers went to CBC Go Public and explained how the bank’s high-pressure sales culture has them relentlessly pushing new products on unsuspecting customers.

Suggestive selling, cross selling, and upselling is all part of a revenue-driven sales culture where a company looks for ways to get more business from its customers. Opportunities abound at banks, which offer everything from chequing and savings accounts, to credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, lines of credit, and mutual funds.

The TD tellers revealed how they were prompted to upsell whenever there was potential for an “advice opportunity”. A pop-up on their computer screen indicated which products and services the customer hadn’t purchased, such as overdraft protection, a credit card, or line of credit. Getting a customer to sign-up for one of these products counted towards the employee’s sales quota.

TD released a statement saying it “does not believe certain recent media coverage is an accurate portrayal of our culture, or that it reflects the experience of most of our colleagues, but we take the concerns very seriously.”

This comes just weeks after another CBC Go Public report revealed deceptive sales tactics at Loblaws stores, where shoppers were tricked into signing up for PC Financial MasterCards. The salespeople were from a marketing company hired by PC Financial to increase credit card sign-ups.

Banking on a high pressure sales culture

Banking on high pressure sales culture

Consumers have every reason to be outraged by these recent stories of deception and aggressive sales tactics at PC Financial and TD Bank. But make no mistake; this is common practice at every bank.

Despite the growth and convenience of online and mobile banking, banks continue to expand their branch network, with over 6,300 bank branches across Canada. Many of these branches have extended hours into the evenings and weekends to meet their customers’ needs.

Seniors and new immigrants are most at risk to fall victim to these sales tactics. The “trusted bank advisor” is a perfect cover for an employee looking to meet a sales quota, and Canada’s aging population and growing immigrant base is ripe with potential for “advice opportunities”.

Final thoughts

While these reports are often painted as shocking exposes, in reality this is just part of an increasingly common sales culture in business today. Consumers need to be vigilant and learn how to say no.

Even in the PC Financial case, where SDI Marketing representatives were outright forging documents, consumers could have protected themselves by simply taking the brochure home to look at later.

Treat every sales encounter with a dash of scepticism. Err on the side of caution and give yourself the opportunity to do research on your own time before making a decision.

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7 Comments

  1. Beth on March 13, 2017 at 5:02 am

    As a rule, my default answer to any sales pitch is “I’ll think about it and I’ll contact you if I’m interested.” I’ve had to hang up on people who just won’t stop. (Though I’ve found that charities are worse than banks)

    I also live by the rule of thumb that the higher the pressure, the better the deal is for the company than for me.

    this does make me wonder about investing in bank stock though 🙁

  2. Gary on March 13, 2017 at 8:09 am

    I worry every day about my 90 year old mother falling prey to these parasites. Thank you for bringing the extent of this problem to our attention Robb!

  3. John on March 14, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    TD representative says: “does not believe certain recent media coverage is an accurate portrayal of our culture, or that it reflects the experience of most of our colleagues, but we take the concerns very seriously.”

    Craftily composed response. I don’t see the spokesperson actually denying the practise exists, do you?

    Robb says: “The “trusted bank advisor” is a perfect cover for an employee looking to meet a sales quota”

    Great description of certain bank employees these days.

  4. Shelley Frank on March 15, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    It is also Credit Unions that have the same sales mentality now. Having to meet weekly goals and constantly being pressured into selling. Not just the big banks.

    • Ennis on March 16, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Not at my credit union that I have noticed.

  5. Toto on March 17, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Seriously, does anyone believe this to be a new phenomena? As long as I can remember the nature of sales jobs is to make targets. The real concern should be for any fraudulent or deceptive practices. I’m sure these would not be condoned by Management and having sales targets should not be used as an excuse for line staff to commit fraud.

  6. AJ on March 25, 2018 at 9:26 am

    I have worked at two of the big banks and other investment companies over the years. The comments from the bank staff are accurate. It is a total sales culture. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were even qualified to make those recommendations but sadly most are not. The banks do not encourage courses in financial literacy or planning. If as an employee you want to learn more you must take the initiative yourself and good luck having the bank subsidize the courses that should be mandatory for employees working in the financial industry. There should at least be a minimum standard. I have held the CFP designation for over 15 years so I know what I’m talking about when I say they don’t have any financial training. SALES training is mandatory though.

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