Laurentian rewarding investors now that 'heavy lifting' on revamp is complete: CEO

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Laurentian Bank of Canada’s decision to raise its quarterly dividend comes as it finishes the most difficult part of its restructuring, according to the company’s chief executive officer.

“This plan that we started four years ago, [was] seven years long, but we knew that the first four were going to be more heavy lifting with a lot of different initiatives happening at the same time,” Laurentian CEO Francois Desjardins told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Thursday.

“So, 2020 … financially, it should be better than 2019, but really setting us up for growth and profitability once all these investments are behind us, which should be at the end of the year.”

Laurentian raised its quarterly payout by one cent on Wednesday to 67 cents per share, even as it reported lower-than-expected profits in its fourth quarter.

The company’s plan to streamline its services and focus more on digital properties was behind its decision to abandon teller services at all its Canadian branches this year.

“This last year we needed to take a step back to address labour relations situations,” Desjardins said. “We really needed to come out of that with a win, and I think we did.”

And, while the move clearly had an impact on the company’s net income, Desjardins is focused on the long-game.

“It did impact growth, and, of course, the bottom line,” he said. “But that’s temporary.”