Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Banque canadienne nationale



The history of the Banque Canadienne Nationale has always been closely identified with the economic life of French Canada. Established in Montreal in 1873, under the name of Banque d'Hochelaga, by a group of prominent French Canadians, the new institution started business in April, 1874, with a capital of $393,070. Its first president was Louis Tourville. At the close of its first financial year, it showed assets of $1,021,096, with deposits of $302,000. The limited resources available restricted the field of activity of the bank during the first years of its existence, and progress was slow. At the end of ten years, in 1884, total assets were only $1,715,366, while deposits were slightly under $492,000.


After this first decade, however, the economic development of the province of Quebec , towards which the bank was contributing in an increasing measure, became a factor of its own growth. In 1894, on its twentieth anniversary, the deposits had increased to $3,229,000 and the total assets to $4,942,138. The bank kept increasing its business, and its assets almost doubled within the following five-year period. The principal office, which was located on Notre Dame street , could no longer accommodate the growing number of its customers. Larger headquarters were secured, in 1900, on St. James street. Meanwhile, several branches had been opened in Montreal, Quebec, and other industrial centres throughout the province.


The bank's development then became much more rapid. Between 1904 and 1914, assets increased from 14 to 23 millions, and deposits from 9 to 21 millions. In 1915, the bank again moved into a large and more modern building, where its head office is now located, on Place d'Armes. At the close of 1923, assets amounted to almost 72 millions, and deposits exceeded 55 millions.


On April 30, 1924, La Banque d'Hochelaga took over La Banque Nationale. This bank, founded in Quebec in 1860, had, when it was absorbed, 262 branches and agencies throughout the province of Quebec, with a number of branches in the province of Ontario and an office in Paris, France. Its capital stock was $3,000,000 and its total assets $50,400,000. The shareholders of La Banque Nationale received one share of La Banque d'Hochelaga for every two shares they held.


As a condition to the taking over of La Banque Nationale by La Banque d'Hochelaga, the province of Quebec, under Statute 14, George V, Chapter 3, assigned to La Banque d'Hochelaga $15,000,000 of 5% Province of Quebec bonds maturing March 1, 1964. La Banque d'Hochelaga agreed to pay the province annually an amount of $125,000 out of its net profits after the payment of a dividend of 10% to its shareholders. The amalgamation of the two banks eliminated unnecessary duplication of branches and agencies, and concentrated the business of the two institutions in fewer offices. La Banque d'Hochelaga changed its name to that of Banque Canadienne Nationale in 1925.


The Banque Canadienne Nationale, continuing the operations of La Banque d'Hochelaga and La Banque Nationale, has performed valuable pioneer work throughout the province of Quebec, and followed the early settlers and woodsmen in the new territories opened to colonization. Branches of the bank will be found in the Beauce, Gaspesia, Timiskaming, Lake St. John, Saguenay, Labelle, and Abitibi districts. Simultaneously, facilities were made available in large and small urban centres for manufacturing, trading, and financial operations, whilst special attention has always been given to the legitimate requirements of agriculture in rural districts.


At the close of the financial year ending November 30, 1933, the amount of the deposits entrusted to the Banque Canadienne Nationale exceeded 101 million dollars; the assets stood at more than 126 millions, of which approximately 73½ millions were quickly realizable assets representing 64.59% of liabilities to the public. Current loans and discounts aggregated 44½ millions, and securities amounted to more than 42 millions.


The bank had, at the end of 1933, 241 branches and 312 agencies, a total of 553 offices in Canada , with a subsidiary in Paris, the Banque Canadienne Nationale ( France ). Although the bank's business is largely concentrated in the province of Quebec, it operates branches in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.


The board of directors of the Banque Canadienne Nationale, including some of the outstanding French-Canadian business men, consists of Beaudry Leman, President, Charles Laurendeau, Hon. C. P. Beaubien, Armand Chaput, C. E. Gravel, Hon. J. Nicol, Auguste Desilets, A. J. Major, L. J. Adjutor Amyot, Hon. Jean Marie Dessureault, and Leo G. Ryan. Mr. Beaudry Leman is the seventh president of the bank, his predecessors, after Louis Tourville, having been F. X. Saint-Charles (1879-1909), Hon. J. D. Rolland (1909-1912), J. A. Vaillancourt (1912-1928), Hon. F. L. Beique (1928-1933), and Hon. J. M. Wilson (1933-1936).


Source  : Léon LORRAIN, "Banque canadienne nationale", in W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. I, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 398p., pp. 171-173.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College