Thursday, January 17, 2013

Death of ING Direct Almost Complete. Scotiabank and Capital One Implementing Takeover. It was a Good Idea While it Lasted.

The slow death of ING Direct in North America is almost complete. After Capital One's $9 Billion purchase of the American unit of ING, and ScotiaBanks's $3.1 Billion purchase of the Canadian unit, both banks have been shuttering a number of ING's once thriving business units.

In Canada, Scotia announced that they will be closing ING Direct's Mortgage Broker unit, which offered discount mortgage loans to Canadians via mortgage brokerage offices. Clearly, this is an attempt to consolidate and direct business to the traditional ScotiaBank unit, and hopefully raise costs and rates for Canadians through reduced competition. This is happening after ScotiaBank just recently promised everything would stay as-is at the ING unit, and that they would not attempt to reduce competition through their acquisition. Did Scotia lie?... I am sure everyone is very surprised : )

In the United States, Capital One is renaming ING Direct "Capital One 360," and eliminating the firm's iconic orange branding. The new colour for ING? Dark blue and maroon. Capital One, however, promises ING clients no change in services, which sounds familiar to what Scotia said in Canada. 

Undoubtedly, both Capital One and Scotiabank will start enacting "cost saving measures" to increase "efficiency" at their new banking units, and this will mean job losses for many of ING's North American employees. This will be good news for Scotiabank and Capital One shareholders, but undoubtedly bad news for those employees, their families, and probably ING Direct's North American customers as well.

Less competition is good for corporate profits, but bad for banking customers. Continued consolidation in the banking sector leads to reduced options and higher prices. This means higher interest rates on loans, lower interest rates on savings, and higher banking fees. For investors in Scotia and Capital One, it means higher profits.

Cheers, and Happy Investing! 

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