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Laurentian Bank to transform branches into 'financial clinics'

Laurentian Bank of Canada is moving away from its traditional banking roots and turning its branches into "financial clinics," Bloomberg News reported March 29.

CEO Francois Desjardins told the newswire that the Montreal-based lender seeks to double its commercial sales force by 2020, increasing the number of its in-branch advisers to 700 and the account managers for its business unit to 240. Laurentian will also reduce by one-third the number of its Quebec branches by the end of the year. Of the remaining 100 outlets, 23 will be "advice-only" branches with ATMs and with no counter transactions. A total of 33 branches will be merged in April, seven in June, and the rest by December, according to the report.

The moves are part of Laurentian's seven-year plan to raise profits and have a return on equity on par with Canada's larger banks. "The whole industry is going through transformation and Laurentian has to fundamentally change the way it's going to market," Bloomberg cited Desjardins as saying.

In September 2016, Laurentian said that the traditional bank operating model is "becoming obsolete." It also flagged 300 job cuts resulting from the merging of 50 branches over the subsequent 18-month period.