London Free Press
April 26th, 2016
London’s homegrown bank is creating its own technology hub and moving it into a new office at London International Airport.
Pacific & Western Bank of Canada, which does not have branches but offers commercial and online banking, is growing its software division and has to boost its online presence to handle it, said bank president David Taylor.
“We have always been a technology bank and the technology side is growing,” he said.
“Half of our assets and loans, sales and leases flow to us electronically. The expanding side of our business is the electronic side.”
Pacific & Western Bank has a 17.500-sq.-ft. office and hangar at the airport on Otter Place. It was put on the market last year for $3 million after the bank sold its shares in Discovery Air, which had used the office and hangar.
It’s an ideal home for the company’s software group, adds Taylor, since its downtown Fullarton Street office is crowded and he wants to create a unique technology space.
“This will make it a closer-knit team,” he said.
The massive hangar space may also soon have a tenant, another technology business looking to lease space, he added.
Taylor had the idea of creating a tech centre after touring the Google office in New York late last year.
“I would like it to be a tiny example of how Google is set up, a consulting, collaborative team working together,” said Taylor, adding a Google official is also joining the bank’s board.
Pacific & Western Bank has always written its own software, not content to buy industry standards, meaning supporting its tech division is critical.
“We wanted to create our own software, to be more efficient. It is ideal software for a small financial institution, it allows us to gather deposits and manage loans. We think it is the best,” said Taylor.
While its real estate lending division — helping to fund highrise buildings, for example — is largely local, the tech side is national, he added.
In fact, it now lends between $200 million and $300 million quarterly.
“We developed our own software to operate without branches and connect to financial planners and stockbrokers and insurance people, to connect to customers,” he said.
Taylor plans to have the technology office open after Labour Day, he said.
The bank will also announce Wednesday at its annual meeting, held at the airport office, it will change its name to VersaBank, said Taylor.
“It is to be called VersaBank because we are a versatile bank and it is our software that makes us versatile,” he said.
“We were often being confused with (western Canadian banks) and we do very little lending outside of southern Ontario. It was becoming clear people were confusing what we are all about — we are a technology bank. It is what we do.”
If shareholders approve the name change Wednesday, it’s then subject to regulatory approval.
The name Pacific & Western Canada came from a small trust company Taylor owned in Western Canada.
“We kept the name for nostalgic reasons, and more and more it is getting in the way of doing business,” he said.
The bank now has about 50 people at its Fullarton office and about 25 will move to the airport office,
“We have the top floor at Fullarton and we will keep it,” said Taylor.
Taylor will also move to the airport and may fly his own hobby plane from his north London home, where he has his own grass airstrip, to the airport, he said.