Canada: OSFI Cracks Down On The Use Of The Words "Bank", "Banker" And "Banking"

On June 30, 2017, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada (OSFI) issued an advisory (Advisory) regarding the Bank Act (Canada) restrictions on the use of the words "bank", "banker" and "banking" and equivalent words, as interpreted by OSFI. The Advisory signals, in particular, OSFI's increased attention to the use of these words — as well as similar words — by financial service providers that are not Schedule I or Schedule II banks. This development is also noteworthy for any entity that has one of these words in its name, or any person (entity or individual) who uses one of these words, in each case to describe a business, or a part of a business, in Canada. Where the restrictions apply, transition periods are provided to allow time for compliance.


The "bank words", use of which is restricted under the Bank Act, are "bank", "banker" and "banking", and include any of those words in any language and any word or words, in any language, that are equivalent to any of those words. In the Advisory, OSFI extends the term "bank words" to include "words – including words not found in dictionaries, and compound words and contractions containing parts – that resemble, in writing or phonetically, any of the words 'bank', 'banker' or 'banking'." OSFI provides as examples "banc", "mybank" and "bancorp". This interpretation, which captures similar words as well as equivalent words, goes beyond what the statute provides.

Section 983 of the Bank Act sets out two separate restrictions on the use of the bank words, both of which are subject to specific exemptions in the Bank Act and the regulations:

  1. Name Restriction: This restriction prohibits every entity that is not a Schedule I or Schedule II bank from acquiring, adopting or retaining a name that includes any bank word to indicate or describe a business in Canada or any part of a business in Canada
  2. Business Description Restriction: This restriction prohibits every person (including an individual or an entity other than a Schedule I or Schedule II bank), from using any bank word to indicate or describe a business in Canada or any part of a business in Canada.

In the Advisory, OSFI expresses the view that the bank words "indicate or describe" a person's business (or any part of its business) where the bank words are acquired, adopted or used in a name, or they are used in a manner, that could reasonably suggest to the public the nature of the person's business (or any part of its business). Several examples of prohibited trade names and phrases are set out in the Advisory. These examples include "Welcome to Canada's newest online bank", "Commercial Banking Centre", "Better Banking", "bank accounts/bank services", "for all your banking needs", and others. OSFI mentions that even listing the entity's name under the "banks" category in a Canadian directory would contravene these restrictions.

Further, OSFI confirms the position stated in Ruling 2004-08 to the effect that "business" means the carrying on of a serious occupation and, as a result, not-for-profit corporations may be subject to these restrictions.

Indirect use of the bank words is also restricted. OSFI notes that this occurs where a person causes another person to use the bank words to indicate or describe the business of the first person (or any part of its business). The Advisory does not consider other indirect circumstances, such as where a person, on its own initiative, uses the bank words to indicate or describe the business of another person that is not be entitled to use the bank words themselves. For example, payment methods specified by a payee might include "pay through your financial institution's online banking", as the Canada Revenue Agency does.

The Advisory does not consider the Bank Act prohibitions against:

  • The use of a name that includes both the phrase "credit union" and the word "bank" or "federal"
  • The use of a name that includes both the word "cooperative" and the word "bank" or "federal"
  • The use of the name or identifying mark of a bank , foreign bank or bank holding company
  • Making any statement that a business is connected, associated or affiliate with a bank or a foreign bank


Section 983 of the Bank Act includes a number of specific exceptions to the Name Restriction and the Business Description Restriction. In the Advisory, OSFI only focuses on the exception in subsection 983 (5.1), which permits the use of the bank words "in relation to a business that is not engaged in financial activities, unless the business is carried out by a prescribed entity." The Use of the Word "Bank" by Non-financial Businesses (Excluded Entities) Regulations specifically exclude from the exception an entity in which a Canadian bank has a substantial investment (where a different exception may be applicable) and provincially or federally regulated financial institutions that are not Schedule I or Schedule II banks, among others.

OSFI states in the Advisory that a non-bank person, if it is not one of the prescribed entities, may rely on this exception when its "use of the Bank Words is not in relation to any part of the person's financial activity business". OSFI provides a number of examples of permitted and prohibited uses of the bank words under this exception. For instance, an entity that is not a prescribed entity whose business is to purchase and sell real estate could use the trade name "Land Bank," but if it also provides financing to purchasers, it could not use that trade name. In this example, OSFI appears to prohibit any use by such a non-bank entity, even if the term "Land Bank" is used only for the non-financial activities. This does not reflect OSFI's statement quoted at the beginning of this paragraph, which would require that the use be tied to a financial activity business.

As another example, OSFI states that an entity that is not a prescribed entity whose business is to develop and make available software or apps that persons may use to carry out financial transactions could not adopt the trade name "Tech Bank". In providing this example, OSFI does not address the question of whether the software or app developer is engaged in financial activities (which is not defined in the Bank Act or the Advisory), but this is assumed from the conclusion. This is an issue that merits further consideration, along with the question of whether the bank words are being used to describe a business and financial activity of the developer or an activity of a customer or another third party. Although "Tech Bank" is an example of a phrase that could reasonably suggest that the nature of the user's business is financial activities, OSFI has not tied these two concepts together in the Advisory. What if the developer used the trade name "Banking Tech Solutions"? While such a trade name would be intended to indicate or describe a business, it does not reasonably suggest, on its own, that the developer is engaged in financial activities itself. Further, the developer may not, in fact, be engaged in financial activities, which may be undertaken by its financial institution partner or the customer's own financial institution. In our view, in such a case, the context in which the term is used would have to be considered.

There are numerous other exceptions, some of which require disclosures in accordance with the applicable Name Use Regulations.


While the Advisory came into effect immediately upon publication, OSFI has delayed its implementation, expressly to give non-bank financial service providers and others that are subject to the restrictions the time to comply. OSFI has provided the staggered deadlines listed below for persons to eliminate any prohibited uses of the bank words from the following media:



Information contained on websites or other electronic mediums

December 31, 2017

Information contained in print materials

June 30, 2018

Information contained on physical signage

June 30, 2019

While telephone scripts are not listed, prohibited uses of the bank words should also be eliminated there, likely by the 2017 deadline.


With OSFI signalling increased attention to this issue, persons using the bank words in their name or otherwise to indicate or describe their business in Canada (or any part of their business in Canada) should revisit this use. This should include a review of trade names, division or business unit names, job titles, client documents and other communications in any form, internal policies and procedures, advertising and signage in all media.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
26 Oct 2018, Other, Vancouver, Canada

Cybersecurity, including data privacy and security obligations, has become a critical chapter in every company’s risk management playbook.

30 Oct 2018, Other, Toronto, Canada

Please join us for discussions on recent updates and legal developments in pension and employee benefits as well as employment law issues.

12 Nov 2018, Other, Toronto, Canada

Stories aren’t falsehoods. Stories are the root of all effective human communications: they motivate, animate and clarify. If you aren’t telling stories, you probably aren’t getting your point across.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions