Seven months after Toronto-Dominion Bank closed its biggest banking acquisition here, its U.S. chief executive said it could return to dealmaking sooner than anticipated if the current environment presents solid opportunities.
Bharat Masrani said in an interview Friday that the $437 billion-asset company would "seriously look" at acquisitions while opening branches in the United States. But over the weekend his company was poised to rebrand 575 branches in the Middle Atlantic and Florida inherited from the March acquisition of Commerce Bancorp Inc. of Cherry Hill, N.J., and he cautioned that rebranding the rest of the network remains the main priority.
"If there is a compelling opportunity that pops up we would certainly look at it," Mr. Masrani said. "It depends on the circumstances."
TD Bank, Toronto-Dominion's U.S. banking division, would have the greatest interest in banks along the Eastern Seaboard, though he would not say if there was interest in connecting his company's Northeastern markets with its operations in Florida.
The $116.2 billion-asset Portland, Maine, division will continue to open branches, Mr. Masrani said; 35 openings are planned for next year, and the pace is expected to reach at least 50 a year in 2010. "For us, some of this turmoil is working to our advantage. We are continuing to do what banks are supposed to do rather than putting out fires."
TD Bank is holding steady in a difficult deposit environment, he said, though he would not offer specific numbers. Toronto-Dominion's fiscal third quarter ended Friday.
The division has opted against chasing "hot money," he said, but there have been instances where it has raised deposit rates to keep customers from leaving.
"Obviously, we're going to grow our market share and defend it," he said. "Our parent company is triple-A-rated. When you are one of the safest and strongest banks in the world, you have an important message for your customers."
TD Bank nearly doubled in size with the $8.5 billion purchase of Commerce. After the deal closed in March, Toronto-Dominion had planned to use the venerable Commerce name to rebrand what was TD Banknorth Inc. as TD Commerce Bank. However, Commerce Bank and Trust Co. of Worcester, Mass., filed a suit to block the rebranding, saying the new name would confuse its customers. In response, Toronto-Dominion opted for TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank, drawing on a tag line used by Commerce.
Some observers have voiced concerns that eliminating the Commerce brand could make it harder for TD Bank to keep and gain customers. Vernon Hill 2nd, Commerce Bancorp's former chairman and CEO, said in July that doing so was "another step in the destruction" of the model he had cultivated, and that a heavy focus on customer service would "slowly fade away."
Ian Latham, the CEO of the Atlanta branding consulting firm Latham & Co. LLC, said keeping services constant is more important than keeping a name on the outside of a branch.
On Friday, Mr. Masrani emphasized a commitment to keeping many of Commerce's practices such as seven-day banking and change counters at the branches. "We're still centered around unparalleled convenience and legendary customer service."
The sign changes covered roughly half of TD Bank's branches. Mr. Masrani said that the integration remains "on track," and that the plan is to rebrand the New England branches around the time of a complete systems conversion in the fall of next year.