Renewed Growth, 1931-1960
Hamilton Main Branch, 1942
When World War II broke out in 1939, bankers and financial leaders were called upon to work for the Canadian government. J.H. Gundy, of Wood, Gundy & Company, resumed his position on the Victory Loans Committee and once again organized their sale. This time the Victory Loan campaigns raised some $12 billion for the war effort, with almost 3 million Canadians buying war loan bonds.
The post-war years were prosperous times for Canada. When The Commerce and the Imperial started to open new branches, they did so in the rapidly growing suburbs. The same suburbs where many Canadian families were building new homes and required mortgage financing. Although the banks had been barred from the mortgage business since 1871, the Canadian government now called upon them to provide mortgage services. Previously, life insurance companies provided the majority of mortgage funds; however, by 1953, those funds were no longer adequate. So, in 1954, Canadian banks started offering mortgages for new construction. By the end of that year, The Commerce had invested $25 million in mortgages; 6 years later, the amount had grown to $246.5 million.
During this time, Canada capitalized on the industrialization of its natural resources, and the economy grew at an unprecedented rate. Both The Commerce and the Imperial had been involved in the resource industry since their early days, but during the 1950s the financing needs of those clients grew exponentially. In fact, by 1960, the Imperial could not keep pace with the demands of its clients in the industry. To better serve these clients and to ward off a possible buyout by a foreign bank, Imperial Chairman Stuart Mackersy discreetly approached Neil McKinnon, president of The Commerce, with a proposal to merge the 2 banks. Legend has it that the 2 men reached a tentative deal for amalgamation in 10 minutes.