TD Bank Group in Toronto has become one of the largest regional banks in the United States with nearly 1,280 branches in 15 states, including 151 in Massachusetts. It is aggressively scouting for new locations in the Boston area. TD Bank chief executive Ed Clark, who earned his doctorate in economics at Harvard University, recently spoke to Globe reporter Todd Wallack about the company’s growth plans.
You’re the fourth-largest retail bank in Massachusetts. What’s your goal?
We’d certainly like to be in the top three.
How long will it take?
I would hope in the next few years, we could do that.
You operate most branches seven days a week. Is it worth the expense?
Just ask customers what they want. They want convenience and service. They want you there when they need you and they want you to be friendly. So we don’t bother asking “Could we be sort of convenient and have not too good service?’’ You can’t own a category like that.
Many banks are pruning branches as customers bank more online and via ATMs. What about TD?
We don’t see that much in the United States, because we’re new. We’re growing enormously fast. We’re taking market share. Even in Canada, populations don’t stay where they are. So you have to do new branches. The question is how much do you weed your old branches in a mature system?
Right now you have dual US headquarters in Maine and New Jersey. Do you plan to keep both?
We would be reluctant to give up our dual headquarters.
What about acquisitions?
We’re not in a huge rush. If something comes along that was fantastic for the shareholder, we wouldn’t turn it down. But because we have such good organic growth and a presence that’s significant, we are not needing to do acquisitions.
You’ve said banks have to charge fees to pay for new regulations. Do you expect TD or other banks to add more fees?
I’m hoping people will slow down [regulations] so we don’t have to do that. I’m saying: Don’t be naive. Often regulators view it as a free lunch. It is never free. It’s just how you pay for it.
One controversial fee is for overdrafts. Any plans to scale back overdraft programs?
I don’t have any trouble [requiring people to sign up for overdraft programs]. That’s just good financial literacy. But for the state to say, “You don’t know what’s good for you, young man. I’m going to restrict you’’ - I don’t think that’s our role as a bank. It seems to be intrusive.
One place you do intrude is to reorder transactions from highest to lowest, which consumer advocates say can generate more overdraft fees. We just do it in the order in which it comes.
Your website says you do it from highest to lowest.
No, I don’t think so. It’s random. [A bank spokeswoman later confirmed that TD Bank reorders transactions from highest to lowest because “the larger transactions are generally the most important - mortgages and car payments.’’ She said the bank is reconsidering that approach.]
You recently adopted a new simplified summary of checking fees advocated by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Why?
Because I think it is better. We are a consumer-driven bank, so we start with the customer. There is no point of having disclosure that is not real disclosure.
Are you making any other changes in the US?
Because of cost pressures - every bank is facing this - we’re looking at how we reengineer all our operations to make them more efficient. I don’t think we have any choice.
So how does that affect employment?
We added employees last year. So far the growth has trumped the [consolidation].
How do you think the US elections this year will affect the industry?
After the election, I hope the atmosphere becomes less ideological. Hopefully, even in terms of bank regulation, the industry leaders will say: “We get why you’re upset. The banking industry did blow up the world. Reform was necessary. Can we work with you and figure out how to do this effectively?’’Todd Wallack can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @twallack.