What Is Bay Street?

Bay Street lies at the heart of Toronto’s downtown business district and is often used as a catchword for Canada’s financial industry, just as Wall Street has come to be a shorthand for the U.S. financial services industry.

Key Takeaways

  • Bay Street is a street in Toronto's downtown business district and is a metonym for Canada's financial industry.
  • Bay Street is used in Canada the same way Wall Street is used in the United States or Dalal Street is used in India.
  • The area around Bay Street houses five of Canada's main banks: the Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD Bank), and the Royal Bank.
  • The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) is located one block west of Bay Street.
  • When individuals refer to Bay Street, they are typically referring to economic and financial topics in Canada.
  • Until the 1970s, Montreal was still the financial hub of Canada, until financial institutions moved to Toronto due to government party changes.

Understanding Bay Street

Bay Street is the Canadian equivalent of Wall Street and is home to several major banks, large corporate law firms, and other important Canadian institutions. Four of Canada's five major banks have office towers at the intersection of Bay Street and King Street: the Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD Bank). The Royal Bank is also situated close to these banks.

Talk about Bay Street invariably centers on economic and financial issues, with an emphasis on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), which is located about a block west of Bay Street, at the intersection of York Street and King Street.

The TSX is the most significant stock exchange in Canada, the third-largest stock exchange in North America by capitalization, after the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq. In regards to listed securities, it is one of the exchanges with the highest number.

Until the 1970s, St. James Street in Montreal, where major English insurance, banking, and trust companies had built their Canadian head offices since the second half of the 19th century, was still Canada's financial center. Canada's financial services industry relocated after the separatist Parti Quebecois provincial government was elected in 1976.

Bay Street History

Bay Street used to be known as Bear St when the thoroughfare was first created and obtained the Bay Street name when it connected another street to the Toronto Harbor. During the 1800s, it was a prominent street that included many of the city's newspapers, such as the Toronto Mail, the Toronto Star, and The Globe and Mail.

The area around Bay St and King St was once known as the "MINT" corner, because of the banks that stood there: Montreal Bank, Imperial Bank, Nova Scotia Bank, and Toronto Bank. But from the mid 20th century, banks have changed their names and others have taken up shop in the location, making the "MINT" acronym not as widely used as it once was, though many of the original "MINT" banks remain.

Bay Street is used as a reference to finance and economics in everyday lingo. For example, someone might say "That investment manager has experience from Bay Street." There is an old adage that farmers used to say: "Cold as a Bay Street banker's heart," referring to the ruthlessness and money orientated nature of many individuals in the financial sector.

Bay Street as an Employer

Given the amount of large financial institutions and law firms in and around Bay Street, it is one of the highest sources of employment in Canada. Not only is it an attractive destination for employment within the country, but even globally. Many immigrants from other nations seek the opportunities provided by the well-established firms in the Bay Street area.

Bay Street is also considered a good alternative to Wall Street. Wall Street is typically considered more broad, competitive, and cutthroat, whereas the industry in Bay Street is more consolidated. In addition, salaries at the firms on Bay Street are comparable to those of Wall Street, yet the cost of living in Toronto is less than that of New York, making people's income go a lot further.