Bloomberg reports that RBC has edged out Goldman Sachs as North America’s fifth-largest bank, based on assets.
As of December 31, 2015, the Canadian bank had US$872 billion, compared to Goldman’s US$861.4 billion — despite RBC working under a weak loonie.
It’s a big bank for a reason — and it will likely get bigger. “We’re in a very turbulent market, and at times like this, as a firm, we normally thrive,” says David Agnew, head of RBC Wealth Management in Canada. “We build market share in tough times, at a more aggressive rate than during a positive market environment.”
He adds the firm is in “growth mode within Canada, as we have leading market share within all our businesses.” Already, nearly 20% of HNW Canadians use RBC Wealth Management services, Agnew says, and the firm has the largest share of that market in Canada. RBC has been adding to its market share at a rate of 1% a year for the past five years.
“We plan to continue to grow our high-net-worth market share in 2016 and beyond,” he says.
As smaller wealth management firms grapple with poor economic conditions, Agnew says there may be an opportunity to bring those firms’ best advisors on board.
“We’re looking at doing it one person at a time; [we want] high-quality individuals to join our wealth management businesses,” he says, adding there are no plans to buy entire firms.
Such hiring would be part of a broader push to bring more advisors on board. In 2014, Agnew said RBC would sign more advisors into its various channels by 2019. He wanted to go from fewer than 80 investment counsellors at PH&N to as many as 100, and to hire at least two more private bankers. Today, he says the firm is on track to meeting those goals two years early. He’s also hiring 25 net new advisors a year at RBC DS.
RBC isn’t the only bank hiring more advisors of late – TD is working on hiring more than 400 more advisors. Agnew says TD has poached none of his teams.
Read: TD’s hiring. Here’s why
As for acquiring clients, he says his advisors will focus on business owners – especially female business owners. “This is a big opportunity for us,” he says. The firm’s research shows that about half of high-net-worth Canadians (defined as people with $1 million in assets or more) are business owners.
Canadian women, who already control $1 trillion in personal wealth, are also founding the majority of new small and medium-sized businesses, he adds. They’re also graduating from most college and university programs in greater numbers than men, and they’re increasingly working outside the home.
“They’re large numbers, and these numbers will continue to grow over the next decade,” Agnew says.
The firm has a team to cater specifically to business owners’ needs, such as succession planning. It operates inside the wealth management division’s 200-person wealth management services group, which also provides tax, estate planning and other services.
The team also works with RBC’s personal and commercial bank division, which has the top market share in business loans worth up to $25 million and business deposits. Both parts of the bank can benefit from such clients, he notes.
“If the bank’s clients sell their businesses, it gives us an opportunity to finance the purchasers, and it gives our wealth management business an opportunity to manage the investment portfolios [resulting from] the business sales,” he says.
RBC has also realized that its staff needs to reflect the clients it wants to attract. Presently, 16% of its advisors and 31% of its investment counselors are women. Agnew says the firm is working to recruit more women into the investment advisor position at its discretionary wealth management boutique, PH&N Investment Counsel.
The investment in human advisors at a time when automated advice is gaining momentum is deliberate, Agnew adds. Firm research shows wealthy and super-wealthy clients still want in-person advice.
But the bank is providing advisors who serve mass affluent clients with more automated desktop services, which help advisors plan, onboard clients and do administrative work. It includes features like forms pre-populated with client information and the ability to open multiple accounts at the same time. The goal is to halve the amount of time and paper need to onboard a client.