A 40th-year celebration

RBC Wealth Management, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in Cayman this year, has been very much a part of Cayman’s rise as a financial centre. Having come to the Islands in 1972 as part of Royal Bank of Canada, the sixth largest wealth manager in the world has grown in Cayman both organically and through acquisitions over the years. And there is no reason this growth should not continue, says Deanna Bidwell, head of RBC Wealth Management in the Caribbean.

During the past 40 years the Cayman operations developed into a regional hub for RBC Wealth Management in the Caribbean, with many regional teams located here and a large share of the administrative functions carried out on Island.

The international standing of the Cayman Islands’ business is illustrated by the over 110 wealth management professionals, more than half of all RBC wealth management employees in the Caribbean, who are based in Cayman.

“We are unique in that our offices provide not only relationship managers, but also have the expertise of the product teams on site. For example, our trustees, accountants, administrators, brokers, portfolio managers and banking operations are right here in Cayman, sitting alongside the client facing professionals, investment professionals and private bankers,” said Ms Bidwell. “I believe this makes us one of the largest wealth services providers in Cayman and, with 40 years under belt, one of the most dedicated, stable and successful.”

During this time, RBC Wealth Management developed its range of services and added various business lines and licences to strengthen its operations. Today, RBC WM offers all of RBC’s wealth services globally out of Cayman, where the wealth manager holds a Class A banking and trust licence, a securities licence and a mutual funds licence.

This enables the financial services provider to offer a complete range of wealth services including investments, fiduciary, corporate trust, fund administration, captive banking and private banking to a mix of corporations and private clients in Cayman and abroad without the need for any support or oversight from other jurisdictions.

Global reach

At the same time RBC Wealth Management in Cayman has access to all of RBC’s products and services globally and can also support clients for example with regard to UK tax advice, US securities licensed services or trust laws of other jurisdictions.

Ms Bidwell emphasises that RBC Wealth Management in Cayman is a full service independently operated wealth services provider.

“Because of the size of our parent company and our global reach, many people may believe that we are run by some far away head office. One of the things we pride ourselves on in Cayman is the independence of our leadership and decision making locally. We are not a branch of any RBC business, but rather a fully functioning, self-governed, full service bank, trust company, investment team and fund administrator,” she said. “We expect this model to remain intact so we can be as nimble and flexible as we currently are in servicing our customers or in making decisions that affect our business.”

Acquisitions

In addition to the expansion of services, acquisitions played a significant role in the wealth manager’s development. RBC Wealth Management for instance acquired UBS’ captive business in 2002 and Barclays’ Latin American trust business in 2002/2003. The move of the wealth manager’s own Bermuda trust operations to the Cayman Islands in 2003 was followed by the transfer of RBC WM’s Bahamas operations and administrative back office roles to Cayman in 2009.

Most recently, earlier this year, RBC acquired the Caribbean private banking team of Coutts. “This acquisition shows our dedication to growth,” said Bidwell. “Many of our competitors are suffering from financial pressures, downsizing, reducing scope, closing offices. RBC WM is constantly looking for the right person, team or company to acquire, which is key to our plans for growth.

“Plus, the team of professionals that have joined the RBC WM from Coutts are fantastic and a really strong addition to the relationship management team,” said Ms Bidwell.

The acquisition of Coutts, a premier name in the private banking business, merges the reputation of Coutts’ private bankers with RBC WM’s strength, stability and diverse business model, as well as the wealth manager’s local products and services and own private banking business, she explained.

“Euromoney had named RBC as the Best in Private Banking in Cayman in 2012 before the addition of the Coutts team, so we expect this recognition to be even stronger now.”

Most importantly the client portfolio that the Coutts bankers have brought with them supports one of RBC Wealth Management’s key objectives – to grow its compliment of Caribbean clients and expand local services. These clients in turn not only continue to benefit from their trusted advisers, said Bidwell, but now also have access to a far more global service proposition.

Diversity in terms of the many different jurisdictions and services clients can choose from is something that characterises the wealth management industry today, together with more and evolving regulation and the ability to balance the growing service demands with the costs of doing business.

Ahead of the curve

It is an integral part of the wealth management business to stay apprised of every change in every law around the world. “Cayman legislation has done us well over the years, but it is important to stay ahead of the curve,” Bidwell said. “I closely monitor governments in our other jurisdictions and have seen first-hand what happens to growth in the financial services industry when governments either do not promote growth through new legislation and execution or they introduce new legislation that can be harmful. We have an opportunity and an obligation in Cayman to remain as industry leaders and to be proficient at helping our clients weave their way through these changing laws.”

At the same time wealth managers, just like any other financial services providers, are always facing cost pressures. “Every time government fees go up, this comes out of our ability to reinvest in development, our people or it comes out of the client’s enjoyment in doing business with Cayman,” said Bidwell. “Being a strong financial manager, closely watching our spending, reacting to changes in costs, as well delivering our service model and making sure we meet our growth targets is my full time job.”

Plans for future growth

Despite these challenges, Ms Bidwell is optimistic for the future development of RBC Wealth Management in the Cayman Islands.

“When I arrived in Cayman in 2007, we had only about 75 employees. Employees are not always an appropriate measurement for the size and success of your business, but in this industry, it is all about service,” she said. “The wealth business is a people business so growing personnel by almost 50 per cent in five years is a trajectory that we fully expect to maintain. As long as doing business in Cayman continues to be friendly to the financial services sector, I see no reason why we cannot continue to grow, employ more Caymanians and tell more areas around the world why Cayman is the place to conduct their wealth business,” Bidwell noted.

“We are very proud of our 40 years so far in Cayman and fully expect to be here for another 40 years.”

RBC aims to continue to develop new markets and promote Cayman as the premier destination for wealth products and services. This is especially important in a market where business opportunities and areas of growth remain fluid and constantly change. Bidwell refers for example to the 6.2 per cent growth in the number of high net worth individuals in Brazil or Asia as a target, saying RBC Wealth Management’s ability to service these markets is not only desired but required.

Much time, effort, travel and investment goes into promoting the Caribbean offices. It also requires “having the right people and promoting Cayman as well as our company in the right way,” she said, adding that RBC Wealth Management recruits employees locally and internationally, so they may best promote Cayman around the world and offer as much diversity in culture, language and professional expertise.

More collaboration

As part of this effort, Ms Bidwell would also like to see more collaboration across the financial services industry to promote the Cayman Islands as a financial centre. “I think we can be stronger together and encourage more collaboration across our industry. When it happens, it works very well.”

Naturally the firm wants to remain an industry leader in its various disciplines, said Ms Bidwell, referring to the recognition the wealth manager received in 2012.

“Euromoney, which is selected by our peers in the industry, named RBC as not only tops in investments and in trust services, but in eight other categories including best in private banking services overall in Cayman and in the Caribbean. We were also named by STEP as the institutional Trust Company of the year for 2012, and a Top Employer in Cayman for the second year in a row. The Euromoney award is big, but I’m most proud of the Top Employer award,” said Bidwell, adding that “no opportunity comes to life without strong investment in our personnel”.

With its employees as the firm’s No. 1 resource, RBC Wealth Management’s human resources department and managers therefore constantly seek to develop staff through training. As part of the 40th anniversary, RBC Wealth Management has also introduced a new scholarship programme with ICCI to develop Caymanians in accounting expertise and provide a career at the same time.