1901 to Date
The Royal Bank of Canada is the largest Canadian chartered bank in terms of assets and one of the largest in the world.
In April 1864 eight well-to-do merchants in Halifax, Nova Scotia, joined together in a co-partnership called the Merchants Bank, with a capital of $200,000, of which $160,000 was paid up. After Confederation full banking privileges were confirmed by the Royal assent given on June 22, 1869, to a federal charter for the Merchants Bank of Halifax. The new bank had an authorized capital of $1,000,000 in 10,000 shares of $100 each.
Until 1887 the bank's operations were "acceptably profitable," but a marked improvement in business conditions from that date until 1892 lifted the bank from being a small institution of provincial importance to being a large one with some 25 branches in four provinces.
At the 1900 annual general meeting, the president of the bank stated that the expansion of the bank's business throughout Canada and abroad was such that the time had come to adopt a more distinctive and comprehensive designation. Upon the completion of necessary formalities, the name of the bank was changed to the Royal Bank of Canada, effective January 2, 1901. During the period of 1869 to 1900, the bank's growth was cautious, but steady. Rapid expansion came during 1901 to 1913, when Canada experienced a wave of development.
The bank greatly expanded its operations in other provinces and the Caribbean by absorbing other institutions, including a Cuban bank in 1904. Also in 1904, the bank changed its head office from Halifax to Montreal.
During World War 1, the bank gave considerable assistance to the government, and despite a preoccupation with the problems of operating under war conditions, expansion continued. Between 1914 and 1918, the number of its branches in Canada increased by 147, but of these, 134 were through the takeovers of two other banks. In terms of total assets, the bank became the second largest bank in Canada by the end of 1918.
The wartime prosperity, which had continued almost uninterrupted through 1919, turned into a depression in 1921 and 1922, during which the bank's assets declined, but its profits kept up remarkably well. With the improvement in business conditions in 1925, prosperity returned until the last quarter of 1929. When the market collapsed in 1929, both the total assets and profits of the bank were at a record high, and it had become the largest bank in Canada. However, like other banks, the Royal Bank was greatly affected by the Depression. Its assets shrunk, and some of its branches were closed. By 1935 the upward trend in business was firmly established and, in general, continued in that direction during the remainder of the 1930s.
Following the outbreak of war in September 1939, the bank cooperated fully in the execution of the country's war efforts. In this it played its part equally with the other banks and under similar difficulties. Since the end of World War II, the Royal Bank has continued to expand, both in Canada and abroad.
British West Indies Issues
In 1902 the Union Bank of Halifax opened a branch in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The Royal Bank took over the Union Bank in 1910 and continued the Caribbean operations. The Royal Bank issued notes dated as early as January 2, 1909, payable on various Caribbean islands.