CHARLOTTE, N.C. As Royal Bank of Canada wraps up its acquisition of Centura Banks Inc., executives are eyeing an even larger U.S. presence and sounding rather like their new local competitors in describing their plans.
Royal Bank vice chairman Jim Rager, in Charlotte for a speech to local business leaders and a visit to Centuras headquarters, where shareholders were expected to vote in favor of the deal late Thursday, said the $2.3 billion deal for Centura, of Rocky Point, N.C., would give Canadas largest banking company a solid foundation for further U.S. expansion, both internally and through more acquisitions.
This is now a big enough base for us that we can grow from here, he said in comments to reporters after his address.
Echoing a refrain common among banks in the fast-growing Southeast, Mr. Rager ruled out blockbuster deals. Instead, Royal Bank would consider more narrow-targeted deals, such as smaller banks or financial services firms in high-growth areas and market segments, he said.
That puts Royal Bank squarely in the same camp as Charlotte-based First Union Corp., which after its surprising agreement to buy Wachovia Corp. pledged anew to restrict its buying to small acquisitions or mergers in fast-growth areas.
Likewise, Ken Lewis, Bank of America Corp.s new chairman and chief executive officer, promised in his inaugural speech at the companys shareholder meeting to focus on customer service, with deals confined to opportunistic ones in areas like asset management.
Royal Bank, of course, has much work to do as it stitches together its various U.S. businesses. The Toronto company and Centura have been working on their joint strategy, and Mr. Rager said his company hopes to begin marketing its commercial and investment banking services to businesses in the Southeast almost immediately.
With assets of $11 billion, Centura has 4,000 employees and 650,000 customers in the Carolinas and Virginia.
The Centura deal was announced Jan. 26, a month after Royal Bank purchased the Minneapolis brokerage Dain Rauscher Corp. On Thursday, at a conference in Charlotte sponsored by the North Carolina World Trade Association, Mr. Rager said he expects that unit, now called RBC Dain Rauscher Wessels, to try to expand quickly in the Southeast.
At the time the Centura purchase was announced, Royal Bank said the deal would expand its customer base and allow it to cross-sell a variety of products. Royal Bank has made several acquisitions in the United States in recent years in seeking new avenues for growth beyond Canada, where five major banks control most of the market.
The acquisition of Centura still needs the approval of U.S. and Canadian regulators, but Mr. Rager said Thursday he hopes it would be completed this month. After the sale closes, the North Carolina bank would take the name RBC Centura.
The Canadian company has had its eyes on the U.S. market for some time. Royal Bank bought the Chicago mortgage company Prism Financial Corp. in March 2000. Three months later it announced it would acquire Liberty Life Insurance Co. and Liberty Insurance Services Corp. in Greenville, S.C.
It also has bought Internet services. In 1998 it purchased the online Security First Network Bank. A year later it acquired the Web brokerage Bull and Bear, which the bank announced last month that it would sell to the online and discount brokerage company J.B. Oxford Holdings Inc.