Royal Bank of Canada has recruited about 100 senior bankers from struggling U.S. rivals in the past year to expand its investment banking business in this country.

Its U.S. investment banking unit has expanded its payroll by about 7% in the last 12 months by recruiting from companies including Citigroup Inc., UBS AG, and the now-defunct Bear Stearns Cos. The unit's U.S. work force is now about 1,600 people, according to the company.

"What's going on in the States is foundation-shaking at a lot of places," said Doug Guzman, the head of global investment banking at the RBC Capital Markets unit. "There's a lot of good people out there that are available, and that wouldn't have been the case two or three years ago."

U.S. banks and securities firms have collectively cut more than 76,000 jobs and taken about $240 billion of losses and writedowns since the collapse of the U.S. subprime market a year ago. Canadian lenders, which have reported $9.4 billion of debt writedowns, are taking advantage of the U.S. turmoil to buy bank assets and recruit professionals.

"Over the past year, we've strengthened our U.S. businesses by selectively hiring top talent from other firms," Royal Bank chief executive officer Gordon Nixon said in an e-mailed statement. "We've been able to do this because of the strength and reputation of our enterprise, plus the fact that market disruptions have made available many outstanding professionals."

Among its hirings, RBC Capital Markets recruited seven Bear Stearns bankers to build its health-care business and added Citigroup bankers Paul Zingarini and Richard Rothschild in June.

Royal Bank also bolstered its U.S. wealth management business, adding 97 people in the year's first seven months — ahead of last year's recruitment pace.

It is not alone in wooing bankers. Bank of Montreal's Chicago-based Harris consumer bank has recruited professionals from competitors such as Bank of America Corp., which bought Chicago's LaSalle Bank in October, and attracted clients and increased its commercial loan business. Harris has hired 39 business bankers since Jan. 1, mostly from LaSalle, as it focuses on expanding its commercial lending business.

"In the first seven months of the fiscal year, we added more … clients than we had in the entire previous year," Peter McNitt, the head of business banking at Harris, said in an interview. "We are getting a lot of traction in the marketplace, and even with the economy being a little wobbly, we continue to make progress and grow."

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