The Canadian financial institution has upgraded its IT system to offer clients more global products The Hong Kong branch of the Royal Bank of Canada, established in the city in 1959, has kept pace with the demand of its clients by offering a broad range of services, says head of risk management Sam Yu. With a staff of 90, the Royal Bank of Canada is the largest employer among Canadian banks in Hong Kong. Over the past 18 months, it has invested more than C$1 million (HK$5.79 million) in implementing and upgrading its information technology systems to offer clients and bank financial advisers comprehensive and quick access to the world's financial markets. The Royal Bank of Canada is one of a handful of smaller banks that can provide full brokerage services for the European, North American and local stock markets. Mr Yu said the bank's auto-matching system linked its front- and back-office operations directly to the Hong Kong stock exchange. This allows investment advisers to place stock trade orders directly through the Hong Kong stock exchange's central clearing system, providing clients with an efficient and timely transaction service. The bank's transaction and knowledge-sharing systems are also linked to regional offices in Brunei, Singapore and Japan. Mr Yu said the purpose-built systems provided clients and investment advisers with fast access to market data such as stock movement and pricing. Clients accessed the system through the bank's dedicated website specially set up for the local market. 'Over the past few years we have seen our clients' investment appetites change from traditional stock investments to a range of diverse investment tools that help spread the risk and benefits of their portfolio's,' Mr Yu said. The bank provides knowledge and assistance to clients by continually upgrading and introducing innovative services. Over the past two years, it has increased its Hong Kong team of investment advisers by 50 per cent and set up a dedicated team to handle Hong Kong stock trading. A Know Your Client (KYC) module has been set up to boost services. The module records client details such as investment preferences and risk tolerance. 'This information helps our advisers better understand our clients' investment interests and provide them with a more complete service,' Mr Yu said. This includes advice on investments ranging from derivatives to fixed income options and when to buy or sell stocks and bonds. During the 2002 and 2003 market downturns clients were increasingly receptive to new investment opportunities, which was reflected by the growth in the size of investment deposits. If clients wished to trade in North American securities and bonds they were able to carry out straightforward transactions through the bank, Mr Yu said. 'For the size of our operation, this makes us a little bit different because many smaller banks are unable to offer the same service. This is a niche market for us, which we consider to be our bread-and-butter business,' he said. Under the platform of RBC Investments, the bank provides wealth management, private banking and asset management services.