RBC Royal Bank of Canada's history in the Caribbean goes back a long way. In fact, the bank established branches in the Caribbean before some of Canada's western provinces.
Strong maritime roots influenced its representation throughout the West Indies and the Caribbean. Its commercial relations with the West Indies began with a group of merchants from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who formed the Merchant's Bank in 1864, and were engaged in the thriving sea-going trade between Halifax and the West Indies. In those days Canadian southbound ships carried mainly flour, codfish and timber, returning north with their cargoes of sugar, rum, cotton and spices.
Through branches established in all major trade centres in the Caribbean, RBC offered valuable facilities for promoting trade.
The bank's first venture south was Bermuda in 1882 followed by Cuba in 1899. By 1914, the bank's international network included Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Trinidad, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Barbados, British Honduras (now Belize) and Grenada. In that same year, RBC purchased the British Guiana Bank that had opened in 1836. By 1984 the bank had opened a total of 15 branches in Guyana (formerly British Guiana) and in November 1984 RBC ceased to operate in Guyana. The Bio-diversity Centre in Georgetown, created to study Guyana's largely intact rain forest, was built with funds from RBC's operations in Guyana, since it was impossible to take them out of the country due to foreign exchange restrictions.
Expanding through the Caribbean
In 1915, branches were established in three Eastern Caribbean islands - Dominica, Antigua and St. Kitts. Between 1917 and 1920 the bank opened branches in Nevis, Montserrat, Tobago, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti and St. Lucia. Branches were subsequently opened in St. Vincent in 1959 and Grand Cayman in 1964.
By 1996 RBC Royal Bank of Canada, or its subsidiaries, had consolidated its operations with 1,190 employees in Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and St. Lucia. Regional offices are located in Bahamas and Barbados.