RBC’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.
RBC’s roots began when a group of merchants from Halifax, Nova Scotia who were engaged in the thriving sea-going trade between Halifax and the West Indies formed the Merchant's Bank in 1864. 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 15 branches in Guyana (formerly British Guiana) but in November 1984, RBC ceased to operate there. 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 foreign exchange restrictions made it impossible to take them out of the country.
Expanding through the Caribbean
In 1915, branches were established in three Eastern Caribbean islands - Dominica, Antigua and St. Kitts. Between 1917 and in 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, or its subsidiaries, had consolidated its operations with 1,190 employees in Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and St. Lucia. In 2002, management of the entire area of eight countries and 14 islands was moved to Nassau, Bahamas from Toronto, Canada, with a regional office in Barbados. In 2008, RBC completed the purchase of RBTT Financial Group and created one of the most extensive banking networks in the Caribbean.
RBC has a presence in 20 countries and territories across the Caribbean, with 125 branches and close to 6,800 employees serving more than 1.6 million clients. RBC’s Caribbean headquarters are based in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.