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RBC I&TS’ Transfer Agency embraces digital innovation

By Global Investor Group

With more than 100 years of asset servicing experience, RBC Investor & Treasury Services (RBC I&TS) has established a leading transfer agency (TA) market-share in the key European offshore centres of Dublin and Luxembourg in recent years.

The Canadian bank has also been working hard in Asia and the Americas where it has been picking up business as it has delivered on its strategy to offer a cutting-edge digital offering to its buy-side clients. Speaking after RBC I&TS’ win of the Global Investor Investment Excellence Transfer Agency of the Year award in 2020, members of the RBC TA team reflect on their performance in a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and look ahead to 2021.

Christophe Kreutzer, Director, Shareholder Services at RBC I&TS, said the team was focused in 2020 on continuing to implement changes and enhancements to its existing global operating model to improve clients’ and investors’ experiences.

He said this initiative has three objectives: “First, to co-locate functions together in the best suitable time-zones and allocate capital to offices with the best potential to reduce costs and drive capacity.”

“Second, to expand our ability to service our clients by ensuring efficiency and flexibility over the long-term. By streamlining processes across multiple client groups and entities, we are able to reach this objective.

“Third, it is important to continually increase our resilience and ensure the continuity of services to clients in case of business disruptions, as highlighted by the current worldwide environment.”

Svitlana Saunders, a Director in the Shareholder Services division, said RBC I&TS’ digital strategy reflects the commitment to working in partnership with clients. She said: “Understanding our clients’ needs throughout their digitisation journey is fundamental to us and prioritising the evolution of the digital investor experience is a key strategic pillar of our current and future transfer agency offering.”

Prioritising the evolution
of the digital investor
experience is a key
strategic pillar of our
current and future
transfer agency offering

“Collaboration with our clients and understanding why digitising a task will enhance their experience is critical to ensuring that their goals and objectives are met every step of the way. We have continued our significant investment in our digital infrastructure to enhance our RBC One portal, providing our clients with greater access to investor data, dashboard analytics to better understand fund flows and the ability to effectively oversee the service we provide,” Saunders added.

RBC I&TS, like its peers, was forced in early 2020 to adapt its business to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, which involved the bank and its clients’ staff transitioning to working from home.

Saunders said: “The pandemic provided the opportunity for us to use our technology and expertise to ensure clients continued to receive high-quality service, while we implemented new enhancements.”

She added: “Some examples of digital enhancements we made in light of COVID-19 were digital oversight reports, automated reporting, e-signature tools, digital automatic payments, the implementation of real-time live data dashboards, automated and secure documents exchange and many more.”

Bob Schaminé, Director, Head of Client Experience, Shareholder Services, said the pandemic served to validate the RBC operating model.

“In hindsight, while recognising the obvious impacts on people and the economy, the global pandemic has proven that the RBC TA operating model, which consists of having identical infrastructure, procedures and processes in all operational centres in the three major time zones, provides the necessary resiliency and scale to ensure our clients and their investors have not been impacted by the different shutdowns globally.”

Schaminé said his team also moved a large number of employees into a working-from-home environment, without any disruption to service and quality to clients.

We have also continued to help asset managers widen their distribution networks across the globe

He continued: “In regards to digitalisation and automation, RBC in collaboration with its clients has taken the opportunity to automate a significant number of manual transactions. This has increased efficiency but also reduced risk and led to an improved investor experience. We have also continued to help asset managers widen their distribution networks across the globe.”

Schaminé said scale and breadth of service have proved key attributes in the past 12 months: “Through RBC as a leading offshore TA, with a distribution reach spanning 114 countries and 19 onshore markets, our clients can connect to more than 17,000 distributors. This ensures our clients achieve success and planned expansion for fund structures in global markets. A particular focus is on the APAC region and the Americas where our offices ensure that local investors have a seamless experience.”

Christelle Reichart, Director, Product Management, Shareholder Services at RBC I&TS, said clients are still working in an environment dominated by the effects of the COVID pandemic.  

“COVID-19 continues to challenge organisations around the world, transfer agents included, and likely will for quite some time,” said Reichart. “Even if transfer agents are better positioned than at the start of the pandemic, they still need to continue to build operational resilience for the uncertain future. This means that the automation of the funds processing chain needs to accelerate as well as the digitisation of the investor experience. Ensuring the most efficient onboarding process and the most optimal investor journey will be paramount. Providers will compete on the services to be proposed to asset managers in this area and, as transfer agents, the digital experience that we can offer to their investors.”

Reichart said that, while firms have been exploring for years optimal ways of digitising the account opening experience, the current crisis has emphasised the need for more collaboration between the transfer agent asset manager and platform provider.

She added: “Distributed ledger technology, while disruptive, is the technology that will most likely contribute to the transformation. Transfer agents are willing to champion DLT, but are only one player in the chain. The widespread adoption of the technology needs the help of other industry participants – again collaboration is essential.

Distributed ledger technology, while disruptive, is the technology that will most likely contribute to the transformation

“Fintechs can, and should, be embraced as partners rather than viewed as competitors. Transfer agents have a role to play with scale and established client-relationships and have built credibility built over decades. Transfer agents have the strength to help them embrace disruption and influence the future shape of the industry,” Reichart added.

Fabien Preser, Director within Shareholder Services Technology, said the firm made many technology enhancements in 2020: “We were able to seamlessly adapt to a virtual environment, which enabled us to accelerate digital efficiencies across the business and set us up confidently to enter 2021.”

And RBC I&TS is committed to continue this effort into 2021. He said: “Our focus in the coming year will be to carry the momentum gained through these efficiencies and continue to look for ways to digitise and enhance the client experience.”

Preser said the technology strategy is based on three pillars: “The first pillar is to drive the profitability of the business, targeting the removal of manual intervention via automation, digitisation and reinforcing long-term partnerships with our clients.”

He continued: “The second pillar is to deliver a flexible and resilient architecture through rationalisation and modernisation of our core systems, and leveraging the cloud where applicable. The third pillar is to deliver effectively and efficiently with a value-focus through upskilling the workforce in areas such as design-thinking, agility practices and the leveraging of new tools to ultimately be quicker.”

RBC I&TS has established itself as a market-leader among global transfer agency specialists. The bank’s commitment to technology and digitising the client experience should only serve to strengthen that position into 2021 and beyond.

Watch the full interview with RBC I&TS’ Transfer Agency team, available here:

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1. Originally published by Global Investor Group (Feburary 2021