Armed with a new name, the top executive at RBC Global Asset Management U.S. is expecting double-digit growth in 2010 as it works more closely with its parent bank and other asset managers under the RBC umbrella to introduce new products.
Voyageur Asset Management Inc. of Minneapolis announced Tuesday that as of Dec. 31, 2009, it has changed its name to RBC Global Asset Management Inc. U.S. Mike Lee, RBC Global’s chief executive officer, president and chief investments officer, said the name change represents an important step in the unit’s evolution into the U.S. institutional client platform for Royal Bank of Canada Global.
Lee said in an interview Tuesday that as part of the RBC platform his unit will be expanding its array of investment products in the next few months. In addition to plans to introduce some alternative products, he said RBC Global Asset Management U.S. plans to add a multi-strategy U.S. equity product and a global fixed income product. Both products are being built with investment teams in the United States and Canada along with RBC Global Asset Management’s other asset units—RBC Asset Management Inc. and Phillips, Hager & North Investment Management Ltd. Collectively, RBC Global Asset Management had $187 billion of combined assets under management as of Oct. 31.
Analysts said it is rare to see a bank place its brand onto one of its asset management unit considering most are moving in the opposite direction. “Naming the funds after a bank is acceptable, but considering some of the problems banks have tried to divorce themselves from their asset management units,” said Geoffrey Bobroff of Bobroff Consulting.
Lee said that Royal Bank of Canada’s strong track record makes it the exception. “As opposed to many banks, we have the backing of a very strong financial services company with a strong brand,” Lee said. “RBC connotes strength. The decision to change our name indicates to investors that we are strategically significant to the bank.”
Royal Bank of Canada has created “an asset management” culture within the bank, Lee added. “What is important, more important than the name on the door, is creating a culture that [provides] people [with incentives],” he said. “We are not being brought under the corporate and management structures of the bank. RBC has proven that they are strong at operating asset management businesses.”
Royal Bank of Canada bought Voyageur in 2001. Since then it has increased in assets under management to $40.5 billion from $14.1 billion at Dec. 31, 2000. During the first nine months of last year, Voyageur increased its assets under management 22.7%.
Lee said that the new brand is already helping his unit develop assets this year. “We are developing relationship through Royal Bank of Canada and because of the RBC brand,” he said. “Many banks in Canada, particularly RBC, have weathered the financial storms wisely and come out in really good shape.”
Bobroff said most banks struggle with the branding question. “In the United States, there is really only two brands when it comes to wealth management—Vanguard and Fidelity—the rest is awareness and that is different than branding,” he said. “Whether they are named Voyageur or RBC, I am not sure there is much of a difference in terms of awareness. I think they are going to do more than rename themselves to generate assets.”
Lee said RBC Global Asset Management has strong investment management resources in the United States and Canada. “We want to leverage these capabilities and expand globally,” he said. “We believe that there are opportunities to tap into these capabilities to create global investment strategies.