The market decline has hit RBC’s wealth management business, which reported a 10% decline in net income to U.S. $288 million in the third quarter from the same period a year ago. The firm said it was largely due to market conditions leading to lower fee-based revenue.

Overall third quarter revenues for the unit were flat, at approximately $918 million, compared to about the same amount for the same period a year ago.

Revenues at the Canadian portion of the unit dropped by 15% to $299 million while the U.S. and global parts of RBC’s wealth management business saw an 8% increase in revenues to $479 million. The firm said this was due to improved investor confidence in the U.S. leading to higher transaction volumes, as well as gains it made on its stock-based compensation plan in its U.S. business.

Over the past year, RBC’s U.S. wealth management operation has attracted a number of high-producing advisors from the wirehouses. It now has 4,528 advisors globally. For the full year, in 2008, the firm hired 157 advisors and so far this year they’ve hired 279, according to RBC’s press office. Overall, the firm increased its advisor headcount by a net 5% over the past year.

New York-based industry recruiter Michael King says he’s noticed some increase in interest in RBC from wirehouses brokers, especially now there are fewer alternatives as a result of the big wirehouse mergers of the past year. RBC’s recruitment package, while still nowhere near the wirehouse deals, is also better than most of the other smaller firms, such as Stifel Nicolaus and Janney Montgomery Scott, King said.

Doug Dannemiller, a senior analyst at Boston-based consulting firm Aite Group, says RBC needs to capitalize on its recruiting success while it can. “As the market recovers, and the wirehouses stabilize, there won’t be the same motivation for brokers to leave the big firms,” he says. Even if the new recruits don’t add to revenue right away, “they’ll be the engine for future growth,” Dannemiller adds.

Overall, RBC posted record profits of $1.56 billion, up 24% from a year earlier. The profits were largely driven by its strong trading revenues of $1.6 billion for the quarter, the company said.

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