Los Angeles-based City National became known as “Hollywood’s banker” after its CEO lent Frank Sinatra $240,000 — around $1.8 million in today’s dollars — to ransom his kidnapped son in 1963. Soon, it will have a foreign owner. Last week RBC said it would buy the bank for $5.4 billion, in what InvestmentNews calls one of the biggest deals involving a regional wealth management firm since Raymond James Financial bought Morgan Keegan for $1.2 billion a couple of years ago.
It’s not hard to see why the move makes strategic sense for RBC. City National’s wealth unit caters to rich clients not just in Los Angeles but in New York and the San Francisco Bay area. In an analyst call RBC chief executive David McKay said “the combined high-net-worth population of these three markets is over 4½ times the entire high-net-worth population of Canada,” according to The Wall Street Journal. RBC, headquartered in Montreal, boasts AUM of about $260 billion in its wealth management arm. City National’s wealth unit will pump that up by $60 billion, InvestmentNews reports.
But RBC isn’t just buying clients. It’s going after a particular client base. According to the Hollywood Reporter, around a quarter of City National’s customers have something to do with the entertainment industry. (Many others, reports Toronto’s Financial Post, are in technology and healthcare.) City National’s CEO, Russell Goldsmith, formerly headed Republic Pictures.
As the Journal puts it, “RBC made a splashy play into the potentially lucrative area of managing the money of the rich and famous.” The Journal adds that RBC’s growth prospects at home are “withering”
The post-merger organization chart speaks volumes. The current CEO of RBC Wealth Management, John Taft, will report to Goldsmith, says InvestmentNews. Goldsmith will report directly to McKay. Furthermore, although branding details haven’t been ironed out, the publication says City National won’t change its name to RBC Wealth Management.
What does City National get out of the deal? InvestmentNews opines that joining forces with Canada’s largest bank by market cap will allow it to compete with the wirehouses. The deal, says InvestmentNews, gives City National “the capabilities and scale that more closely resembles [sic] a Bank of America Merrill Lynch than a regional firm.”
And its advisors need not worry about the malaise that plagues their counterparts at Merrill or Wells Fargo, Aite Group analyst Alois Pirker tells InvestmentNews. In part because City National already does a lot of private banking, Pirker is quoted as saying he expects “much less of a culture clash than big wirehouse firms” endure.
City National is the parent of Convergent Wealth Advisors, whose CEO died last fall of an apparent suicide amid questions about a fund he managed on the side. At the time, rumors circulated that an opportunistic buyer would snap up the troubled firm, which had AUM of $8.4 billion as of September. City National bought Convergent in 2007, says InvestmentNews, but no one knows what will happen to it now that RBC is in the director’s chair.