TORONTO — Royal Bank’s decision to close 25 branches over the past year, mainly in city centres across Canada, is having a minimal impact on clients who increasingly favour an array of digital banking options, the company said Wednesday.Neil McLaughlin, head of Canadian personal and commercial banking, says the decision to shutter an overabundance of locations in some areas was aimed at redirecting costs of its operations.“The core focus is thinning out (our) dense urban branch footprint where we’re not really impacting the convenience for customers,” he told analysts during the bank’s third-quarter conference call.“You may go from a two-minute drive to your branch to a three-minute drive.”It’s part of a broader plan by the Toronto-based bank that included announcing 450 job cuts in June, mainly at its headquarters, and reinvesting in areas like data analytics and artificial intelligence.RBC (TSX:RY) has rolled out new technologies designed to make it easier for customers to handle daily banking on their smartphones. It recently launched an option to pay bills using Siri, the voice assistant of Apple’s iPhone.Those efforts helped the bank reach a milestone in the quarter where the total number of mobile banking sessions eclipsed online banking visits. Mobile transactions rose 40 per cent over the past year, it said.The bank boosted its quarterly dividend by five per cent to 91 cents per share, but reported net income of $2.8 billion — a decrease of three per cent from last year when its bottom line was boosted by the sale of an insurance business.Total revenue for the three months ended July 31 was $9.99 billion, down 2.6 per cent from a year ago.Excluding one-time items, net income grew five per cent from the third quarter of fiscal 2016.RBC is the first of Canada’s six biggest banks to report third-quarter financial results this year. CIBC (TSX:CM) reports on Thursday with the others reporting next week.Banking analyst John Aiken of Barclays Capital said in a note to clients that the dividend increase was twice as big as expected.“Although we and the Street had been expecting a drop in (RBC’s) earnings after a strong second quarter, (they) managed to exceed expectations on the back of impressive performances in its retail bank and wealth management platforms,” Aiken wrote.The profit amounted to $1.85 per share of net income under generally accepted reporting, or $1.89 per share on an adjusted cash basis.RBC booked $120 million in severance charges during the period, which CEO David McKay said was essential to reshaping the bank.“We found ourselves a need to accelerate our transformation,” he said. “We moved kind of two years of work into two quarters.”RBC’s wealth management division reported a 25 per cent increase in profits to $486 million, driven by stronger results from Los Angeles-based City National Bank, which it acquired nearly two years ago.Better results from the U.S. operations led the bank to hire more than 450 employees stateside, particularly in New York, Washington and Minneapolis.“New York’s a huge market and we’re just getting a small toe-hold in there,” McKay said.Follow @dfriend on Twitter. read more

first_imgGOOGLE HAS RESTRICTED access to a BBC blog posting and several British newspaper stories under a legal ruling granting people a right to be “forgotten” in search engines, it emerged on Thursday.BBC economics editor Robert Peston complained that Google had “killed this example of my journalism” after being informed that a 2007 posting about former Merrill Lynch chairman Stan O’Neal had been removed from certain searches in Europe.The Guardian newspaper also said it had been notified that six links to its stories had been removed from search results, three of them about a 2010 controversy involving a now-retired Scottish Premier League referee.The newspaper said it was given no reason and had no appeal against the decision, the result of a ruling by the European Court of Justice in May that the paper said was a “huge, if indirect, challenge to press freedom”.The court ruled that individuals have the right to have links to information about them deleted from searches in certain circumstances, such as if the data is outdated or inaccurate.Google, the world’s leading search engine, has said that each request would be examined individually to determine whether it met the ruling’s criteria.Mail Online, the world’s biggest news site, said it had received notification that links to a story about the same Scottish referee, Dougie McDonald, had been removed from certain searches.Other stories restricted include one about a couple caught having sex on a train, and another about a Muslim man who accused the airline Cathay Pacific of refusing to employ him because of his name.‘Like burning books’“These examples show what a nonsense the right to be forgotten is. It is the equivalent of going into libraries and burning books you don’t like,” said Martin Clarke, the publisher of Mail Online.He said the website would regularly publish lists of articles removed from Google’s European search results, while the BBC and The Guardian also published links to the restricted stories.The links remain visible on Google.com, the US version of the site, and the restrictions only appear to relate to certain search terms.A commentary in The Guardian noted that a search for Dougie McDonald no longer brought up its story on Google.co.uk, but a search for “Scottish referee who lied” worked fine.According to the story, McDonald was found to have lied about his reasons for granting a penalty in a Celtic v Dundee United match.Google told the BBC that it had since received 50,000 requests for articles to be removed, although they remain anonymous.A spokeswoman told AFP: “We have recently started taking action on the removals requests we’ve received after the European Court of Justice decision.“This is a new and evolving process for us. We’ll continue to listen to feedback and will also work with data protection authorities and others as we comply with the ruling,” she said.© – AFP 2014Read: Irish watchdog to investigate Facebook’s controversial mood experiment >Read: Google starts removing search results under ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling >last_img read more