RBC Bank's days are dwindling

PNC Financial says all is set for March 2 switch

dranii@newsobserver.comFebruary 23, 2012 

  • Headquarters: Pittsburgh

    CEO: James E. Rohr

    Employees: 52,000 *

    Branches: 2,500 in 16 states and the District of Columbia

    ATMs: 6,800

    Assets: $271 billion

    * Numbers don't include the pending acquisition of RBC Bank.

The RBC Bank brand is poised to become extinct in eight days.

On Friday, March 2 RBC branches will close at 4 p.m. - two hours earlier than usual - and the RBC signs will give way to PNC signs that are already in place but hidden.

PNC Financial Services Group, a regional bank based in Pittsburgh, has been preparing for this day since it announced last June that it had cut a deal with Royal Bank of Canada, the corporate parent of RBC Bank, to acquire the Raleigh-based bank for $3.45 billion. March 2 is also when the deal closes. "In terms of employee readiness, we are ready to go," said Bill Bunn, the RBC veteran whom PNC has designated as retail market manager for the Carolinas. Bunn will oversee 178 branches in North Carolina, and 198 overall, which serve nearly 500,000 customers.

PNC, which has made seven acquisitions in the last eight years, has a good track record when it comes to absorbing new customers with minimal disruptions, said Terry McEvoy, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co.

"The theme is successful conversion, keeping customers happy," he said.

Although competing banks are hoping to win RBC Bank customers whose loyalty may be tested by the changeover, McEvoy predicts that in the long run PNC's expanded products and quality customer service will enable it to expand its market share.

Bunn said PNC has been communicating with customers since January about the mechanics of the conversion. Adding 400-plus RBC branches in six Southeastern states will give PNC more than 2,900 branches in 19 states and Washington, D.C. - more than all but four U.S. banks.

Account numbers switch

It's a changeover that won't be seamless for some RBC Bank customers.

Account numbers for deposit accounts are changing, so customers who have their paychecks directly deposited in their accounts or have their mortgages automatically paid from their checking account need to contact their employer and their mortgage company.

A fail-safe system is in place, however. Customers who don't update their information immediately will still have their transactions processed for an indefinite period, Bunn said.

Most credit card numbers won't change, and PNC plans to send out new credit cards in early March. Customers also should receive new debit cards prior to March 2, but the personal identification number will remain the same. Bills that are paid automatically through online banking accounts will continue to be paid.

New services, lost jobs

New services being offered by PNC include "mobile banking" - banking conducted via cellphones - and PNC's "Virtual Wallet." The latter is an online money management system that helps track bills and spending.

PNC has disclosed that it could eliminate as many as 621 jobs in Raleigh and Rocky Mount after the deal is completed, or about 40 percent of the workforce in the two cities.

But the bank has stressed that's a worst-case scenario that doesn't account for employees whose jobs are eliminated but take other positions at the bank, or who leave before PNC takes over.

Bunn declined to discuss those cutbacks.

"What I can say, unequivocally, is that we are adding more positions to better serve our clients at the branches," said Bunn. He added that it is too early to say how many jobs will be added at the branches he oversees.

In Eastern North Carolina, the bank plans to add bankers who will specialize in working with farmers, said Bunn.

PNC also will step up its investment services, which at RBC has been limited to certain markets and has focused on affluent customers.

"If someone comes into a branch and they want help saving for college, we can help them," Bunn said.

So long, RBC Center

The RBC Bank brand is relatively new. When Royal Bank of Canada acquired Centura in 2001, it christened its U.S. banks RBC Centura. That endured until 2009, when Centura was dropped from the name.

But the RBC Bank brand has been highly visible in the Triangle. The bank plastered its name on a downtown Raleigh office tower in 2008 when it moved its headquarters from Rocky Mount to the corner of Fayetteville and Martin streets, a shift that helped to spur the downtown revival.

RBC Bank also owns the naming rights to the Raleigh sports arena that is home to the Carolina Hurricanes and N.C. State University's basketball team, which is scheduled to become PNC Arena on March 15.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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