RBC CEO says tech firms pose threat, eyes start-up partnerships

By Reuters

Apr 11, 2015 12:50 AM EDT

Technology companies pose a competitive threat to established lenders, the head of Royal Bank of Canada said on Friday, adding he was keen to work with start-ups to improve the company's mobile offerings.

RBC Chief Executive David McKay said he was positioning Canada's largest bank to compete with technology firms that have expanded into the money-moving business but don't "bear the financial and social costs of a deposit taking organization, nor the obligations of financial regulation."

"Many of these new entrants are excellent competitors - innovative, driven, and responsive to their clients, but they also may distort the financial system with unintended risks that regulators cannon clearly see," he told the bank's annual general meeting in Toronto.

The CEO did not specify which companies he was speaking about. But banks in Canada and abroad took notice last year when Apple Inc launched its Apple Pay service, which allows consumers using new Apple devices buy things by simply holding them up to readers installed by store merchants.

McKay said RBC was prepared to partner with small venture firms to develop applications for banking through mobile devices.

"(It's) how do we apply the world of banking to the mobile phone? Not only from a payments perspective, but from pure banking perspective, how to you pay? How do you transact in general?" he told a media briefing.

"A second area where we're certainly looking at technology to help innovate is in our processes, in the back office."

Separately, McKay also told investors that while the Canadian housing market was softening in some regions due to weaker oil prices, its fundamentals were solid.

"Overall the Canadian housing market is supported by strong trends in employment, household income, population growth and low interest rates," he said.

Canada's central bank unexpectedly cut interest rates in January as an "insurance" against falling oil prices. The cut reignited fears of a housing market bubble, just as the market had finally begun to cool.

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