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Found 11 results

  1. http://business.financialpost.com/2011/10/14/rbc-trades-bay-street-for-bay-view/ They are going to have a nice new place.
  2. The banking system in eastern Europe is increasingly vulnerable to a severe economic downturn, Moody’s has warned, saying western European banks with local subsidiaries are at risk of ratings downgrades. “The relative vulnerabilties in east European banking systems will be exposed by an increasingly tougher operating environment in eastern Europe as a result of a steep and long economic downturn coupled with macroeconomic vulnerabilities,” Moody’s said in a report. The ratings agency said it expected “continuous downward pressure on east European bank ratings” because of deteriorating asset quality, falling local currencies, exposure to a regional slump in real-estate and the units’ reliance on scarce short-term funding. Eurozone banks have the largest exposure to central and eastern Europe, with liabilities of $1,500bn – about 90 per cent of total foreign bank exposure to the region. Shares of the handful of banks with substantial investments in eastern Europe – led by Austria’s Raiffeisen and Erste Bank, Société Générale of France, Italy’s UniCredit (which owns Bank Austria) and Belgian group KBC – tumbled after the ratings agency said it was concerned about the impact of a slowdown and the ability of the parent banks to support their support units in the region. The Austrian banking system is the most vulnerable, with eastern Europe accounting for nearly half of its foreign loans, while Italian banks are exposed to Poland and Croatia and Scandinavian institutions to the Baltic states. Central and eastern European currencies have come under intense pressure in recent weeks. The credit crisis has raised fears over the region’s ability to finance its current account deficits and slowing global growth has heightened concerns over the health of its export-dependent economies. The Polish zloty plunged to a five-year low against the euro on Tuesday, while the Czech koruna hit a three-year trough against the single currency and the Hungarian forint falling to a record low. The Prague and Warsaw stock indices meanwhile fell to their lowest levels in five years, while the smaller markets of Budapest, Zagreb and Bucharest skirted close to multi-year lows. The euro dropped to a two-month low against the dollar on Tuesday on heightened concerns over eurozone banks’ exposure to the worsening conditions in eastern Europe. Amid the growing sense of crisis in eastern European economies, Hungary on Tuesday outlined plans to save Ft210bn (€680m, $860m) this year to prevent an increase in the budget deficit. Hungary’s economy is expected to contract by up to 3 per cent this year, much more than earlier expectations. Antje Praefcke at Commerzbank said eastern European currencies were in a “self-feeding depreciation spiral.” “The creditworthiness of local banks, companies and private households, who hold mainly foreign currency denominated debt, is deteriorating with each depreciation in eastern European currencies, thus further undermining confidence in the currencies,” she said. Ms Praefcke said further depreciation of eastern European currencies was thus a distinct possibility, which was likely to undermine the euro. “The collapse of these currencies is likely to constitute a risk for the euro,” she said. “So far markets have largely ignored this fact, but are unlikely to be able to maintain this approach if the weakness of the eastern European currencies continues.” Western European banks have piled into the former Communist countries in recent years as economic growth in the region outpaced domestic gains. The accession of 10 new members to the European Union in 2004, and of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, added to optimism about the region. In 2007, Raiffeisen and Erste Bank earned the vast majority of their pre-tax profits in eastern European countries including Russia and Ukraine. Since the onset of the global financial crisis, Hungary, Latvia and Ukraine have all received emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund, with other countries in the region expected to follow.
  3. Life in Montreal - Telegraph Mentor Patricia Smith says Canadians are genuinely nice people; friendly and welcoming, fond of the British and very proud of their homeland. Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 28/11/2007 Patricia Smith is willing to answer your questions about Montreal. Our mentors are volunteers and any information they provide is for information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Click here to access the message boards terms and conditions. My family moved to Montreal in early 2000 when my husband was offered a job with a Biotech company here. I also worked in the Biotech sector in Montreal for two years but left to start my own relocation company, Home Thoughts. My company is a Destination Services company that specialises in helping Brits who are moving to Montreal to find housing and schools, showing them where to shop, helping them to get drivers licenses, finding them cleaners, doctors, dentists, child-minders etc. Basically, all the things I wish someone had helped me with when I moved here! In addition to my experience of international relocation, having worked here as well, I understand the work ethos, which is very different from that in the UK and in the US. If anyone has any questions about visiting or moving to Montreal I am more than happy to answer them. Ask questions and read the answers on the Mentor Noticeboard. Geography: Montreal is located on an island gently nestled within the St. Lawrence Seaway in Eastern Canada in the Province of Quebec. The city is dominated by a large hill in the centre, grandly called 'The Mountain' by the locals, and only slightly less grandly officially 'Mont Royal'. This beautiful parkland, with the Mansions of Westmount and Outrement cut part way up it, has a chateau at the top and a lookout from which you can see right across to the States. Looking down you can see the business center of Montreal, the McGill University campus buildings and the bridges that cross the St. Lawrence. To the north of Montreal only 45 minutes away are the Laurentian mountains with their superb ski resorts, golf courses, lakes and cottages for summer and winter. To the East an hour away, are the Eastern Townships, again with superb skiing, golf, lakes and holiday cottages. The US is 40 minutes away to the south with Boston and New York six hours drive away and one hour by air. There are several daily flights to London only 7 hours away, and to the rest of Europe. Cuisine: The French influence means that the food is great; the croissants and pastries are second only to France. It appears that everyone who has ever emigrated here also loves food because there are restaurants of every nationality serving good food to suit every budget. Eating out here is so cheap compared to the UK, the portions are large, the service is great and children are welcome everywhere. There is a lot more smoking here than in the UK so ask for a non-smoking table if that is your preference. Wine and spirits are very expensive as they are sold by a Quebec government agency, the SAQ. The wine sold in the supermarkets is more like Ribena. Beer is more reasonably priced and can be bought in supermarkets or corner shops called depanneurs. People: Canadians are genuinely nice people; friendly and welcoming, fond of the British and very proud of their homeland. It has been said that Canada is a bit boring, but this is really not the case in Quebec. The European influence, particularly that of the French, really livens things up. After Paris, Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. 69% of its three million people speak French as their mother tongue, 12% speak English and 19% don't speak either. The reality of the situation, however, is that in this tolerant, vibrant, and youthful city most of its inhabitants are functionally bilingual, often trilingual, and so coming here only speaking English is not a problem. Even if you speak perfect French you will be spotted as a visitor as the Quebecois accent is very different. I have lived here for four years and people still start speaking in English to me the minute I say 'Bonjour'. Montrealers love Brits and the shop assistants always want to chat, telling you who in their family is British, and how much they love your accent. There are also large numbers of immigrants from non-English or French cultures and there is no obvious racial tension. I suspect this is because they are not perceived scroungers or benefit seekers but just as new additions to a long line of immigrants, who are here to work hard, learn French and get on with life. Weather: Montreal has four distinct seasons. Winter is long lasting from November until the end of March. It has usually snowed by the middle of December and carries on intermittently until March. January and February are the coldest months with temperatures averaging -10ºC but on the odd day it does fall to -40ºC with the wind chill factor. -10ºC sounds cold but it isn't really provided you have the right clothes. It is a dry cold and so it doesn't penetrate through to your bones as it does in the UK. The children love the snow, which is dry and brushes off easily, and you can always appreciate the beautifully clear blue skies. Spring is very short lasting from April to the end of May, but everything grows extremely quickly and it is delightful to see the grass and flowers pushing through past the residual snow. Summer runs luxuriously through June to September and is hot and often humid. The temperature can reach the mid 30's in July and August and it is truly fantastic. Fall (Autumn) runs from October until mid-November and is beautiful with red, brown and gold colours abounding. It is a great time to travel to Vermont and the Laurentians or anywhere woody and rural. Standard of Living: Everything in Montreal is roughly half the price of that in the UK, from food and clothes to restaurants and housing, and people are not embarrassed to question prices or complain about bad service. Salaries are lower than in the UK but despite this you will still have a much better standard of living in Montreal. Healthcare: The medical system, Medicare, is very similar to the NHS with the same sorts of advantages and disadvantages. Treatment is free on demand and the doctors and nurses are generally very good but the waiting lists are often long. GP's are in short supply and you have to wait for hours in the Emergency Room (casualty). Once you arrive on a work permit or land as an immigrant you need to obtain a Medicare card to get treatment. The private health system in Quebec is very limited. You cannot pay to see a consultant or have tests performed in a public hospital more quickly but you can go to a private clinic for certain tests, particularly if you are an adult. Many health insurance schemes will pay for this. The cost of prescription medicines is borne by the patient or by the private insurance that you will have through your employer. Dental care is high quality but very expensive and not covered at all by Medicare for adults and even for children the provision is limited. Employee insurance schemes cover dental treatment but cover varies from scheme to scheme. As in the UK, adults in Quebec pay for eye check ups and children and those on welfare benefits do not. Medicare does not cover the cost of glasses or contact lenses, however, most insurance schemes cover the costs in part or completely. Glasses and contact lenses are considerably cheaper in Quebec than in the UK. Driving: If you hold a valid British Driving License you can obtain a Quebec license without taking a test. You can drive for a few months on your international license but it is best to get a Quebec license as soon as possible. You can obtain this from the SAAQ (Société de l'Assurance Automobile du Quebec). You are legally required to carry your license with you when driving as well as the insurance and registration documents for the car. The rules regarding drink-driving, the wearing of seat belts, and use of child car seats are similar to those in the UK, i.e do not drink and drive, wear seats belts at all times and make sure your child has the correct car seat for their size and age. It is relatively easy to adjust to driving on the right hand side of the road in Quebec, because the speed limits are lower than in the UK and they are, by and large, obeyed. The general consensus among expats is that drivers in Quebec are not very good. It is not that they are deliberately obstructive or aggressive; they just seem unaware of other cars, not letting you into a lane or out of a side street, pulling out suddenly and rarely indicating. There is 'no fault' insurance in Quebec. That is, if you have an accident your insurance company pays for your damage and the other parties company pays for their damage regardless of who was responsible. Any injury to your person is insured by the SAAQ. Banking: If you are just visiting banking is fine, you can use your UK cashpoint cards in the ATM's which are everywhere, not just in the banks but in cinemas, depanneurs and supermarkets. Of course, UK credit cards are accepted everywhere. The banks are open 10am until 4pm on weekdays only and have very long queues so use the ATM whenever possible. If you are planning to move here for a few years banking is more difficult. Your credit reference in the UK is no good here at all and you basically start from scratch proving your financial worthiness to be given a credit card and overdraft facility. Getting as many store cards as possible is one way to improve your credit rating.
  4. Une «mégabanque» va faire ses premiers pas lundi à la Bourse de Londres, Lloyds Banking Group, fruit du mariage de raison entre Lloyds TSB et HBOS. Pour en lire plus...
  5. Henry Michaels spent 25 years as an investment banker with New York-based firms such as Merrill Lynch & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Citigroup Inc. When the financial crisis deepened this year, he abandoned the struggling U.S. companies for a job at Royal Bank of Canada. A cyclist passes the Royal Bank of Canada headquarters in Toronto in this file photo. Photographer: Norm Betts “In this crisis, strength and stability matter,” said Michaels, 48, who resigned as co-head of Citigroup’s banks and diversified financials group in May to join RBC Capital Markets in New York. “RBC is in growth mode, and it’s nice to be playing offense.” Canadian banks, bolstered by their reputation as the world’s soundest, are adding investment bankers even after rivals slashed almost 316,000 jobs worldwide since the collapse of the U.S. subprime market in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Lenders including RBC, BMO Capital Markets and CIBC World Markets have hired more than 700 investment bankers, analysts and traders in the U.S. and Canada this year, including from rivals such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup. “The profile of the Canadian banks on the global scale has been heightened exponentially over the course of the last year,” said Rose Baker, a managing partner in Toronto with executive recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. “They look more powerful and are able to attract talent that was historically not available to them.” Soundest Banks Canadian lenders, based in Toronto’s financial district known as Bay Street, have remained profitable amid the crisis because of tighter restrictions on lending and higher capital requirements. As a result, Canada’s biggest banks posted about $20.4 billion in writedowns and credit losses since 2007, a fraction of the $1.62 trillion taken by global financial- services firms in the period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The World Economic Forum last month named Canada as home to the world’s soundest banks for the second straight year. The resilience allowed the Canadian lenders to climb the ranks of global firms. Three Canadian banks now rank in the top 10 among North American lenders by market value. Three years ago, only Royal Bank made the list. Canadian banks are taking on experienced bankers as larger firms trim ranks. North American banks and brokerages cut 9.9 percent of their workforce in the past two years, according to Bloomberg data. Bank of America Corp. eliminated 46,150 jobs, while Citigroup cut 38,900 positions and Lehman fired 13,390 employees. Job Cuts By comparison, Canada’s five biggest banks pared 3,135 jobs, or about 1.1 percent of their staff, in areas such as consumer banking, according to company filings. RBC Capital Markets hired 325 investment bankers this year, including about 200 in its U.S. offices, said spokeswoman Katherine Gay. The hires included a Citigroup team of Michaels, Jerry Wiant and Sean Burke, who joined in July to expand RBC’s financial institutions group. Resumes are still coming in, said Doug Guzman, RBC’s head of global investment banking. “Five or six years ago we would have had to go hire headhunters for every single spot we wanted to hire because we didn’t have a network, our name wasn’t sufficiently known,” Guzman, 44, said from Toronto. RBC also recruited James Caldwell from Banc of America Securities in July to head up a new aerospace and defense group out of New York. In April, RBC expanded its U.S. real estate banking group by hiring John Case from UBS AG. “Our ability to build the business faster makes us a more attractive place to work,” Guzman said. ‘Different Careers’ Bank of Montreal’s investment bank attracted 30 people from non-Canadian firms this year as directors and managing directors at its U.S. and European offices. “We’ve been able to do an awful lot in a nine-month period because people are entertaining and receptive to considering new and different careers, or careers with different firms,” said Bill Butt, global head of investment and corporate banking at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. BMO’s recruiting allowed it to expand investment-banking services for industries including health care, food and consumer, and energy. Hires included Peter Boukouzis, 41, who left Rothschild’s New York office after eight years to move to Houston with his wife and three kids in August. “I’ve had a number of folks from other firms ask me if BMO is still hiring in the U.S.,” said Boukouzis, who advises oil and gas companies on takeovers. Canadian firms “have not gone unnoticed, both for the expansion in the U.S. market and the stability.” European Expansion In May, BMO hired Greg Pearlman and two others from Bank of America in Chicago to expand services for food and consumer companies. The firm also added a seven-member equity products sales team from UBS for its London and Paris offices in August. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which sold its New York-based investment banking business in January 2008, has also recruited from international firms to bolster its ranks, mainly in Toronto. The bank hired 32 senior bankers from foreign firms in the past nine months, including former Merrill Lynch banker Susan Rimmer, who heads up part of CIBC’s debt capital markets business, and former Lehman takeover specialist Geoffrey Belsher. Bank of Nova Scotia’s investment bank hired five Wells Fargo & Co. bankers to expand its stock lending business in the U.S. last month. In March, Scotia Capital bought an energy trading business from UBS, adding about 60 employees in New York. Canadian banks had a “big advantage” in the past six months for attracting skilled bankers, Heidrick & Struggles’ Baker said. The challenge now is to keep them, she added. Retention “As some of the international banks like Bank of America and Citi get their house in order, they may lose some of that advantage,” Baker said. “As the market turns, it’s going to be all about how they retain them.” Bill Vlaad of Vlaad & Co., a Toronto-based recruiter specializing in the financial-services industry, says Canadian banks have “increased their weight class” during the slump, though they shouldn’t count the competition out. “One hundred and fifty years of global dominance in capital markets doesn’t just disappear overnight,” Vlaad said. “Some of these names that we’ve seen in the paper will shine again, and there’s something very rewarding about having those names on your resume.”
  6. Europe Works to Contain Crisis Article Tools Sponsored By NYC Times By CARTER DOUGHERTY, NELSON SCHWARTZ and FLOYD NORRIS Published: October 6, 2008 European nations scrambled further Monday to prevent a growing credit crisis from bringing down major banks and alarming savers as Sweden followed Germany, Austria and Denmark in offering new protections for bank deposits. As troubles in financial markets spread around the world, some governments are eager to act to avoid the mistakes of the 1930s when authorities sat on their hands during the Wall Street crash and its aftermath, Julian Chillingworth, chief investment officer at Rathbone Unit Trust Management in London, said. Sweden became the latest European country to offer protection for bank deposits, after the German government offered blanket guarantees Sunday to all private savings accounts. Austria and Denmark also did the same. Britain’s government on Monday scrambled to find ways to help the country’s ailing banking sector and even considered a partial nationalization of the industry. The chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, continued to consult with advisers on Monday on ways to stabilize the banking sector, which may include a recapitalization financed by taxpayers, said a person at the Treasury who declined to be identified because the discussions were private. Stocks fell sharply on Monday in London, Paris and Frankfurt. New bailouts were arranged late Sunday for two European companies, Hypo Real Estate, a large German mortgage lender, and Fortis, a large banking and insurance company based in Belgium but active across much of the Continent. Under the agreement, BNP Paribas will acquire the Belgium and Luxembourg banking operations of Fortis for about $20 billion. The spreading worries came days after the United States Congress approved a $700 billion bailout package that officials had hoped would calm financial markets globally. The crisis in Europe appears to be the most serious one to face the Continent since a common currency, the euro, was created in 1999. Jean Pisani-Ferry, director of the Bruegel research group in Brussels, said Europe confronted “our first real financial crisis, and it’s not just any crisis. It’s a big one.” Britain is coming under increasing pressure to act. Some investors criticized the government for failing to set up an American-style rescue fund and for its piecemeal approach to deal with each problem. “The government needs to get on their front foot and get control of their own destiny,” Mr. Chillingworth said. “We could well be in a period where we see a quasi-nationalization in the banking sector, where taxpayers are taking equity stakes.” Britain partly nationalized Bradford & Bingley last week after the mortgage lender struggled to get financing and brokered a takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB after its shares lost most of its value. From Tuesday, the government will also increase the amount of retail deposits it guarantees to £50,000, or $88,600, from £35,000. Some analysts said guaranteeing deposits might reinstate client confidence but would fall short of bringing back the trust among banks that is desperately needed to encourage them to lend to each other. British banks remain burdened by their exposure to worthless mortgage assets, but the larger problem remains their unwillingness to lend to one another — even after an injection of £40 billion by the Bank of England. “Liquidity is drying up,” said Richard Portes, a professor of economics at the London Business School. “The authorities have to deal with this paralysis in the money markets.” The European Central Bank has aggressively lent money to banks as the crisis has grown. It had resisted lowering interest rates, but signaled on Thursday that it might cut rates soon. The extra money, aimed at ensuring that banks have adequate access to cash, has not reassured savers or investors, and European stock markets have performed even worse than the American markets. In Iceland, government officials and banking chiefs were discussing a possible rescue plan for the country’s commercial banks. In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Peer Steinbrück, appeared on television Sunday to promise that all bank deposits would be protected, although it was not clear whether legislation would be needed to make that promise good. Mindful of the rising public anger at the use of public money to buttress the business of high-earning bankers, Ms. Merkel promised a day of reckoning for them as well. “We are also saying that those who engaged in irresponsible behavior will be held responsible,” she said. The events in Berlin and Brussels underscored the failure of Europe’s case-by-case approach to restoring confidence in the Continent’s increasingly jittery banking sector. A meeting of European heads of state in Paris on Saturday did little to calm worries, though officials there pledged to work together to ensure market stability. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and his counterparts from Germany, Britain and Italy vowed to prevent a Lehman Brothers-like bankruptcy in Europe but they did not offer a sweeping American-style bailout package. The growing crisis has underlined the difficulty of taking concerted action in Europe because its economies are far more integrated than its governing structures. “We are not a political federation,” Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, said after the meeting. “We do not have a federal budget.” Last week, Ireland moved to guarantee both deposits and other liabilities at six major banks. There was grumbling in London and Berlin about the move giving those banks an unfair advantage. But Germany proposed its deposit guarantee Sunday after Britain raised its guarantee. The German officials emphasized that the guarantee applied only to private depositors, not to the banks themselves. But on Monday, Mr. Steinbrück said the government was considering an “umbrella” to protect the banking sector. Unlike in the United States, where deposits are now fully guaranteed up to a limit of $250,000 — a figure that was raised from $100,000 last week — deposits in most European countries have been only partly guaranteed, sometimes by groups of banks rather than governments. In Germany, the first 90 percent of deposits up to 20,000 euros, or about $27,000, was guaranteed. Even before the Paris meeting began it was becoming clear that two bailouts announced the week before had not succeeded and that UniCredit, a major Italian bank, might be in trouble. UniCredit announced plans on Sunday to raise as much as 6.6 billion euros. Fortis, which only a week ago received 11.2 billion euros from the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, was unable to continue its operations. On Friday, the Dutch government seized its operations in that country, and late Sunday night the Belgian government helped to arrange for BNP Paribas, the French bank, to take control of the company for 14.5 billion euros, or about $20 billion. In Berlin, the government arranged a week ago for major banks to lend 35 billion euros to Hypo Real Estate, but that fell apart when the banks concluded that far more money would be needed. Late Sunday night the government said a package of 50 billion euros had been arranged, with both the government and other banks taking part. The credit crisis began in the United States, a fact that has led European politicians to assert superiority for their countries’ financial systems, in contrast to what Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy, called the “speculative capitalism” of the United States. On Saturday, Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, said the crisis “has come from America,” and Mr. Berlusconi bemoaned the lack of business ethics that had been exposed by the crisis. Many of the European banks’ problems have stemmed from bad loans in Europe, and Fortis got into trouble in part by borrowing money to make a major acquisition. But activities in the United States have played a role. Bankers said Sunday that the need for additional money at Hypo came from newly discovered guarantees it had issued to back American municipal bonds that it had sold to investors. The credit market worries came on top of heightening concerns about economic growth in Europe and the United States. “Unless there is a material easing of credit conditions,” said Bob Elliott of Bridgewater Associates, an American money management firm, after retail sales figures were announced, “it is unlikely that demand will turn around soon.” Henry M. Paulson Jr., the United States Treasury secretary, hoped that approval of the American bailout, which involved buying securities from banks at more than their current market value, would free up credit by making cash available for banks to lend and by reassuring participants in the credit markets. But that did not happen last week. Instead, credit grew more expensive and harder to get as investors became more skittish about buying commercial paper, essentially short-term loans to companies. Rates on such loans rose so fast that some feared the market could essentially close, leaving it to already-stressed banks to provide short-term corporate loans. Europe’s need to scramble is in part the legacy of a decision to establish the euro, which 15 countries now use, but not follow up with a parallel system of cross-border regulation and oversight of private banks. “First we had economic integration, then we had monetary integration,” said Sylvester Eijffinger, a member of the monetary expert panel advising the European Parliament. “But we never developed the parallel political and regulatory integration that would allow us to face a crisis like the one we are facing today.” In Brussels, Daniel Gros, director of the Center for European Policy Studies, agreed. “Maybe they will be shocked into thinking more strategically instead of running behind events,” he said. “The later you come, the higher the bill.” While the European Central Bank has power over interest rates and broader monetary policy, it was never granted parallel oversight of private banks, leaving that task to dozens of regulators across the Continent. This patchwork system includes national central banks in each of the euro zone’s 15 members and they still retain broad powers within their own borders, further complicating any regional approach to problem-solving. “The European banking landscape was transformed fairly recently,” Mr. Pisani-Ferry said. “When the euro was first introduced, the question of cross-border regulation didn’t really arise.” Optimists say one potential long-term benefit from the current turmoil is that it often takes a crisis to propel European integration forward. “Progress in Europe is usually the result of a crisis,” Mr. Eijffinger said. “This could be one of those rare moments in E.U. history.”
  7. Streetscapes | Exchange Place An Early Tower That Aspired to Greatness G. Paul Burnett/NYT By CHRISTOPHER GRAY Published: July 20, 2008 FIFTY-NINE stories does not seem like much now, but when planned in 1929, the City Bank-Farmers Trust Building was to be the tallest skyscraper in the world after the Empire State Building. With its sheer limestone facade, haunting sculptural treatment and rich marble halls, the building — which is being converted to residential use — is a surprising find on its cramped, odd-shaped block at Exchange Place, at the conjunction of Beaver, Hanover and William Streets. In 1929, the financial district was booming. The architects Cross & Cross were at work on a 50-story office building for Continental Bank at Broad Street and Exchange Place, which ultimately wasn’t built. Then the National City Bank of New York merged with the Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company, and entered the skyscraper sweepstakes. When their architects, also Cross & Cross, filed plans at the Bureau of Buildings on Oct. 2, The New York Times described the new structure, at 71 stories and 846 feet, as the highest ever officially proposed. The design for the City Bank-Farmers Trust tower called for an illuminated globe on top, but the stock market crash a few weeks after filing brought the project up short, and it was reduced to 59 stories. Research by the Landmarks Preservation Commission gives the height as 685 feet, although just before completion The Times reported it as 750 feet. A partial set of engineering drawings from 1930 by the firm of Purdy & Henderson shows the 54th floor — several levels below the roof — as 670 feet high. The exact height of the building remains unclear. But it is safe to say that, when completed, it trailed the Empire State Building (1,250 feet), the Chrysler Building (1,046 feet) and the Bank of the Manhattan (927 feet). In August 1930, The Times reported that Gilbert Nicoll, a 20-year-old messenger, was near death after being hit by an iron bolt dropped from the 57th floor. He had been unemployed for months, according to the article, and the accident happened on his first day as a bank messenger. The building was completed the next year. The outside is plain, even ho-hum, except for 14 moody hooded figures at the 19th floor. The magazine Through the Ages said in 1931 that they represented “giants of finance, seven smiling, seven scowling.” Figures of coins on the ground floor represented countries in which the bank had its main branches. The Times called the building “conservative modern.” According to a 1931 article in Architecture and Building, the two lavish lobbies were fashioned from 45 different kinds of marble, quarried in Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, France, Spain, Belgium and elsewhere. The brothers Eliot and John Walter Cross formed a talented and versatile partnership. Well born, well educated and socially connected, they did in-town mansions and country estates, banks and garages, lofts and skyscrapers — like the 1931 General Electric building at 51st Street and Lexington Avenue, with its Art Deco radio-wave imagery. The architects’ niece Sarnia Marquand told a reporter in a 1980 interview that John Cross was the designer in the firm and Eliot handled the business side. Their most recognizable design is probably the sumptuously plain Tiffany & Company store at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, which dates to 1940. According to the 1996 Landmark designation report, City Bank-Farmers Trust went through several changes, evolving into First National City Bank, and then, in 1976, Citibank. Its move out of the skyscraper happened in stages, the last one in 1989. The tower is easy to see from a distance but hard to find on the ground in the maze of irregular downtown streets. The City Bank-Farmers Trust banking hall runs along William Street. It is a high, columned space in English oak with polished marble and nickel trim, all handled in the Art Deco classicism that had become a safe alternative to radical European modernism. At Exchange and William, the main entrance to the banking hall is a high rotunda, flush with varying marbles, the most striking a golden travertine from Czechoslovakia, quite different from the pallid ivory-colored stone popular in the 1960s. From the tower there are wide views to the harbor and around to old skyscrapers on the land side. Today, a real estate firm, Metro Loft Management, is renovating the tower for rental apartments, and has 350 units ready on the floors from 16 to the top. A second phase, lower down, will involve office tenants; the company that takes the high banking hall will have a most spectacular retail space. E-mail: [email protected] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/realestate/20scap.html
  8. (Courtesy of the Financial Post) RBC (#10 in the world, #1 America's) Interesting thing is, RBC was 17th or 19th back in 2007. Banking industry stats (different countries) (Courtesy of CNBC)