The more things change, the more they get better. That is a key aim behind RBC’s never-ending quest to build deeper and longer lasting client relationships.

It was way back in 2009 that RBC CEO Dave McKay, then group head of Canadian Banking, told the writer that that RBC was expanding its already successful RBC Rewards loyalty programme to all of its consumer banking product categories.

At the time, he said: “We compete on four things: service, value for money, convenience and advice. You have to deliver against all four of these pillars if you want to be a one-stop-shop organisation.”

He added: “We have already one of the largest loyalty programmes in the country, and we will be announcing a campaign to give a large number of rewards points to our customers to heighten the value proposition and the reciprocity for business. I would say that yes, absolutely, customers respond to these sorts of initiatives.”

And respond they did – massively. In the intervening decade, RBC transformed the loyalty landscape in Canada.

RBC Loyalty: rewarding 14 million Canadians

And previously, in these pages, executives described RBC Rewards, the bank’s proprietary rewards programme, as a core competency and a key differentiator in a world where consumer value propositions have undergone fundamental shifts.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData

And RBC’s world-class rewards programme has been recognised in past RBI global awards for setting the benchmark for bank loyalty strategy. One cannot underestimate the contribution the programme makes to the bank’s ongoing retail banking success, recognised last year by RBI with the award of best global retail bank.

The programme’s continued success – it’s now available to more than 14 million Canadians, and, in 2022 alone, delivered over 127 billion in points and offers from 1,900+ merchant partners – reinforces the bank’s claims.

RBC focus evolves ‘beyond the traditional loyalty landscape’

But if you stand still, you fall behind in the intensely competitive marketplace where most Canadians have, on average, 14 loyalty memberships, six of which they actively engage with and use. That’s why bank executives told RBI it would be evolving its focus “beyond the traditional loyalty landscape.”

Two major initiatives are helping to do just that.

Last year, RBC launched Avion Rewards, which marks “the next evolution of our loyalty programme for Canadians” according to Niranjan Vivekanandan.

The bank’s Head of Loyalty & Merchant Solutions says the programme builds on the success of RBC Rewards “by providing Canadians with more ways to shop, earn, save and redeem with innovative shopping features, best-in-class cash back deals and offers, and more ways to pay with points.”

Its network of retail partners includes more than 1,900 merchants, enabling members to take advantage of exclusive cash back deals, discounts and opportunities to earn Avion points. Members can also take advantage of exclusive offers from program partners from favourite Canadian companies including Petro-Canada, Rexall (pharmacy) and RONA inc. (home improvement).

Transitioning from a traditional bank programme to a data driven consumer engagement platform

One unique feature is the programme’s “shopping companion” that proactively connects members to retail partners as they shop online, saving them time and money by delivering the most relevant, cash back deals, coupons and offers.

Vivekanandan says Avion Rewards represents a concerted effort to shift from a traditional bank programme to a data driven consumer engagement platform.

“RBC engages with consumers at their intent stage, then links them to best-in-class offers from our massive partnership engine that powers the programme. This enables us to deliver differentiated value and experiences for our members as well as serve as an important distribution channel for us to expand our brand exposure and reach new prospects within the marketplace.”

RBC Avion Rewards: to be opened up to all Canadians

RBC created a new membership structure to expand the program to more than 14 million Canadians, including mortgage and investment clients. When the bank opens Avion Rewards up to all Canadians in the coming year, over 30 million Canadians will be able to access the programme and become a member whether they have a bank product or not.

The Avion Rewards initiative came off the heels of another major move to revamp RBC’s everyday bank offering, RBC Vantage, in 2021. The bank’s 8.5 million retail clients can now derive more value from their everyday activities and be rewarded for their banking relationship, particularly as it grows with the bank.

Rewarding loyalty by unlocking greater value

Not only do clients earn more rewards and savings from popular Canadians brands, they can also become Avion Rewards members and collect Avion points when using their debit card.

As Erica Nielsen, EVP, Personal Banking & Investments, explains: “if we want to create deeper relationships with clients, we need to demonstrate reciprocity. RBC needs to reward their loyalty to us by unlocking even more value for them.”

But Nielsen emphasises that RBC Vantage is more than “a collection of benefits and services.” For many people, the pandemic has underscored the importance of financial well-being and as such “clients want our help building confidence in making critical financial decisions. And most importantly, they want us to earn their trust by looking out for their best interests and having their backs.”

Clients can access interactive tools to identify the bank account that works best for them or work with an advisor for a deeper discovery of their wants and needs.  There is no monthly fee for newcomers for their first year and students never have to pay a monthly free, among other benefits. The bank’s unique digital platform – MyAdvisor – is also available to help clients create a personalised plan through the support of an RBC adviser via video, phone or -in-person.

Transforming the client relationship

RBC Vantage was also built on a technology platform that will better support product innovation. It gives clients holistic and differentiated views of their product holdings and activities; and more dynamically deploy value-added features, as well as continuing to simplify tools and resources used by clients and advisors. The added functionality and speed of delivery will help transform the way RBC approaches the client relationship, says Nielsen.

The business rationale is simple: More than 70% of clients begin their RBC relationship with an everyday banking need – specifically, a personal deposit account or credit card. And 75% of small business, mortgage and investing clients at RBC start out as personal deposit clients.

Providing the right products, creating the right experiences

The bank uses various factors – so-called ‘glue activities’ – to measure the depth of client relationships, including if customers receive their work pay through RBC accounts or use them to set up a regular bill payment. Metrics were already strong, according to Nielsen but the revamped offering has taken them to a new level.

“When clients experience RBC Vantage at the front end, the depth of relationship is much stronger than we even anticipated. It really comes down to providing them with the right products and creating the right experiences.”

None of this would be possible without placing the client at the centre of the organisation, which Nielsen says is reinforced by her mandate.

“The focus of my job is to expand RBC’s relationships with clients in ways that are meaningful and support their goals – whether these are long term or short term. This focus enables our entire team to identify what matters most to those we serve and has the additional benefit of sparking innovation in services and access across the bank. Ultimately, focusing on what clients’ value has its own rewards.”