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Quick to the Frontier: Canada’s Royal Bank

Quick to the Frontier: Canada’s Royal Bank

Duncan McDowall

Quick to the Frontier is the story of the Royal Bank, told not only in terms of executive personalities and corporate strategies, but also through an exploration of its corporate culture.

The Royal Bank, which in 1994 celebrated 125 years of doing business as a chartered bank, has roots in Canadian history that stretch back even beyond Confederation, to 1864.

The book explores the lives of the people of the Royal — and of the part this corporate culture played in the opening of the country and the expansion of international trade.

“After reading everything I could find about banks, I didn’t think we needed another boring book about the men in the boardroom,” McDowall says. “Instead, the book takes a fairly frank, “bottom-up” look at the lives of people who were responsible for the bank’s success.”

In 1990, the Royal Bank of Canada commissioned McDowall to write a corporate history for its 125th anniversary in 1994 — and the Carleton University historian quickly dispelled the notion that corporate historians tout the “party line.”

In addition to archival research, McDowall did extensive interviews with bank employees and delved into years of personnel files. “I wanted to give today’s bank staff a sense of the corporate culture, of what the daily routine must have been for, say, a young bank clerk in the 1920s.”

About the author:
McDowall teaches Canadian history at Carleton University in Ottawa. A native of Victoria, he received his university education at Queen’s and Carleton universities. Before taking up an academic career in 1987, he worked in the federal government and as a senior research associate at the Conference Board of Canada.

McDowall specializes in writing Canadian corporate histories. His previous books are Steel at the Sault, a chronicle of Algoma Steel, and The Light, a study of Canadian conglomerate Brazilian Traction, now known as Brascan, which dominated Brazil’s power industry for nearly 70 years.

1994 Winner