Electronic Commerce: Royal of Canada Makes an E-Commerce Alliance

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Royal Bank of Canada has aligned itself with a Montreal-based provider of electronic commerce software to create a $20 million joint venture that will build industry-specific digital marketplaces for Royal Bank's corporate customers. Royal will also invest $15 million in the company, Mediagrif Interactive Technologies, as the first step in a four-pronged electronic-commerce strategy. Royal's 430,000 corporate customers will be able to buy and sell corporate supplies on marketplaces operated by Mediagrif. The four-year-old company, which plans to go public this year, already runs four marketplaces that are used by 5,100 businesses in 37 countries. Mediagrif "not only has experience on the technology support side, but also on how to start and manage vertical markets," said Tom Wolf, senior vice president of e-business for Royal Bank of Canada. As part of its overall electronic commerce strategy, Royal Bank also plans to develop online payment and ancillary services. But "we are initially focused on payments for marketplaces," Mr. Wolf said. In a move that goes toward meeting this goal, Royal Bank announced in April it would provide letters of credit to participants in Vancouver-based VLINX, a site that offers online trading, auctions, payments, appraisals, inspections, insurance, and logistics for international trading. Other banks, including HSBC Group, Lloyd's, and Wells Fargo & Co. …