Crosscountry: Canada at a glance — March 2015

The Royal Bank of Canada is set to acquire top wealth manager City National. Plus, researchers at the University of Alberta develop a program capable of playing a "perfect" poker game.


Royal treatment for the stars

Royal Bank of Canada has announced plans to buy Los Angeles-based City National, the "bank to the stars," in a deal amounting to US$5.4 billion, reports

City National is ranked as one of Barron’s top 40 wealth managers and serves high-net worth and commercial clients in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. It is also active in the entertainment industry and emerging niches in technology and healthcare.

Set to close in the fourth quarter of 2015, the purchase will add considerably to RBC’s employee count in the US, which currently stands at 8,000.

"International investors are the most bullish on the US market in more than five years as America is seen as a bright spot in an otherwise worsening global economy," claims Bloomberg .


A new kind of poker face


After beating the best chess players in the world, computers can now take on the best poker players thanks to a new program developed by a team at the University of Alberta, reports ZMEScience.

For games such as chess, where players know each other’s hands, the computer has long been able to triumph in any situation. But in poker, players do not know their opponents’ hands. This is where the new program, Cepheus, comes in. According to its makers, Cepheus is the first of its kind to play an "essentially perfect game of poker" with imperfect information. It’s not that the computer won’t lose a hand now and then, but given enough hands, it will prevail. There’s a catch: Cepheus is good only at Texas Hold’em, where there’s a cap on bets. If the stakes get too high, Cepheus can’t handle it.


A world first for heart disease

A discovery at the Montreal Heart Institute could pave the way to a more personalized therapy for cardiovascular disease.

In the study, a team led by doctors Jean-Claude Tardif and Marie-Pierre Dubé showed that patients with a particular genetic profile responded better to a new medication called dalcetrapib. Patients with the appropriate genetic background who were given dalcetrapib showed a 39% reduction in combined clinical outcomes, including heart attacks, strokes, unstable angina, coronary revascularizations and cardiovascular deaths.

The research "offers great hope for precision treatments for patients with cardiovascular diseases and for curbing atherosclerosis, the first cause of mortality in the world," says Tardif, director of the research centre at the heart institute.


Which is the most influential of them all?

Tim Hortons and President’s Choice are the only two Canadian brands that placed in the Top 10 Most Influential Brands in Canada, an annual ranking compiled by the Institute of Communication Agencies in partnership with Ipsos-Reid.  And even those cultural icons came near the bottom of the list, at eighth and 10th place, respectively.

Like last year, the ranking was dominated by giants in the technology and social media fields: Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and YouTube. Walmart and Visa also made the top 10, along with Samsung, which slipped in at ninth place.