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A Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) logo is seen on Bay Street in the heart of the financial district in Toronto in this file photo from January 22, 2015.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

RBC Dominion Securities Inc.'s long-term lock on underwriting and trading fixed income in Canada is under siege.

"There is only one story in Canadian fixed income this year, and that story is BMO," according to a Greenwich Associates report released Wednesday. BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. has "closed the previously precipitous gap."

"There's normally a lot of clear water between RBC and everybody else," Peter Kane, a consultant with Greenwich, said in an interview.

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Not so this year. RBC came out on top in Greenwich's rankings with a 15.8-per-cent estimated market share, but BMO was close behind with 14.7 per cent. TD Securities Inc. and Scotia Capital Inc. clocked in with 11.8 per cent and 11.5 per cent, respectively.

Greenwich, a Stamford, Conn.-based research firm, talked to more than 130 institutional investors from February through May, to find out how much business they had done with Canadian fixed-income dealers over the previous 12 months. Greenwich also asked about things like the quality of advice investors received, and fuzzier stuff like service. Greenwich acknowledges there is some margin for error in its findings, as it didn't survey the entire market, and since the survey was done and dusted a few months ago, the data will have shifted a bit in the interim.

BMO's big gains in 2015 have come mainly in "rates products" such as underwriting government, provincial and municipal bonds. The firm also made inroads in the secondary market of trading bonds. RBC is still top dog though in the new issue of investment-grade credit products.

The big five Canadian banks, which had collectively lost fixed-income market share over the past few years, versus smaller players such as National Bank Financial Inc., Laurentian Bank of Canada and Desjardins Securities Inc. have reasserted their dominance this year.

That's due to the "big boys" stepping up, and upping their game in sectors like electronic trading, said Mr. Kane, which saw them win back market share.

Greenwich noted that electronic trading has softened over the past year, however, for all fixed-income dealers, likely because of a slowdown in trading volumes in Canadian government bonds among hedge funds and other active traders. Mr. Kane figures that dip in electronic trading is "almost certainly temporary."

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