If time really is money, then Royal Bank offers the best return for Canadians managing cash online, according to a report released Thursday by Gomez Inc.

The Internet quality measurement firm’s performance index determined Royal Bank to offer the fastest and most reliable online access of nine Canadian banks. Royal Bank Action Direct was the best performing online brokerage among 10 ten Canadian competitors, according the inaugural Gomez Performance Index (GPI).

“Royal Bank clearly won the performance (contest),” said Guy van Rooyen, senior analyst with Toronto-based Gomez.

Gomez measured the performance of the different financial institutions over a two-week period, beginning Aug. 13. Transaction requests – consisting of accessing the institution’s homepage, logging into an account, checking the account balance and logging out – were sent to the online banks or brokerages from eight co-location facilities in the United States. Requests, made by Gomez’s software through a T1 line, took place every 30 minutes, between nine in the morning and four in the afternoon, Monday through Friday.

“We get the speed of the transaction, the error rates and which applications are failing,” van Rooyen said of the tests.

According to the GPI, Royal Bank took 3.5 seconds on average to complete the aforementioned transaction. TD Bank, Scotiabank, President’s Choice Financial and CIBC all finished ahead of the 9.1-second benchmark time. HSBC Bank of Montreal, Amicus Financial and Laurentian Bank finished below the benchmark, the average time needed by the banks to complete the transaction. Laurentian’s average time was 15 seconds.

Royal Bank Action Direct needed 5 .4 seconds on average to complete the transaction, while TD Waterhouse (www.tdwaterhouse.com) posted the worst average time, 15.3 seconds. Credetential Direct, Scotiabank and Merrill Lynch HSBC did better than the 10.1 brokerage benchmark, while Etrade, CIBC Investors Edge, BMO InvestorLine, Qtrade and eNorthern, posted below-average times.

“Obviously, for trading, speed can impact on your bottom line,” van Rooyen said. “(And) from the banking side, it’s frustrating if you’re trying to perform a transaction and there’s an out and out failure.”

Van Rooyen noted the performance discrepancy between TD’s baking and brokerage units, which act as separate entities.

“We were surprised to see TD Waterhouse perform as they did,” he said.

Van Rooyen said the idea for the GPI was born out of recent survey of 4,000 Canadians in which 70 per cent of those questioned said the most important aspect of managing money online is the availability and fast-to-market access of an online financial institution.

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