Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY)(NYSE:RY) is the largest bank in Canada and one of the largest in the world, employing upwards of 75,000 people. It was a difficult year for businesses across multiple segments of the economy, including finance. Let’s take a look at how Royal Bank did during 2015 and what factors distinguished Royal Bank from the competition.

Company results, return and growth metrics

Royal Bank started out the year trading at $80.70, roughly 8% lower than the current price of just over $73. The company started out 2015 with a $0.75 per share quarterly dividend and proceeded to raise it twice during the course of the year for an annual increase of 8%

Royal Bank set out to meet a number of performance targets for 2015, and the company met or exceeded all of those targets.

Diluted EPS growth, which had a target of 7% for the year, came in at nearly double at 12.2%. The dividend payout ratio had a stated target of 40-50% and came in at 46%.

Turning the focus to earnings, Royal Bank successfully increased earnings to $10 billion for the year, up from $9 billion in the previous year. In terms of shareholder returns, dividends declared per share came in at $3.08, an increase of $ 0.24 over last year. Breaking this out over a longer term, Royal Bank has maintained at least a 10% annualized return rate over the past decade. Dividends were raised twice over the past year for a total annual increase of 8%.

Use of technology in banking

Beyond the ups and downs of the market, one of the big challenges all businesses are grappling with are changing customer trends. One area that banks have been focused on is the adoption of mobile banking.

During the course of the year Royal Bank reported nearly five million digital customers per month, of which, 40% are mobile and tablet users. Those same users deposited over $2.5 billion by cheque within the first five months of availability.

Sales and purchases

In January, the company purchased Los Angeles-based City National to bolster its U.S. presence in a deal worth US$5.4 billion. City National is a premier private and commercial bank that Royal Bank plans to merge with the U.S. Wealth Management unit.

City National has approximately 2,100 financial advisors in the U.S, and US$336 billion in client assets. The deal received regulatory approval in October, and the deal was deemed complete in November.

In April Royal bank announced the sale of the RBC Suriname bank to Republic Bank Limited. The price was set to the book value of the unit, with Royal Bank taking a loss of approximately $23 million.

In July Royal Bank announced the sale of Geneva-based RBC Suisse, the Switzerland-based private banking business to SYZ Group. RBC Suisse has a focus on emerging markets such as Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, and had approximately CHF $10 billion of assets.

Royal Bank had a stellar year across many metrics, but one of the most impressive is that the company was successful considering the state of the economy for much of the year.

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Fool contributor Demetris Afxentiou has no position in any stocks mentioned.