CHICAGO, Sept. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- It was barely six months after the presidential inauguration of Illinois' favorite son, Abraham Lincoln, that a senior executive of BMO Financial Group (then known as Bank of Montreal) arrived in Chicago to open an Agency of the bank. From temporary offices on South Water Street, the citizens of Chicago were officially informed of the presence of the bank by a notice in the Chicago Tribune on September 24, 1861.
By then, the Civil War had been in progress for five months. The Illinois banking system had been particularly hard hit and Chicago businesses had to rely on private bankers for funds. Commenting on BMO's arrival in the city, the Tribune noted that it "will afford proper and much needed facilities to our large and rapidly increasing Canadian trade."
As BMO celebrates its 150th anniversary in Chicago this month, BMO Harris Bank, BMO Harris Private Bank* and BMO Capital Markets continue to stand behind their customers throughout Chicagoland and neighbouring states.
"We succeed by helping customers succeed. While 150 years have passed, some things do not change. Now, as then, protecting depositors, ensuring customers' financial well being, providing sound advice built on proven strengths, fostering relationships that can be measured in generations – are principles that endure, even as the world gets increasingly complicated," said Bill Downe, BMO's president and chief executive officer.
BMO was a founding member of the Chicago Clearing House in 1865, and it played a prominent role in the rebuilding of the city after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, becoming a principal facilitator of the city's export trade. At that time, much grain was shipped from Chicago to Canada – a lot of it to Montreal to supply the Molson family brewery. Along the way, many prominent citizens became BMO clients – including Henry Ford.
In 1984, BMO acquired Harris Bank, another long-time member of Chicago's financial community, which had been based in the Loop since 1882. Over the years since, the bank's presence in Chicago has grown in leaps and bounds. BMO Harris is now the largest retail bank headquartered in Chicago, with nearly 240 branches in the city alone (and hundreds more across the Midwest). With more than 200 professional staff, BMO now runs the largest investment banking operation in the city as well.
"We've come a long way in 150 years," said Mark Furlong, President and CEO, BMO Harris Bank, "but the principles of community banking and customer service that drove us then are the same principles that drive us now."
Chicago is the center of the bank's growing operations in the Midwest. Earlier this summer, BMO merged Milwaukee-based M&I Bank into its BMO Harris network, effectively doubling the size of the network to 688 branches. The BMO Harris network now serves customers in 15 states.
BMO is also the largest Chicago-based investment banking employer and overall the largest retail, commercial and investment bank based in Chicago(1). To help commemorate the anniversary, BMO is launching an ad campaign called "From Stockyards to Skyscrapers" that highlights the growth of BMO in Chicago as the city has also grown through the decades. In addition, a timeline of significant events in the Chicago area over the past 150 years was developed and can be found at http://www.bmocm.com/chicago150/chicago150.html
Last month, BMO announced that it is making an additional $5 billion in credit available to small and medium-sized businesses in the Midwest and Arizona and Florida over the next two years. "This is in keeping with our tradition of standing behind our customers in good times and more challenging times," said Mr. Furlong. "The signs of America's business-led recovery are there, and we believe that banks have a unique responsibility to support the recovery."
About BMO Financial Group
Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $477 billion as at July 31, 2011, and more than 47,000 employees, BMO provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.
* BMO Harris Private Bank is a trade name used by BMO Harris Bank N.A., Member FDIC
(1) Source: Crain's Chicago Business and Federal Reserve System as of June 30, 2011
SOURCE BMO Financial Group