BMO’s understanding of corporate responsibility is grounded in the day-to-day realities of banking. Of course we constantly re-evaluate the impact our actions have on our stakeholders. But our perspective is ultimately shaped by the individual stories of customers who count on us for guidance and support.
Recently, a mortgage specialist at one of our branches in North Milwaukee shared this story: She’d worked with a young couple to arrange the financing for their first home. It was a modest house, priced lower than many middle-class families might pay for their cars. But for these young people it represented a move to a nicer neighbourhood and a big step along the path to building a better future.
On the day the deal was set to close, though, a problem came up. As a condition of sale, the owner had agreed to put down new carpet in the home’s single bedroom. But when the young couple made their final inspection, they found the bedroom floor was still bare – which put the entire deal in jeopardy. Desperate, they called the mortgage specialist for help. She immediately jumped in her car and drove to the house. Taking a photo of the bedroom with her mobile phone, she sent it to the seller along with a message explaining that he had exactly one hour to get the bedroom carpeted or the sale would not go through.
Forty-five minutes later, she was waiting at the branch with the anxious buyers when a photo arrived by email showing the new carpet in place. There were hugs and high fives all around as the young woman explained through tears how she never imagined that she’d one day be able to afford her own home.
This is just one of countless stories that are unfolding every day across BMO’s North American network and in our offices around the globe. But it sums up neatly what corporate responsibility means to the bank’s 46,000 employees.
Adding Up What We Owe
For our bank, business performance is judged in relation to a set of basic principles that have guided us for nearly 200 years. We constantly stop to ask ourselves fundamental questions: Is this fair? Is it the right choice? Most importantly – and looking far past the minimum requirements – is it the best we can do?
Investing in the disciplines necessary to deliver against expectations – both societal and regulatory – is a source of long-term strength. And we reinforce that strength by having considerations of corporate responsibility and good citizenship permeate every conversation – not only within the organization, but as we contribute to the larger public conversation. It’s part of our responsibility as a bank to have a point of view, and to take on tough questions – about employment, the economy, the environment – that don’t resolve themselves into easy distinctions between right and wrong.
This is the context in which we produce BMO’s annual Corporate Responsibility Report. It’s our opportunity to explore the dimensions of responsibility as we see them, sharing our experiences and observations with everyone who has an interest in where we stand and how we back up our convictions. Our actions are what matter most. And when we talk to people about BMO – current and prospective customers, employees, investors and other partners – we find that they return to this document frequently to remind themselves of what we stand for and the commitments we’ve made.
In the following pages you’ll find stories drawn from BMO’s diverse customer base and highlighting various aspects of our business. The unifying theme is our belief that responsibility begins and ends with an obligation to do our job, and do it well. We owe it to the customers and communities who support us – and we owe it to ourselves – to foster the many individual successes that ultimately add up to economic prosperity, sustainable growth and a better quality of life for everyone.
Responsibility isn’t just something we reflect on once a year in a report. It’s something we live every day. And it’s personal.