We have just completed a milestone year in Bank of Montreal’s remarkable history as we celebrated 200 years of achievement, during which Canada’s first bank has continually played an important role in the growth and development of the Canadian and North American economies. Fittingly, it was also a year of record performance, with solid growth across all markets served by the bank. In all respects, it was a very good year.
BMO’s bicentennial also marked an important transition in the bank’s leadership, with the carefully planned succession from one chief executive to another. On October 31, 2017, Bill Downe ended his term as the bank’s CEO after ten exceptional years of leadership, and Darryl White assumed the helm.
The Board of Directors and I thank Bill for his 34 years of service to Bank of Montreal and for the close and effective working relationship he developed with the board over the past ten years. He was a terrific leader and made our bank stronger and better.
The numbers tell part of the story. On Bill’s watch, the bank has delivered shareholders 10 percent returns, on average, every year for 10 years. Better still, after putting in place his strategy and building his team, Bill accelerated the bank’s performance and delivered 15 percent returns, on average, every year for the past five. Revenue, income and total assets have all more than doubled, while common shareholders’ equity has nearly tripled and the bank’s market capitalization has increased by $29 billion. That’s almost $3 billion of added value every year for ten years. Outstanding.
But the business performance Bill delivered is about much more than the numbers. He leaves the bank ever more competitive with a superb leadership team, a leading North American platform, great customer focus, a corporate culture marked by ethical conduct and employee loyalty, and a powerful commitment to diversity. Overall, the bank is in the best shape in its 200-year history.
The Board of Directors has great confidence in Darryl White and the management team that he leads. They represent the next generation. We have seen this team develop in recent years, and it is a winning team. We believe they and the bank are well positioned to face the new challenges that await us. They have our full support and confidence and we look forward to working closely with them as they continue to pursue the strategy that has delivered such strong results for the bank. We endorse Darryl’s focus on enabling competitive advantage and his commitment to delivering industry-leading customer experience ever more efficiently, while relentlessly promoting employee engagement and BMO’s strong culture of corporate citizenship.
On behalf of all BMO shareholders, I extend our thanks to all the bank’s employees for their contributions to our success in 2017. BMO’s employees have been quick to recognize their customers’ changing needs, and have responded efficiently and effectively, without jeopardizing the human touch that sets BMO apart. As the pace of change accelerates, this ability to adapt will give BMO a competitive edge. We thank them for all they do so well.
We also thank you – the bank’s shareholders – for your faith in us to represent your interests at the boardroom table. All of us take great pride in the bank and we consider it a privilege to serve you as the bank begins its third century. Strong as our past has been, we believe the best is yet to come.
J. Robert S. Prichard