The bank of
BMO is mobilized for growth and moving forward. We’re serving customers seamlessly across all lines of business and throughout our integrated North American footprint.
The bank’s U.S. segment generated 28% of adjusted net income in 2018, and we expect it will account for a third of earnings within five years. This growth reflects the strategic investments we’ve made in building a diversified U.S. enterprise anchored in the heart of the Midwest.
BMO is a recognized leader in U.S. commercial banking, with a balanced mix of mid-market clients and one of the country’s top transportation finance franchises. Personal and small business banking have been growing steadily as we build on our strong presence in Illinois and Wisconsin while expanding our base in neighbouring states. Our well-diversified U.S. capital markets business contributes a growing proportion of overall earnings. And our wealth management group maintains strong momentum, attracting new clients and referrals from other BMO businesses – including across the Canada-U.S. border.
Robust, sustained U.S. growth is just one dimension of BMO’s evolution as a unified North American bank. Today we serve millions of customers under one respected brand banner, providing integrated suites of products and services, and delivering seamless banking experiences on a single North-South platform.
2018 Growth Rates – U.S. Personal and Commercial Banking*
*Growth rates determined on a U.S. dollar basis.
Big Little Business
From a small family venture with a big vision, The Little Potato Company has grown over two decades into a food industry success story – on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
Angela Santiago knows what it means to start small. In 1996, just out of university with a political science degree, she reluctantly joined her father, Jacob van der Schaaf, in his latest entrepreneurial venture: growing small, flavourful potatoes for food lovers turned off by the mass-produced blandness that had overtaken the traditional tuber. The pair planted their initial test crops by hand in a one-acre plot outside Edmonton, Alberta. After their first successful harvest, they washed thousands of small potatoes in the family bathtub – and then Angela hit the road, selling them by the bag out of her hatchback.
Chefs were early fans, as was a luxury hotel in the Rockies. Soon home cooks were keen to add the multi-coloured mini-potatoes to their plates, and a local grocery chain began stocking them. Demand grew quickly from there, and Angela and Jacob realized that to keep up, their fledgling business had to expand significantly. They opened their first processing plant in 2000, modifying equipment to ensure the gentler handling that tiny potatoes require. And they forged relationships with high-quality growers across Canada and the United States. Within four years, production had moved to a larger facility in Edmonton. Another plant soon followed in Eastern Canada, in the potato-growing province of Prince Edward Island.
Today, The Little Potato Company employs more than 400 people. The firm sold about 110 million pounds of potatoes in 2018 and has targeted 270 million pounds by 2023. That ambitious goal has sparked the next big step for a business that’s no longer quite so small: a move into the U.S.
“We started selling into the U.S. in 2013, supplying from our Canadian facilities,” Angela says. “We quickly got to a point where it made sense to build a U.S. plant and extend our grower relationships, because that’s where we wanted to expand anyway.”
In 2017, the company opened a brand-new production plant in new DeForest, WI, just north of Madison, and Angela moved there with her husband and four children. “Being in the U.S. is great,” she says. “Our transportation costs are lower, and we were able to diversify our production while still growing our Canadian crop – and we are close to the customers we serve.”
Now the CEO and majority owner of The Little Potato Company (Jacob now runs Tuberosum Technologies, a potato breeding and research venture – and Little Potato’s sister company – along with his son Joel), Angela spent her first 18 months in Wisconsin supporting the operation to get it up to full capacity. “We have an amazing team, and soon we were really making strides,” she says. “In 2018, our U.S. sales will surpass Canadian for the first time.”
The right partner
Another crucial contributor to the company’s growth has been its choice of banking partner. “After we’d been selling in the U.S. for a couple of years,” Angela recalls, “we realized we needed support on cross-border issues. BMO responded with a proposal that knocked it out of the park.”
The BMO business banking team – including Ben Tsang, Director, Diversified Industries, Richard Burton, Managing Director and Team Lead, Agriculture and Agribusiness, John Gil, Senior Relationship Manager, Corporate Finance and Brad Botting, Senior Manager, Special Accounts Management Unit Canada – arranged financing for the Wisconsin plant, as well as equipment leases and operating lines in the U.S. and Canada. BMO bankers worked across the border to meet all approval requirements and ensure appropriate documentation was in place for both jurisdictions.
“BMO has been so supportive,” Angela says, “helping us manoeuvre around blind spots as we’ve expanded into a new country. They’ve been patient, believed in us, and helped us succeed. And they’re as excited about our growth as we are.”
Drivers of success
Several factors have helped propel The Little Potato Company from a one-acre plot in Alberta to grocery aisles and restaurant kitchens across North America:
Innovation – In addition to developing microwave trays and other packaging features to make preparing and serving potatoes easier, the company works closely with Tuberosum Technologies on breeding programs in Canada, Chile, and the Netherlands to reintroduce varieties that have been lost in an era of mass production. Says Angela: “We’re trying to breed excitement and natural goodness back into the potato category by returning to its roots.”
Advocacy – Angela and her team have successfully lobbied for regulatory changes to allow smaller packages, making potatoes easier to store and use. “We just keep trying to move the dial a little. And all those small things add up to helping people see potatoes as more convenient and more fun.”
Family – Angela embraces the legacy she began with her father: “There’s so much responsibility and accountability when it’s your family business, along with a set of values that outweigh money. If you ask employees in our plants and packing facilities, I think they’ll say that they feel like they’re part of the family. Human relationships – with suppliers, vendors, everyone – are very important to us.”
Values –The company’s guiding purpose boils down to a simple statement: Save the Potato. Feed the World, Better. “We want to bring the potato back to peoples’ plates,” Angela says, “because it’s very nourishing, with potassium and tons of vitamins. Everyone, everywhere, deserves to have healthy, great food. So for us, expansion is not just about sales, it’s driven by our purpose – to help feed the world better.”
Some of the banking services that BMO provides to The Little Potato Company in the U.S. and Canada include:
- Online Banking for Business: convenient real-time account information, cash management reports and real-time transfers in both Canadian and U.S. dollar accounts in our integrated online banking platform
- operating loans for working capital (in both currencies)
- leasing facilities
- equipment financing
- financing to facilitate redemption of preferred shares
- facilities to support interest rate and foreign exchange hedging
- corporate Mastercard
The bank of
We’ve expanded, redesigned and strengthened BMO’s technology foundation. Now we’re leveraging that investment to further transform how customers bank with us and pursue their financial goals.
With our powerful digital capabilities, we can deliver the fast, convenient experiences customers expect. And by applying advanced analytics to our unique data assets, we can better anticipate people’s needs – while intensifying cyber-security to protect their privacy.
The benefits of this transformation are everywhere: Smart Branches that blend digital and face-to-face support. BMO SmartFolio, BMO’s pioneering online investment experience. Mobile features like quick bill pay and biometric authentication. Small business loans approved in minutes with BMO Business Xpress. Canada’s first debt issue using blockchain technology. And open banking partnerships that allow quick launches of everything from online vehicle loans to a personal finance chatbot.
As innovations like these make customers’ lives easier, they also enable us to work more efficiently. It’s part of a bank-wide push to reimagine the workplace of the future. We’re streamlining processes, reducing costs and finding more agile, productive ways of collaborating – assisted by automation and artificial intelligence. By unifying our efforts across borders and businesses, we’re building customer loyalty and accelerating growth.
Mobile Banking Leadership
Recognized as a leader in mobile banking by Forrester Research, Inc.*
* Forrester Banking Sales Wave™ Canadian Mobile Sites, Q4 2018.
BMO was named a regional winner for the Americas in the 2018 Gartner Eye on Innovation Awards for financial services, which recognize the innovative use of digital technology-enabled capabilities, products and services to highlight best-in-class financial industry initiatives that were launched within the past 12 months.1
1 The identification of a Gartner award winner or finalist is not an endorsement by Gartner of any company, vendor, product or service.
The bank of
Fairness and equity. Transparency and sound governance. Trust reinforced by mutual respect. For a business built on loyalty, these responsibilities are non-negotiable. They’re as important to our bank as they are to all of our stakeholders.
BMO’s performance is driven by our people – talented individuals from diverse backgrounds who know that by managing our bank responsibly and transparently, we create value for all of our stakeholders.
To help BMO customers achieve their goals, we’ve built a highly collaborative culture anchored by shared values and industry-leading employee engagement. Our belief in doing what’s right – always – has earned us recognition from the Ethisphere Institute as one of the 2018 World’s Most Ethical Companies®. And our dedication to social responsibility has earned the approval of our customers – notably in our #2 ranking among U.S. banks in the annual American Banker reputation survey.
Our unique culture is also shaped by our belief that strategy must be grounded in a clear set of principles that guide BMO’s judicious business conduct; our responsible banking, lending and investing practices; our promotion of diversity and inclusion; our environmental stewardship; and our commitment to building strong communities. Because we know that accelerating growth can never mean cutting corners.
Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index
Three consecutive years of global recognition: 2016–2017–2018
Included in the 2018 Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion Index – the only Canadian bank in the top 25.
BMO’s new Innovation Fund rewards fresh ideas from employees across the bank on how we can work together more effectively to meet customers’ needs.
Helping Build Communities
In 2017, 93% of BMO employees donated to United Way and other local charities across North America through the BMO Employee Giving Campaign, contributing a total of $22.3 million.