Bank of Montreal Cuts Workforce as Lender Streamlines Operations

Bank of Montreal, Canada’s fourth-biggest lender, trimmed about 1,000 full-time jobs, or 2.1 percent of its workforce, since July as it seeks to streamline operations.

Three-quarters of the 997 job cuts were in Canada, where the Toronto-based bank had 743 fewer full-time positions at the end of October than at July 31, according to financial statements posted yesterday on the company’s website. Bank of Montreal reported 45,631 full-time employees as of Oct. 31, down from 46,628 three months earlier.

The decline was the result of reductions in administrative jobs across the bank, as well as the departure of summer interns, which typically elevate staffing levels in the third quarter, Chief Executive Officer William Downe said.

“We’re just working very hard to reduce process and simplify process and that means there’s a shift to more customer-facing employees and fewer non-customer facing,” Downe, 61, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It’s across the board.”

Bank of Montreal, the first Canadian lender to report quarterly results, fell 4.5 percent yesterday in Toronto, the most in almost three years, after posting profit excluding an accounting gain that missed analysts’ estimates. Net income for the fourth quarter ended Oct. 31 was C$1.09 billion ($1.02 billion), or C$1.62 a share, little changed from a year earlier, the bank said in a statement.

U.S. Banking

While earnings from wealth management almost doubled from a year earlier, they were helped by a C$121 million securities gain from an accounting change. Earnings from the bank’s BMO Capital Markets unit fell 27 percent as revenue from trading declined. Profit from its U.S. retail bank sunk to its lowest in two years on higher provisions for credit losses.

Downe said earnings from Chicago-based BMO Harris Bank were in line with previous quarters this year when adjusted for provisions, which he considers one-time items. The commercial lending business continues to be strong and small business, which was once struggling, “is really starting to show us a lot of promise,” Downe said.

“With a little bit more U.S. recovery and what I believe will be an uptick in the interest rate curve in 2014, I think the business is going to do better,” Downe said. “I remain very pleased with where that business sits competitively and I think it has great prospects.”

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