Bank of Montreal CEO Downe to Retire as White Named Successor

Updated on
  • White ‘energized’ by opportunities, praises Downe’s leadership
  • Downe’s departure from CEO role effective Oct. 31, bank says

Bill Downe

Photographer: Norm Betts/Bloomberg

Bank of Montreal’s Bill Downe, the longest-serving chief executive officer among Canada’s largest lenders, will retire Oct. 31 after spending a decade expanding the nation’s oldest bank through acquisitions in the U.S. and overseas.

Darryl White will take over as CEO, Bank of Montreal said Friday in a statement. White, 45, was named chief operating officer last year, a promotion from his role as the company’s top investment banker.

“I liked BMO and I liked Bill Downe,” said John Kinsey of Caldwell Securities Ltd. in Toronto, who oversees more than C$1 billion ($750 million), including bank shares. “He did some very good things and got the bank through some really tough times.”

Downe, 65, stepped into the top job in March 2007 and navigated the Toronto-based firm through the financial crisis while expanding its operations in wealth management, U.S. banking and capital markets. Shares of the company, which rallied about 29 percent in the 12 months through Thursday, were little changed at C$99.78 at 9:30 a.m. trading in Toronto.

“I am energized by the opportunities ahead,” White, who has been with the firm for more than 22 years, said in the statement. “Bill Downe’s leadership has been extraordinary on every level.”

Downe’s Acquisitions

Downe helped transform Bank of Montreal through acquisitions, including its purchase of a transportation-finance business from General Electric Co. in December 2015 and the C$4.1 billion purchase of Milwaukee-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp. in 2011, doubling deposits and branches at its U.S. retail bank. Bank of Montreal has had a presence in the U.S. Midwest since buying Harris Bank for C$718 million in 1984. Downe also oversaw the takeover of F&C Asset Management, the manager of the oldest U.K. investment fund, in 2014.

Analysts and investors viewed White as Downe’s most likely successor since an executive shuffle last year. Downe sidestepped a question about his retirement after Tuesday’s annual investors meeting for the bank, which has its 200th anniversary this year, though he hinted at his legacy and the work ahead for his successor.

“The bank has a very large agenda,” Downe told reporters. “I spent most of my time at the shareholders’ meeting talking about the combination of a very clear and specific strategy that doesn’t vary very much, and building a set of principles around sustainability into our operations.”

Downe said prospects for the bank for the next decade are “every bit as good as they have been in the last five years or seven years.”

— With assistance by Sonali Basak, Katherine Chiglinsky, and Doug Alexander

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