Two men reading

Banking with a cup of tea and a biscuit

In the spring of 1966, BMO’s President Arnold Hart had the idea to cater to a very important group of customers. Le Salon Branch, later known as the Ladies Branch, was opened exclusively to partner with women in Westmount, Quebec and help them make progress achieving their financial ambitions.

Le Salon was decorated by an independent interior designer and did not have the look of traditional branches at the time. There were no counters or teller’s wickets. Instead, the elegant clientele sat at mahogany desks and interacted with “banking assistants” who served tea in china cups as well as the more common tasks associated with banking.

Image: Photograph of Ladies Branch, Westmount, 1966.

That wasn’t the only unusual part of banking at this particular branch. Women were not the only “customers” who got special treatment. In a staff magazine article from 1977, the customers’ dogs took centre stage, enjoying treats and love showered on them by the branch staff. One puppy, mistakenly thinking his owner was there, showed up alone and spent the day lounging in the branch. He was most likely treated to a cookie – or two!

Another notable step that involves Le Salon is that Montreal’s first female branch manager was appointed to this location. Yolande Marino took up the post in 1972—an early example of BMO’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. These stories and images offer an interesting look into the evolution of banking.

Image: Photograph of interior of Ladies Branch, Westmount, 1966.