The Corporate Archives curates physical and digital exhibits from our collections to tell BMO’s story over the years. Our aim is to provide a better understanding of the defining moments in our history.

BMO in the U.S.

BMO’s presence in the United States is longstanding. Within several months of our founding in Montreal we opened an office in New York City. This led first to the establishment of more agencies and offices, and later to the acquisitions and mergers with U.S. banking institutions aligned to our Purpose, to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life. The following exhibit explores this continuous growth – for both BMO and the customers, communities and businesses that make the North American economy thrive.

1818 – First Agency in the U.S.

The young Montreal Bank established its first agency in the United States in New York in 1818. By 1859, the population of New York had swelled to 800,000. That year, a rail link between Montreal and New York was completed, and the bank established a permanent office in Manhattan’s bustling financial district. This was 41 years after the bank had established an agency there, and marked the first permanent office of any Canadian bank in the U.S.

Image: Photograph of bank employees standing in front of the New York Agency, 1885.

1861 – Our ties to Chicago go back a long way

In 1861, a group of Chicago grain merchants invited Bank of Montreal to set up a permanent agency in their city. The Chicago Tribune observed that it “will afford proper and much needed facilities to our large and rapidly increasing Canadian trade.” In a city that already had 50 banks, Bank of Montreal soon emerged as the leading source of finance for Chicago’s export trade. A charter member of the Chicago Clearing House Association, it was described by a local newspaper as “one of the most reliable banking institutions in the U.S.”

After the great Chicago fire of 1871, which destroyed the city’s office buildings, Bank of Montreal moved into temporary quarters.

Image: Photograph of manager William Richardson (left) and unknown man (right) standing in the doorway of the temporary premises of the Bank of Montreal in Chicago in the wake of the Great Fire of 1871.

1862 – First U.S. ad

Bank of Montreal published its first advertisement in the Chicago Tribune on March 2, 1862, announcing the general services of its new Chicago location.

Image: Advertisement announcing the Bank of Montreal Chicago Agency, Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1862.

1864 – California

Our first California agency office opened in San Francisco in 1864. Bank of Montreal opened its second California office in Los Angeles in 1963.

Image: Photograph of the main entrance to the Bank of Montreal’s California office in Los Angeles on opening day, 1963. Left to right: Malcolm Allan, President, Bank of Montreal (California); J.L. Walker, Deputy General Manager, Bank of Montreal; Harold S. Foley, Vice President and Director, Bank of Montreal; Frank R. Southee, Senior Vice President, Bank of Montreal (California) and head of the Los Angeles branch; G. Arnold Hart, President, Bank of Montreal; and George R. Patterson, Consul General of Canada, Los Angeles.

1906 – M&I first branch – National Avenue

Marshall & Ilsley was founded in 1847. The Southside Bank opened at 374 National Avenue in Milwaukee in 1906. This branch allowed M&I to tap into the rapidly growing neighbourhoods created by immigration to the state. One hundred years later, the branch is still a hub of activity in the neighbourhood.

Image: Photograph of M&I branch on 374 National Avenue in Milwaukee, c. 1906.

1911 – Harris Headquarters

The historical headquarters of BMO Harris in Chicago was comprised of three buildings – each one architecturally significant in its own right – built in 1911, 1960 and 1975. This building complex on the corner of Monroe and LaSalle streets constituted an important address in the Chicago Loop neighbourhood, the city’s financial district, as well as the seat of city and county government. Our new Chicago headquarters opened in 2022, on South Canal Street.

Image: Photograph of BMO Harris Headquarters on the corner of Monroe and Lasalle Streets in Chicago.

1959 – New York offices

One hundred years after establishing a permanent agency in New York, the bank moved into 2 Wall Street The building acquisition was accompanied by a campaign to promote the bank’s expansion in New York.

Image: Photograph of a ticker tape parade for astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, passes by the Bank of Montreal building at 2 Wall Street, March 1, 1962.

1962 – Business in Houston

In 1962, Bank of Montreal set up a representative office in Houston, Texas, to serve oil businesses planning expansion in Canada’s western oil provinces.

Image: “We’ve hung our hat in Houston,” advertisement announcing the opening of the Bank of Montreal office in Houston, Texas, 1962.

1968 – Nesbitt Thomson NYSE seat

As Canada’s leading brokerage firm, Nesbitt Thomson purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1968 – the first non-U.S. firm to do so in over 30 years.

Image: Advertisement announcing Nesbitt Thomson holding a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, 1968.

1984 – BMO acquires Harris

In 1984, BMO became the first Canadian bank to acquire an American bank, Harris Bank.

Image: “Harris Acquisition Sealed,” photograph of William D. Mulholland (left), Chairman of the Bank of Montreal, holding commemorative medal with B. Kenneth West (right), Chairman of Harris Bankcorp, as the two banks closed the deal on the acquisition of Harris by the Bank of Montreal, 1984.

1994 – NYSE Listing

In 1994, Bank of Montreal became the first Canadian bank listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol “BMO”.

Image: Medal commemorating the Bank of Montreal’s original listing on the New York Stock Exchange, 1994.

1994 – Acquisition of Suburban Bancorp

After Illinois liberalized its unit-banking regulations in 1981, Suburban Bancorp was one of the first multibank holding companies established under the new rules, bringing together a network of banks that founder Gerald F. Fitzgerald had begun to assemble in 1961. Suburban agreed to merge with Harris Bank in 1994, doubling the bank’s footprint and achieving the first major step in BMO’s ambition to expand Harris’ presence throughout Chicagoland. With the acquisition of Household Bank two years later, which increased its number of locations to 140, BMO Harris became one of the largest community bank networks in Illinois.

Image: Map of Suburban Bancorp branches in the west and northwest of Chicago, 1961-1994.

2004- NYSE 10th anniversary

To mark its 10th anniversary on the New York Stock Exchange, BMO’s senior leaders, including CEO Tony Comper, rang the opening bell in October 2004.

Image: Photograph of BMO senior leaders ringing the opening bell to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of being listed on the New York Stock Exchange, October 2004.

2011 – BMO acquires M&I

In 2011, BMO announced the acquisition of M&I, further opening up business in the Midwest.

Image: Photograph of Mark Furlong (left), President of M&I, shaking hands with William “Bill” Downe (right), CEO of Bank of Montreal, in wake of M&I acquisition, 2011.

2022 – BMO moves into new tower

After 110 years in the 111 West Monroe building in Chicago, BMO turned an exciting new page by taking part in the Union Station Modernization project, which includes a state-of-the-art tower at 320 South Canal Street. “BMO Tower represents a major investment by BMO in Chicago,” said David Casper, U.S. CEO, BMO Financial Group. “We’re the largest bank in the world that has its U.S. headquarters in Chicago, a market in which we have a long, proud history of over 160 years.”

Image: Photograph of the new tower at 320 South Canal Street.