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.

Mergers and Acquisitions

BMO’s history of mergers and acquisitions is broad, ranging from local banks to large corporations that share our Purpose, to Boldly Growing the Good in business and life. Some have shaped the history of the bank, whereas others changed the course of banking history. Each acquisition has brought unique opportunities for growth, and the opportunity to help new customers and the diverse communities we’re proud to serve make progress.

The Bank of Canada (1818-1831)

In 1818, the Bank of Canada was established, much like Bank of Montreal, in Montreal. The bank endured the economic instability of the 1820s, including a depression in 1826, before its acquisition in 1831.

Image: Bank of Canada, Montreal, $1 note, January 1, 1822.

The Bank of the People (1835-1842)

The Bank of the People was founded in Upper Canada in 1835. Their Toronto branch was located at the corner of King and Bay streets, the same location where First Canadian Place (FCP) would be built in 1975. The bank was acquired in 1842, enabling Bank of Montreal to forge a continued presence in Ontario.

Image: Bank of the People, Toronto, $8 note, 1840.

The Exchange Bank of Yarmouth (1869-1903)

In 1869, the Exchange Bank was established in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, amidst a boom in the town’s shipbuilding industry. By acquiring the Exchange Bank in 1903, Bank of Montreal initiated a series of acquisitions that would support expansion to Atlantic Canada.

Image: Photograph of Yarmouth Branch, previously an Exchange Bank of Yarmouth building, c. 1940s.

The People’s Bank of Halifax (1864-1905)

The People’s Bank of Halifax was established in 1864. At the time of acquisition in 1905, the bank operated 24 branches, 15 of which were located in the Maritimes.

Image: Photograph of the People’s Bank of Halifax Cookshire Branch with two employees posing in front of the branch, c. 1900.

The People’s Bank of New Brunswick (1864-1907)

The People’s Bank of New Brunswick was founded in 1864 in Fredericton. The bank was managed by founder Archibald Drummond Fitz Randolph and his family for four decades prior to its acquisition in 1907.

Image: People’s Bank of New Brunswick, Fredericton, $5 note, featuring founder Archibald Drummond Fitz Randolph, June 22, 1897.

The Ontario Bank (1857-1906)

The Ontario Bank was founded in 1857. At the time of acquisition in 1906, the bank operated 22 branches in Ontario and Quebec.

Image: Ontario Bank, $5 note, 1888.

The Bank of British North America (BBNA) (1836-1918)

The BBNA was founded in 1836 in London, England. The bank had a vast network of branches that extended from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Atlantic and Central Canada. After three years of lengthy negotiations, the BBNA was acquired by Bank of Montreal in 1918.

Image: “The Bank of British North America, St. John’s Newfoundland – Erected 1849,” lithograph, W. Spreat, c. 1897.

The Merchants Bank of Canada (1861-1922)

The Merchants Bank was established in 1861 in Montreal. As a result of acquiring the Merchants Bank in 1922, BMO has one of the earliest banking presences in Winnipeg.

Image: Photograph of the Merchants Bank Castor Branch, featuring bank employees F.R Pike and Shorty Riggs (doorway, left to right) and local businessmen and tradesmen, 1909.

Molsons Bank (1853-1925)

Molsons Bank was founded in Montreal in 1853. The connection between Bank of Montreal and Molsons Bank can be traced even prior to the latter’s acquisition in 1925. The founders and several subsequent presidents of Molsons Bank were descended from John Molson, one of BMO’s early presidents.

Image: Photograph of Molsons Bank Chicoutimi Branch with English and French signage, c. 1907.

Newfoundland Savings Bank (1834-1962)

The Newfoundland Savings Bank was established in St. John’s in 1834. The bank initially served as a department of the provincial government. A financial downturn in the 1890s compelled Newfoundland to invite other Canadian banking institutions into the province, including Bank of Montreal, which later acquired the Newfoundland Savings Bank in 1962. In 1985, the bank donated this historic branch to the City of St. John’s.

Image: Passbook from the Newfoundland Savings Bank with sticker indicating the Bank of Montreal as successor, c. 1950s-1960s.

Harris Bank (1882-1984)

Harris Bank (originally N.W Harris & Co.) was established in 1882 in Chicago by Norman Wait Harris. Bank of Montreal became the first Canadian bank to acquire an American bank in 1984.

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 Bank of Montreal, 1984.

Nesbitt Thomson (1912-1987)

One of Canada’s oldest investment houses, Nesbitt Thomson was founded by A.J Nesbitt of Montreal, Quebec and P.A Thomson of Hamilton, Ontario in 1912. The acquisition of Nesbitt Thomson in 1987 enabled BMO to become the first chartered Canadian bank to acquire a Canadian investment firm.

Image: Medal commemorating the acquisition of Nesbitt Thomson, 1987.

Burns Fry (1925-1994)

One of the largest dealers in Canadian equities and debt securities, Burns Fry originated from the merger of two Toronto-based firms: Fry Mills Spence (founded in 1925) and Burns Bros. & Denton (founded in 1932). The firm was acquired in 1994. Burns Fry merged with Nesbitt Thomson to form BMO Nesbitt Burns in the same year, followed by a merger with Harris to form Harris Nesbitt in 1999.

Image: Photograph of the press conference announcing the Nesbitt Burns merger, featuring Aubrey Baillie, John MacNaughton, and Brian Steck (left to right), 1994.

Suburban Bancorp (1961-1994)

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 banks and branches west and northwest of Chicago, 1961-1994.

myCFO (1999-2002)

A California-based company, myCFO was founded in 1999 with the mission of providing investment and advisory services for high net-worth families. The acquisition in 2002 has allowed BMO to broaden their presence in the United States, particularly in Colorado and Georgia.

Gerard Klauer (1989-2003)

Gerard Klauer was established in 1989. The acquisition of the New York-based firm in 2003 and merger with Harris Nesbitt has provided BMO with an equity research and institutional sales and trading platform based in the United States.

Image: Photograph of new sign outside Harris Nesbitt Gerard’s trading floor in New York unveiled by Eric Tripp, Vice-Chair of BMO Nesbitt Burns, and Manny Gerard, Chairman of Gerard Klauer (left to right), 2003.

AIG Life of Canada (1919-2009)

AIG Life of Canada was formerly part of American International Group Inc., a company with a 100-year history as a life insurance operation. The acquisition of AIG Life of Canada in 2009 has allowed BMO to further their goal of becoming a “one-stop” destination for clients’ financial and investment needs.

Image: Photograph of BMO Insurance signage being installed on 60 Yonge Street in light of AIG Life of Canada Acquisition, Toronto, Ontario, 2009. Credit: Plexman Studio

Marshall & Ilsley (M&I) (1847-2011)

M&I was founded by Samuel Marshall and Charles Ilsley in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1847. When BMO acquired the bank in 2011, it became the 11th largest bank in North America by number of branches.

Image: “The Magic Word,” M&I pamphlet, 1926.

Bank of the West (1874-2023)

Bank of the West opened its doors in San Jose, California under the name Farmers National Gold Bank in 1874. The acquisition was the largest in Canadian bank history, and a major milestone in BMO’s 205-years, making it the 8th largest bank in North America by assets.

Image: Drawing of Bank of the West (then 1st National Bank of San Jose) headquarters, 1927.