Bank of Montreal: At the intersection of social justice and public health

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Spotlight on Bank of Montreal

In 1991, nearly three decades before the murder of George Floyd and the worldwide resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Bank of Montreal charged a series of task forces with addressing barriers to advancement facing women as well as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

This was hardly the first time a financial institution had spoken out against exclusionary hiring and promotion practices. But two things set BMO apart and drew the attention of its competitors: The bank immediately embarked on an action plan to broaden career paths for marginalized groups. And it openly based its plan on both a sense of justice and equity and the pursuit of shareholder value.

“When you are good at diversity,” said an executive at the time, “customers notice. The government notices. That does your brand and bottom line a tremendous service.”

Since then, BMO, Canada’s oldest bank, has never let up in its pursuit of workforce diversity—an effort that reflects a corporate purpose “to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life.” As a commercial enterprise, notes BMO’s website, “we are intent on growing, but believe that growth must be inclusive, creating benefits for families, businesses and the wider world around us.”

That purpose has gained heightened resonance and resolve over the last few  months. Recently, BMO created an Indigenous Advisory Council, with plans to add Black and Latinx counterparts, implemented leadership development programs for career advancement and set ambitious new recruitment and hiring goals for BIPOC youth. At the same time, the bank has made multimillion-dollar donations to a range of social justice and economic programs benefiting underserved communities in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago and other cities.

On the COVID-19 front, BMO has made it possible for up to 80 percent of its 45,000-person staff to work from home at least part of the week—an arrangement that will continue even after the pandemic subsides. The bank has also cut rates on credit cards and instituted a range of relief measures for individual and small business customers impacted by the pandemic, including deferral of payments on mortgages for up to six months.

 Meanwhile, BMO recently hired Dr. Dominik Nowak as Chief Medical Advisor to guide C-suite executives on COVID-related policy decisions and provide evidence-based advice on the construction of Plexiglas barriers to protect tellers, social distancing markers and other traffic controls at bank branches, and the effective use of masks and face shields

 These are not short-term fixes, Nowak is quick to note. “Right now, we’re thinking through how the world could be in the next three-, six-, 12-, and 24-month periods—and several years down the line—and what it would take to keep people safe during that time,” he says.

 It’s a practical approach shaped by BMO’s visionary perspective—one that aligns with a commitment to employees, customers and communities that reaches back over many decades.

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About Brand Acts of Kindness® 

Brand Acts of Kindness® is a series from Carpenter Group that spotlights companies across industries that are living their brand values in addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the world today.

The series initially headlined companies assisting healthcare workers and first responders, as well as communities, businesses and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also highlight brands taking the lead in supporting social and racial justice, LGBTQ rights, sustainability and the environment. Their stories show how innovation, resolve and action, built on a solid value proposition, can both strengthen a brand and help create a better world.

About Carpenter Group

Carpenter Group is an independent, woman-owned strategic branding, messaging and marketing communications firm that has delivered results-driven solutions to financial, professional services and technology firms for 30+ years.

Our broad cross-discipline experience enables us to craft brand messaging and carry it through to the channels that most effectively connect with our clients’ target audience, from editorial content to advertising to event marketing and more.