BMO sees higher cost savings ahead thanks to Bank of the West, cuts to real estate

By Ian Bickis, Canadian Press  and  Staff | December 1, 2023 | Last updated on December 1, 2023
3 min read
Bank of Montreal building detail
iStock / Marvin Samuel Tolentino Pineda

BMO Financial Group said Friday it expects higher cost savings from its US$16.3-billion Bank of the West acquisition as part of a wider focus on efficiencies to weather the economic slowdown.

The bank expects synergies from combining the banks of US$800 million, up almost 20% from its previous estimate, while the bank also trimmed its real estate and some lending activity in the quarter.

“We have a clear plan to respond to the environmental shift which we began to anticipate much earlier this year. We’ve remained vigilant in controlling what we can control,” said chief executive Darryl White on an earnings call Friday.

He said trimming in areas like workforce, real estate, technology and procurement should add another US$400 million in run rate savings by the end of 2024.

The bank announced in the quarter it was winding down its indirect automotive lending unit, and it also took a charge related to real estate cuts in the quarter.

BMO hasn’t announced major job cuts, but its latest results show its total employee count is down almost 1,600 from the previous quarter. In September, BMO Private Wealth Canada eliminated several roles as the brokerage consolidated its regions.

“We continue to focus on strengthening return on capital through our disciplined dynamic capital allocation decisions including the winding down of our indirect auto portfolio,” said White.

While the bank anticipates savings ahead, the costs of those future savings weighed on results.

The bank reported a net income of $1.62 billion or $2.06 per diluted share for the quarter ended Oct. 31, down from $4.48 billion or $6.51 per diluted share a year earlier.

Results were also affected by credit loss provisions, which rose in the quarter to $446 million, up from $226 million a year earlier.

While the bank boosted provisions for credit losses along with other banks, BMO chief risk officer Piyush Agrawal noted how the outlook has improved as inflation and other indicators respond to higher interest rates.

“So, the economy has been holding up very well. You’re seeing positive revisions to economic forecasts, and I think these will play out to our benefit as we go into ’24.”

On an adjusted basis, BMO says it earned $2.81 per diluted share in its latest quarter, down from an adjusted profit of $3.04 per diluted share a year ago.

Revenue was $8.36 billion, down from $10.57 billion in the same quarter last year.

National Bank analyst Gabriel Dechaine said the results were below his expectations of $3 per share of adjusted earnings, and consensus of $2.85 per share.

He said the miss was in part from higher expenses, including the estate consolidation costs, along with higher-than-expected taxes, offset by better-than-expected revenue.

BMO said its Canadian personal and commercial banking operations earned $962 million in its latest quarter, up from $917 million a year earlier, helped by an increase in revenue, due to higher net interest income and higher non-interest revenue, partially offset by higher expenses and a higher provision for credit losses.

The bank’s U.S. personal and commercial banking business earned $661 million, slightly higher from $660 million in the same quarter last year.

BMO’s wealth management business earned $262 million, down 12% from $298 million a year earlier, while the bank’s capital markets arm earned $489 million, up from $357 million in its fourth quarter of 2022.

The bank’s corporate services group reported a loss of $757 million in its latest quarter compared with a profit of $2.25 billion a year earlier.

BMO also boosted its dividend Friday, saying it will now pay a quarterly dividend of $1.51 per share, up from $1.47 per share.

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Ian Bickis, Canadian Press

Ian Bickis is a reporter with The Canadian Press, a national news agency headquartered in Toronto and founded in 1917. staff


The staff of have been covering news for financial advisors since 1998.