Crafting a cohesive culture in a financial services company with 2,200 employees stationed around the world is not an easy task.
But at BMO Capital Markets, a financial services leader with special expertise in capital raising, mergers and acquisitions, risk management and institutional sales and trading, a focus on developing a strong team is key to the company’s success. While cultivating a positive culture may seem at odds with the fast-paced capital markets industry, BMO Capital Markets’ Chief Executive Officer, Pat Cronin tells Ivy Exec that his company’s dedication to supporting its team is one of the ways it positively differentiates itself.
“We stress that our atmosphere should convey a friendly and respectful culture. Due to the dynamic nature of the industry, it’s been easy for our competitors to lose sight of these values,” Cronin says.
The company’s commitment to these values are part of the reason that BMO Capital Markets received the number three spot on our Ivy Exec ranking of the top, large investment banks to work for. BMO also ranked first in terms of Company Culture amongst larger firms in the inaugural survey. The company’s employees agree that BMO Capital Markets should earn particularly high marks for its generous benefits package—giving it excellent scores for its flex time, telecommuting and parental leave options.
“Great culture, pay and schedule,” an analyst at BMO tells Ivy Exec.
“Collaborative and people oriented,” a vice president with the firm says.
But the company’s success comes at a challenging time for the capital markets industry.
“The industry has reached an inflection point,” Cronin says. “A lot of firms within the industry are financially challenged and have been affected greatly by the shifting profitability and regulatory environment, as well as the new capital rules imposed on the industry. All of these factors have conspired to reduce the ROE for companies in the industry.”
While the industry is challenged with declining ROE, with some competitors forced to cut their work force, or worse, leave the market altogether, BMO sees this as a time of opportunity.
“The changing environment within the capital markets industry has created multiple opportunities for BMO. We’ve cultivated a strong reputation, built an engaged and diligent workforce and maintained a strong capital footprint. And while many companies are leaving the sector, this has created multiple opportunities for BMO to increase our market share,” Cronin says.
However, weathering the storm and preparing for future challenges is a top priority at BMO. The company has always been laser focused on diversifying its business to insulate itself against market volatility. In doing so, Cronin says the company is looking out for the long game.
“We’re not looking for quick wins and we’re not short-sighted,” Cronin explains. “Instead, we like investments that grow slow and steadily. We don’t chase the market around and get hyper focused on the new shiny thing. We are very thoughtful and careful with our work.”
This same philosophy applies to BMO’s holistic approach to cultivating its workforce. The leadership team has worked diligently to create a workplace environment that gets its employees excited to come to the office every day while also remaining focused on the end customer.
“Individuals at BMO do not work in silos. They spend a lot of time working with their counterparts in other verticals within BMO and collaborating as a team to cover their clients’ needs. Ultimately, this culture ensures that no one person or group alone receives credit for helping their clients,” says Cronin.
Diversity in the workforce is also integral to BMO’s values and is viewed as a competitive necessity. Recently, BMO launched “Back2Business”, a program to help experienced women, who have taken an extended absence from the workforce, re-enter the financial industry through an internship opportunity. The program is led in partnership with New York-based Financial Women’s Association and modeled after the Women in Capital Markets, “Return to Bay Street” program in Canada, of which BMO was a founding sponsor.
“We are proud to launch Back2Business and believe this program represents a new pillar in the broader industry’s commitment to support today’s professionals and advance tomorrow’s leaders,” says Cronin.
Finding people that fit this special culture at BMO starts with the hiring and training process.
“When developing our workforce, we always invest into learning about an individual’s attributes,” Cronin says. “Our company is a meritocracy that takes into account an individual’s metrics as well as their reputation amongst co-workers. This has led to BMO having a very low turnover and high engagement scores. We always focus on further educating our employees.”
When it comes to that low turnover rate, Cronin is a perfect example of BMO’s success: he’s grown to the C-Suite after spending virtually his entire career with the company. He even jokingly—but proudly—refers to himself as a BMO “lifer.”
“It’s a testament to our focus on retaining employees,” he says, happily reporting that after 23 years with the company, he is thrilled to come in to work at BMO every day. Furthermore, he’s still passionate about the capital markets industry and is thrilled to be a part of its future.
“I’ve been hooked since I first joined the sector due to the fast pace and the dynamic nature of the industry,” Cronin says. “There is no other industry like this one because every day presents a new challenge. That’s exciting and I would never change it for any other industry where the environment and work is more routine.”
BMO Capital Markets is the investment and corporate banking arm of BMO Financial Group ((NYSE/TSX: BMO).