Client relationships drive success

BMO Harris Private Banking is one of North America’s most prominent
private banks. Behind its success is a unique emphasis on client involvement, a strong team of professionals, and a series of groundbreaking initiatives


BMO Harris Private Banking (BHPB) – winner of the World Finance award for Best Private Bank in Canada, 2011 – is part of BMO Financial Group (BMO), a highly-diversified North American financial services organisation. The World Finance judging panel cited BHPB’s excellent knowledge of local markets, its wide range of investment management services, its customised private banking solutions, and its strong client relationship management culture.

BHPB provides a broad range of wealth management and banking products and solutions.

Unique client-centred principles
The business formula behind BHPB, BMO’s private banking arm in   Canada, centres on a straightforward idea based on the complexities that wealth can present: while affluence does bring opportunities and advantages, it also brings responsibilities and, of course, can also inspire the occasional conflict. The bank recognises that the benefits of wealth rarely come without complications and challenges, and that families sometimes underestimate the emotional complexity of their wealth issues. BHPB see it as their responsibilty to challenge their clients so that they are prepared for critical periods of transition.

BHPB knows that the successful management of wealth, and the opportunities and challenges it provides, requires a coordinated approach by a team of experienced professionals covering the disciplines of banking, investment management, estate and trust, and wealth planning.

The key to BHPB’s operational approach is ensuring that clients are involved in running their accounts as much as possible. “Our clients are in the driver’s seat. Our role is to co-pilot, helping our clients navigate as they plan their future,” says Andrew Auerbach, Head and Senior Vice-President of BMO Harris Private Banking. “The way many banks and financial institutions work with clients makes it sound like a one-time event, with rigid steps. In our opinion, that approach places too much emphasis on what the banks see fit, and not enough emphasis on what the client wants and needs,” he says.

To avoid the client management pitfalls many banks face, which can ultimately leave the client feeling left out, BHPB describes its process as “the client’s process.” Clients are invited to help customise the process to reflect their personal priorities, timing preferences, and personal style. More importantly, because BHPB sets out to build long-term relationships with its clients, their unique guidelines require a thorough discussion between the bank and client at least once a year in order to revisit their plan, and account for any changes. This allows the bank to continue to deliver value on the client’s terms.

Talent at the heart of BMO Harris Private Banking
Rating intellectual capital as one of its most critical assets, BHPB’s competent, caring team of professionals is at the heart of its success and also provides a distinct competitive advantage. To nurture this talent, BHPB invests considerable time, money and effort to attract and retain employees whose values align with the company’s and who create a positive impact on the lives of the families that rely on BHPB’s services.

New employees receive training on the values and brand history of BMO in order to provide them with a clear sense of what the bank is about and what differentiates it in the marketplace. To keep up with the growth of the company, BHPB grew its workforce by over 20 percent last year.

The bank of knowledge
BHPB believes in educating its clients and providing financial education to the whole family. It hosts a number of events catered to clients, their children, and other family members to equip them to better understand the basics and even become comfortable with some of the more complex aspects of sound financial management.
One such course is the Financial Fluency programme – a one-day event targeting young individuals looking to gain basic financial knowledge and learn about investment principles to develop their personal finances and family wealth. Participants get insight into how to build a balance sheet, the four asset classes, investment risk and opportunities, managing a complex portfolio, and the psychology of investing.

Another popular course is the Financial Focus programme, which targets the less active financial decision maker. The course sets out to explore financial and investing fundamentals that can be applied to the participants’ own personal situations. It covers all the basics and some of the more complex aspects of managing personal finances.

Aside from financial expertise, BHPB provides its clients with insight on the national and international charitable giving sectors, and is the only private bank in Canada with an experienced staff in private foundation granting. BHPB’s philanthropic services ensures that clients receive comprehensive counselling, banking and investment services that support their philanthropic goals and overall financial plan.

BMO Harris Private Banking on its four-step client-centric process
1 Tackle the critical aspects first
Most new clients have an urgent need or a nagging problem they hope we can solve better than anyone else. We’re confident that we can, so we always start every new client relationship with looking into their most pressing needs and problems. Thereafter, we challenge the client to go deeper.

2 Articulate what’s important to you
To help clients make the most of the opportunities their wealth offers, we ask them to think hard about what’s important to them. We begin with not so simple questions to open this discussion. We also think it’s critical to explore the same questions each year. Our clients’ lives, concerns, and goals aren’t standing still; we make sure that their wealth plan isn’t either.

3 Take action
Next, we help clients build a plan that protects and enhances whatever they value most, and we’ll rally our best people around them to make it happen. We’re different in that our experts will not only help our clients build this plan, they’ll execute it by bringing all the right disciplines together. And, if they have other advisors they’d like to get involved, our team will integrate them into the plan.

4 Repeat, revise, repeat again
A plan is dated the day we stop revising it. A plan must keep up with the changes in our client’s life. We challenge our clients to revisit their plan regularly, using our questions to determine what’s changed, if anything, in their priorities, and sense of well-being. We encourage our clients to keep these questions at hand and check-in with us when something changes. That way, we can continue to contribute value.