Bank of Montreal's efforts to establish itself as a dominant retail and commercial bank in the Midwest could get a much-needed boost from its planned merger with Royal Bank of Canada.

Since Bank of Montreal bought Harris Trust and Savings Bank in 1984, it has risen no higher than No. 3 in the attractive Chicago market, trailing First Chicago NBD Corp. and ABN Amro Holdings. Though it has pursued more acquisitions in the region, the Canadian company has often been outbid by more aggressive competitors.

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