Bank of Montreal, Canada's fourth-biggest lender, intends to add 1 million customers annually, Chief Executive Officer William Downe said.

"One sure way to earn more income is to have more customers," Downe, 61, said today at the bank's investor meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. "Every strategic building block we've set in place over the past few years is lined up against that opportunity — to attract more customers, and more business from our current customers."

Bank of Montreal's annual profit rose 35 percent to C$4.19 billion ($413 billion) for the fiscal year ended Oct. 31. The Toronto-based firm's earnings were boosted by its C$4.1 billion takeover of Wisconsin lender Marshall & Ilsley Corp. in July 2011, which doubled the bank's U.S. deposits and branches.

"We have fundamentally changed our position in the marketplace," Downe said in his speech. "The surest way to convert this advantage into lasting value will be to accelerate the growth of our customer base by turning non-customers into new customers, and existing customers into lifelong relationships."

Bank of Montreal shares rose 1.2 percent to C$63.39 at 12:24 p.m. trading in Toronto. The stock is the best performer among Canada's eight-largest banks this year, with a 4.2 percent increase this year.

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