Matthew W. Barrett has stepped down as chief executive officer of Bank of Montreal, saying Tuesday that he will fully retire in November, relinquishing his chairman's title as well.

Mr. Barrett, 54, revealed his plans at the annual shareholders meeting. He has led the Toronto-based bank for a decade.

The board appointed F. Anthony Comper, 54, president and CEO. He had been president and chief operating officer.

The announcement took the clubby Canadian banking community by surprise. Leaders of Bank of Montreal's main competitors issued statements of tribute.

Mr. Barrett "strove to deliver value to shareholders, leadership to employees, and to make a difference in our communities," said A. Charles Baillie, group chairman at Toronto-Dominion Bank.

A spokesman for Bank of Montreal said Mr. Barrett's decision was not related to the unraveling of a $12 billion merger pact with Royal Bank of Canada.

In December the Canadian finance minister scuttled that deal and another between Toronto-Dominion and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce after concluding they would "lead to an unacceptable concentration of economic power."

Mr. Barrett had planned to leave the bank after the merger-transition period anyway to pursue other interests, the Bank of Montreal spokesman said.

The Irish-born Mr. Barrett joined the bank's London operations in 1962, at age 18, as a trainee. In 1967 he transferred to Montreal, then the headquarters, as a teller and worked his way up. He became chief operating officer in 1989.

Mr. Barrett said Tuesday, "I am altogether convinced that for me it is now time to move on." He compared his resignation to the last day of school, "with endless months of summer before you, to do everything you had always wanted to do."

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