BMO Harris Bank Taps Senior Women to Lead Transformation

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Like many institutions, BMO Harris Bank is trying to keep ahead of demographic and technological shifts that are transforming retail banking, and its female leaders are spearheading many of the initiatives it has underway to achieve this.

Among these are efforts to attract more Hispanic customers, the rollout of new mobile features and experiments with branch designs. "We're evolving as our customers' needs are evolving," says Alexandra Dousmanis-Curtis, group head of U.S. retail and business banking. (The Chicago-based bank is a unit of BMO Financial Corp., which is owned by Canada's Bank of Montreal.)

The bank upgraded its mobile banking app in March and launched what it calls Mobile Cash. This allows customers to tee up a cash withdrawal before they get to an ATM and without ever having to take a debit card out of their wallet. Connie Stefankiewicz, recently promoted to chief marketing officer, oversaw the launch of this technology in her previous role as head of North American channel strategy and solutions. So far, 5,000 customers have used the feature, accounting for 18,000 transactions and $2 million in withdrawals.

Also in March, Stefankiewicz led the opening of the bank's first "Smart Branch" in Chicago. The branch features self-service video conferencing machines that perform the same functions as traditional tellers and, when necessary, connect customers to experts for advice about certain products, such as mortgages or investments.

Other new technology being implemented at BMO Harris includes a loan origination system, developed in an accelerated timeframe with oversight by Christy Horn, senior vice president of retail lending. The system provides a common platform for all home lending (instead of separate ones for mortgage and home equity) and complies with significant regulatory changes that go into effect this year.

Daniela O'Leary-Gill, who, among other roles, heads the diversity council, had responsibility for implementing a concerted strategy for courting Latino customers. The effort spanned the sales, marketing and community affairs departments.

Not wanting to merely translate documents from English to Spanish, BMO Harris sought insight from its Latino employee resource group, which helped provide a better understanding of that demographic's cultural needs.

Since the start of the initiative in late 2013, the bank has introduced Spanish-language marketing materials, radio ads, and billboards and increased the number of bilingual team members. It must be doing something right: BMO Harris won the "2014 Corporation of the Year" award from the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee and the "2014 Community Partner Award" from Latinos Progresando.


2014 Financial Highlights:
Assets: $100 billion
ROE: 2.9%
ROA: 0.46%

Female representation among corporate officers: 47%

Female representation on operating committee: 24%

The Team: Leslie Anderson, Beth Bondi, Julie Curran, Alex Dousmanis-Curtis, Justine Fedak, Dawn Feenstra, MaryJo Herseth, Christy Horn, Paulette Jagers, Kara Kaiser, Katie Kelley, Deborah Korompilas, Erica Kuhlmann, Margie Lawless, Mary Madden, Nancy Maloney, Cecily Mistarz, Erin Keyser Norton, Daniela O'Leary-Gill, Gail Palac, Jamie Patel, Pamela Piarowski, Debbie Rechter, Lois Robinson, Joanna Rotenberg, Laura Sikora, Connie Stefankiewicz, Caroline Tsai, Cynthia Ullrich, Susan Wolford

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