27 Lombard St., the location of the bank’s London Branch from 1870-1887, circa 1900.

The first Canadian bank to open an international branch

Bank of Montreal was the principal agent for servicing Canada’s rapidly expanding foreign trade. That led to a decision to open an agency in London, England in 1870. The office at 27 Lombard – a street that had been synonymous with finance since the 13th century – was a stone’s throw from the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange and the Mansion House.

A bank report set forth the three purposes of the new office: 1) provide for the transfer of the bank’s stock and payment of dividends in England; 2) develop and facilitate the foreign business of the bank, and the British and foreign trade of the Dominion; and 3) provide safe employment for “surplus funds” of the bank.

War and the workforce

World War I had a profound impact on Bank of Montreal’s workforce. By 1917, almost 50% of our staff – 810 men – had left their jobs to join the war effort. Women stepped in to take their place.

Prior to 1914, women stenographers were rare, even at head office, and women accountants were unheard of. By the war’s end, 42% of our employees were women. Hundreds of women had been hired not only as stenographers and secretaries but also in every clerical position below the rank of manager.

A similar shift occurred during the Second World War. Between 1939 and 1945, 1,269 men and 181 women – approximately one quarter of the bank’s staff – joined the armed services. At the war’s end, 40% of Bank of Montreal employees were women.

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A visually rich tribute to Canada’s first bank, A Vision Greater than Themselves: The Making of the Bank of Montreal, 1817-2017 by Laurence B. Mussio tells the compelling story of the bank from its origins to present day.

Visit the McGill Queen’s University Press site
to order your copy.

BMO is a presenting sponsor of the Montréal en Histoires project, celebrating the 375th anniversary of Montreal and BMO’s bicentennial. The sponsorship includes a variety of technology-driven projects and a mobile app.

Visit the Montréal en Histoires site to learn more.


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