Memorable campaigns

1817: First ad

The bank’s very first advertisement, published in 1817, was understated, to say the least. It announced Montreal Bank’s intentions to begin operations on “Monday, the 3rd of November next.”

1957: Savings characters

Ham the Traveling Clam, Hector the Squirrely Collector and Hinchcliff the Eager Beaver were three of several characters who taught Harris customers the importance of savings, beginning in 1957.

Early Harris ad: 1890

Harris published one of its first ads in 1890 announcing the issue of municipal bonds.

Early M&I ad: 1847

An M&I ad from 1847 features a lean list of bank offerings, which includes “Certificates of Deposite, bought and sold, on liberal terms.”

Early Harris ads

Harris ads through the years reflect the changing times.

Early M&I ads

Early M&I ads educated customers on managing their money.


Establishing an identity

With the launch of a new post-war marketing campaign, a new “My Bank” logomark took centre stage. The Bank of Montreal name temporarily took a secondary position in the brand hierarchy – a symbolic distancing from the traditional bank culture that customers were ready to leave behind. In this same spirit of post-war informality, bank employees also began referring to it as the “B of M” rather than the Bank of Montreal.

Being “first” in Canada has long been a source of pride for people at BMO. The line “Canada’s first bank” began appearing in the window of bank branches in 1950, and was adopted as the standard sign-off in our advertising.

In 1967, when the “M-bar” logo was launched, the tagline became an official part of the brand. Later, when a vibrant blue was adopted in place of green as the bank’s official colour, it immediately became known as “First Bank Blue.”

In 1975, Bank of Montreal became the principal tenants of a new 72-story office tower in the heart of Toronto’s financial district at the corner of King and Bay Streets. It was named First Bank Tower, and later changed to First Canadian Place.

The BMO Roundel

We call it the BMO roundel. It came into general use in 2002, when the bank decided it was the right time to bring all its businesses under a unified BMO Financial Group brand. At the time, BMO was operating more than 30 lines of business, including Harris Bank and BMO Nesbitt Burns. The move to a shared identity signalled a renewed commitment to serving customers as a single, diversified North American bank.

What’s a “bee-mo”?

Ever wonder where the name “BMO” comes from? It’s the bank’s stock ticker symbol on the Toronto and New York Stock Exchanges. For decades, “bee-mo” was how investment industry insiders commonly referred to the bank. So it was the natural choice when considering a new name to join the companies and lines of business together – BMO Financial Group.

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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