Product & service innovations

Miles milestone

With the introduction of the AIR MILES Reward Program in 1992, BMO became the first major bank to reward customers for their personal banking. BMO and the BMO AIR MILES MasterCard remain pillars of the bank’s successful loyalty program.

BMO SmartFolio

In 2016, BMO Wealth Management launched BMO SmartFolio, an affordable digital portfolio management service. BMO SmartFolio provides a digital and hands-off approach to investing that is aligned to clients’ objectives. While the service is digital, a team of expert portfolio managers make each investment decision.


In 1988, Bank of Montreal launched a self-directed investing service for clients. In 2000, the bank offered self-directed online investing. Since then, InvestorLine has grown into an award-winning investment service for Canadians.

InvestorLine provides leading-edge, innovative tools and client-focused support to help clients reach their goals. The service provides access to research from independent industry leaders, and educational tools to empower clients to make informed and confident investment decisions. And its mobile and tablet apps give customers access to their accounts for on-the-go, anytime, anywhere banking.

Bancardchek – the cash card, 1968

In the late 1960s, the bank introduced a unique new international service that combined the benefits of carrying cash and travellers’ cheques.

The Bancardchek, exclusive in Canada to Bank of Montreal at the time, allowed customers to carry secure guaranteed cheques. A matching signature on the customer’s Bancardchek card and Bancardchek was required for merchants to cash their cheques.

Unlike travellers’ cheques, the customer did not pay in advance, and was only charged if the cheques were used. The Bancardchek was one way the bank responded to the changing needs and lifestyles of customers.

First mortgage loan

Bank of Montreal was the first Canadian bank to grant a housing loan under the new National Housing Act in 1954.

Multi-branch banking becomes a reality

BMO was the first bank to introduce multi-branch banking in Canada. Addressing the bank’s Annual Meeting in 1979, President W.D. Mulholland stated, “For the first time, any customer of the Bank of Montreal will be able to go into any on-line branch in Canada, make deposits and withdrawals and obtain the balance in his account just as if he were in his own branch.”

Security around the clock

The installation of around-the-clock depositories in the 1950s provided an additional measure of security and convenience to customers, eliminating the risk of loss or theft of cash held overnight on client premises. The depositories were part of a larger movement in the post-war period to constantly improve business services for customers.

Steel Teller

The Steel Teller was introduced in Quebec in the late 1970s. Customers could drop deposits, bills and passbooks into the mailbox-like structure, and branch personnel processed the transactions after hours. The passbooks and receipts were then mailed back to the customer, helping reduce lineups at the branch and saving the customer valuable time.

Tyme Machine

In 1976, M&I introduced Wisconsin’s first automated teller machine (ATM).

The little bank that’s always open

The Instabank machine was a significant innovation in customer convenience, providing 24/7 access to automated banking services including cash deposits and withdrawals, bill payments, money transfers and more.

Introduced in the mid-1970s in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, Instabank machines also allowed customers to request that a bank representative contact them by telephone or mail.

TV teller, 1979

In February of 1979, Bank of Montreal’s Winnipeg main branch opened television tellers in its concourse level. These new tellers connected customers and bank employees through four colour TV screens with telephones. Transactions were carried to and from customers via pneumatic tubes. These tellers were intended to attract young professionals walking to and from work.

Banking in cars

In September 1949, the bank received unprecedented national media coverage for the introduction of “Drive-in Banking” at the 10th and Granville branch in Vancouver. It was the first drive-in bank in Canada – and another example of the Bank of Montreal’s drive to be first.

Canada’s first home-banking service

In 1983, Bank of Montreal was the only bank in Canada to participate in a bank-at-home research project, which enabled select customers to make transactions at home, using a keyboard computer terminal attached to their TV set and telephone. The service was created with farmers and rural business owners in mind, allowing them to access their account information no matter how far they lived from their Bank of Montreal branch.

“Sidewalk banking,” 1958

A Bank of Montreal branch in Saint-Lambert, Quebec installed Canada’s first “walk up teller wicket.” The new service allowed customers to do their banking without even entering the branch.

The BMO World Elite MasterCard, launched in 2010, offers premium travel rewards, benefits and travel insurance. BMO was the first financial institution to leverage MasterCard’s World Elite program and create a best-in-class travel rewards credit card.


The way we were

Banking for children

In 1952, the Bank of Montreal became the first bank to have a children’s wicket where youngsters could make transactions (usually deposits, and usually held in trust). Children also received a passbook, which was aimed at helping to instill a sense of the value of money, savings and thrift in the younger generation.

Semi-electronic book keeping, 1958

With the adoption of NCR technology, posting and chequing operations took less than half the time needed under former methods, and provided customers with a “neat and uniform statement.” This innovation was part of the continuous process of search, adaptation and improvement of the bank’s key technological systems.

The magic of GENIE

On Canada Day 1963, BMO announced the launch of its first fully integrated automatic banking system, named GENIE (GENerating Information Electronically). The first of its kind in Canada, this early data processing unit operated using magnetic ink character recognition. It could post 3,000 banking transactions per minute.


The dictograph

This telecommunications relic was once used in the executive suite of the bank’s Montreal head office. It functioned as a supplementary intercom system to provide a direct connection among a small number of executives. The call button labels indicate that this machine served the top decision-makers of the bank in the late 1970s.



Remember these?

The instruments, processes and systems of banking have evolved throughout the bank’s history, making way for more efficient and modern tools of the trade. Here are some of the office supplies you might have found in a Bank of Montreal branch or office over the years.

Remember passbooks?

An innovation in customer convenience, this small document passed routinely between customer and teller after each transaction — hence the name. Bank of Montreal’s archives has passbooks that date as far back as 1820 – three years after the establishment of the bank.


At the forefront of technology

Digital wallets

Carrying around bulky wallets is no longer necessary for BMO customers in Canada and the U.S. Beginning in 2015, BMO Harris Bank introduced Apple Pay, allowing customers a convenient and safe way to pay in-store, in-app and online using their Apple phone or tablet. Apply Pay was introduced to BMO’s customers in Canada in 2016, followed by Android Pay in 2017. BMO Harris Bank also released BMO Harris Bank Masterpass, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, giving customers the freedom to make secure purchases whenever and wherever they want, seamlessly.


In 1984, Bank of Montreal was the first Canadian bank to announce plans to link its network of automated banking machines to another network of ABMs though Cirrus (an American ABM network at the time, which has since become global), allowing BMO to better serve customers throughout North America.

Biometric security features

In 2016, BMO announced a phased launch of the first biometric corporate credit card program in Canada and the U.S., which will enable cardholders to verify transactions for online purchases using facial recognition and fingerprint biometrics.


In 1969, Bank of Montreal announced a five-year program to create an online network of branches with a real-time connection to a central computer. The system was hailed as the “most revolutionary development in the history of Canadian banking and a world first in terms of its scope.”

The new system connected 1,100 branches, spanning six time zones, via communications terminals linked to a large central computer – the IBM System/360 Model 65 located in Toronto.

MECH gave the Bank of Montreal the largest banking terminal network in the world. The enhanced efficiency offered convenience for customers, and allowed branch personnel to concentrate on customer service and expanded service capabilities.


In 1996, BMO launched mbanx, North America’s first full-service internet banking system. mbanx was an entirely new virtual banking enterprise, designed to meet the needs and realities of time-pressed customers. The new system showed that BMO understood the potential of the Internet, and was not afraid to push the boundaries of banking.

Mobile banking, 1999

In 1999, BMO became the first bank in North America to offer financial services over a browser-enabled mobile device. Wireless banking allowed customers to use their cellphones to access their bank or brokerage accounts while on the move. They could also transfer funds, pay bills and get stock quotes.

A leader in EDI technology

In September 1989, BMO was the first bank to install an automated ordering process,along with Telecom Canada. The process used Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), which involved the electronic exchange of business documents, such as purchase orders and invoices, through computer-to-computer communication.

By the 1990s, BMO was recognized as a leader in electronic banking, and had taken a proactive role in the development, implementation and evolution of Canada’s financial EDI within the Canadian Payments System.

Computerworld Smithsonian Award

Bank of Montreal won the prestigious Smithsonian Award for Technology in 1996 for its Pathway application, which combined branch sales and training onto one central desktop application.

Mobile Cash

In 2015, BMO Harris Bank launched Mobile Cash, the card-less way to withdraw money. The technology allows customers to withdraw money from designated BMO Harris ATMs using their smartphone, saving time while enhancing security.

Covers of Whom Fortune Favours volumes 1 & 2

The definitive history of one of North America's most enduring banks, Whom Fortune Favours: The Bank of Montreal and the Rise of North American Finance, Volume 1 & 2, by Laurence B. Mussio.

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

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.


Your browser is out of date and is not supported. Some features of this web site may not display correctly. Please update your browser to one of the following:

Images on this website are property of Bank of Montreal unless otherwise noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

I understand