BMO Financial Group’s Diversity and Inclusion Renewal for Sustainable Change (DIR) is a North American strategy to build an inclusive work environment that drives employee, customer, and business goals across the organization. The initiative focuses on transforming BMO’s senior leadership ranks, talent pipeline, and organizational culture through innovative diversity and inclusion strategies.
Currently marking its 200th year of operations, BMO has a long history of supporting diversity and inclusion. For the past two decades, BMO has introduced initiatives that identify and remove barriers to advancing diversity across the enterprise. Even with significant inroads made, more needed to be done. BMO’s DIR initiative began in 2012 after an internal review of the workforce revealed the company had hit a plateau in representation of women and minorities in senior leadership roles at the bank.
BMO formed the Leadership Committee for Inclusion and Diversity (LCID), an enterprise-wide committee of executives focused on removing barriers to the advancement of diverse talent across the organization. LCID establishes strategic priorities that define the direction of the renewal agenda and create associated action plans and workforce goals. LCID works in collaboration with the D&I Steering Committees and Councils aligned to each business group supported by the grassroots efforts of Enterprise Resource Groups to implement these strategies across the bank.
The DIR strategy comprises several components to address barriers to inclusion and reach BMO’s goals, including talent practices and a set of external programs driving gender inclusion in the community and with women customers. In addition to engaging senior leaders, highlighted below are other key areas of BMO’s renewal strategy.
BMO’s talent practices are organized around four elements: Hire, Know, Grow, and Move. Diversity and inclusion are integrated into recruitment and hiring processes (“Hire”) to proactively engage a diverse workforce early on. Tools such as employee surveys and leadership planning provide insights (“Know”) to inform succession planning and identification of key leadership roles. “Know” activities, in turn, facilitate the creation of individual development and action plans and track the advancement of talent (“Grow”). In addition, BMO’s Talent Advisors Network (TAN) supports talent development by partnering with business leaders to create diverse succession plans, assess talent, identify scenarios where blind spots may be influencing talent decisions, and work directly with diverse talent providing one-on-one coaching. BMO has also implemented a formal enterprise sponsorship program where senior bank leaders are nominated and paired with talented, diverse protégés who have the potential to assume more senior roles. Finally, BMO takes action on its succession planning processes to strengthen leaders’ breadth and depth of experience (“Move”). This includes making bold moves, such as shifting top leaders from staff to line roles, to accelerate their exposure to the experiences they need for their careers.
In addition to the internal talent components, DIR includes activities that focus on women customers and entrepreneurs. Groups such as the Enterprise Women’s Forum provide strategic guidance and direction on the women’s market. Specific programs support gender diversity outside the bank to help women customers manage their wealth, pursue successful careers, and achieve their own financial well-being.
The DIR initiative has helped BMO achieve important results. Between 2012 and 2016, the bank met its five-year goal of 40% women’s representation among senior leaders in the United States and Canada, with women in these roles increasing from 33.0% to 40.1% and women of color and visible minority women increasing from 4.4% to 6.5%. Within the same time frame, women’s representation has increased from 7.7% to 31.3% among executive committee members and from 32.2% to 35.2% among senior managers and managers overall. Finally, women’s representation on BMO’s Enterprise Board of Directors has increased from 30.8% to 36.4%.