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Indigenous Banking Unit: 30 years of growing partnerships

June is National Indigenous History Month. It’s an opportunity to find out more about Indigenous culture and history and learn from Canada’s past – and a dedicated time for reflection to move forward with actions that create progress for the future.

BMO established our Indigenous Banking Unit (IBU) three decades ago to build relationships with Indigenous customers and communities. We are guided in our Indigenous banking strategy by BMO’s Indigenous Advisory Council. Together, we created a clear, actionable and bold agenda for economic empowerment, education and employment to grow the good for Indigenous Peoples.

When BMO founded the IBU, we started lending to First Nations governments on-reserve – circumventing the restrictions of the Indian Act – and expanded to Indigenous governments and organizations. BMO created one of the first On-Reserve Home Loan Programs; today, there are 14 branches located in or around communities serving Indigenous Peoples across the nation.

“In founding the IBU, we understood the essential role of listening, learning and building relationships to create progress and drive inclusion for Indigenous customers, colleagues and communities to move forward on the path to reconciliation. This is passion-fueled work for everyone in the IBU – and across BMO.”

– Mike Bonner
Head, Enterprise Indigenous Strategy & Head, Canadian Business Banking

In this video, Mike Bonner introduces past and present IBU leaders who speak to the impact of 30 years of working to build and sustain trusted relationships.

Learn more about Indigenous history and culture

Last year, BMO launched a free one-hour public e-learning course in partnership with First Nations University of Canada. Now, everyone can learn more about Indigenous history and culture with Nisitohtamowin, an Introduction to Understanding Indigenous Perspectives in Canada. You can also learn more about BMO’s Indigenous banking strategy in Wîcihitowin, BMO’s 2022 Indigenous Partnerships and Progress Report.

Our commitment to Indigenous communities:

BMO is committed to progress for Indigenous Peoples across three pillars that reflect the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) calls to action for corporate Canada:

  • Education: we know education is a critical key to advancing inclusion, so we invest in training and educating our workforce to encourage understanding, self-identification and celebration of Indigenous Peoples and cultures. Through Nisitohtamowin, our company-wide e-learning education resource that supports the understanding of Indigenous history and perspectives, and our Indigenous Employee Resource Group, the Sharing Circle, we are committed to strengthening our relationships with Indigenous communities.
  • Employment: We are committed to hiring, developing and retaining Indigenous Peoples at BMO. Over the past two years, we have doubled Indigenous hires and grown representation year over year across all workforce levels.
  • Economic Empowerment: We are committed to doubling the size of our Indigenous banking business to $8 billion by 2025. We’re now more than halfway to our goal, with over $7 billion in deposits, loans and Investments. We have also pledged nearly $16 million to dozens of charitable and non-profit organizations over the next 10 years, including spending nearly $28 million with Indigenous suppliers.

The past and current leadership of BMO’s Indigenous Banking Unit (l to r) Stephen Fay, Clio Straram, and Ron Jamieson tell the story of working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis customers across Canada.
The past and current leadership of BMO’s Indigenous Banking Unit (left to right) Stephen Fay, Clio Straram and Ron Jamieson tell the story of working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis customers across Canada.

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