April 7, 2017 / 12:30 PM / 4 months ago

BMO Financial Group promotes COO White to CEO role

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(Reuters) - Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO), Canada's fourth-biggest lender, said on Friday its Chief Operating Officer Darryl White will step up to be chief executive in November, succeeding Bill Downe who will retire.

Downe, 65, has served a decade in the role since his appointment in March 2007. White has worked at the bank for more than 20 years, and was appointed chief operating officer last November.

"This planned succession will provide continuity for our bank as we focus on the strategic priorities that have been set," Chairman Robert Prichard said in a statement.

Downe, who has held his position for longer than any other chief executive of a major Canadian bank, will stay in his role until the end of October, with White taking the reins on Nov. 1, the start of BMO's financial year.

White has spent the majority of his career in investment banking roles and ran the bank's capital markets business between 2014 and 2016. He has also played a key role developing the bank's business in the United States, which is seen by analysts as a key driver of future growth.

"His promotion breaks the trend of Canadian banks’ boards shying away from capital markets backgrounds for the corner office," said Barclays analyst John Aiken. "While we wait to hear how White plans on moving BMO forward, we do not anticipate any material changes in strategy in the near term."

In a statement, Downe welcomed White's appointment.

"Darryl possesses a deep understanding of the financial industry. His command of the bank's fundamental performance drivers and what constitutes opportunity for the organization is distinctive," he said.

BMO performed strongly in the first quarter, with profit well exceeding market expectations.

(This version of the story corrects paragraph 2 to say outgoing CEO's age is 65, not 64)

Reporting by Matt Scuffham in Toronto Ahmed Farhatha in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Meredith Mazzilli

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