TORONTO, Sept. 10 /CNW/ - Canada's business world has lost one of its
most legendary figures with the passing this weekend of William D. Mulholland,
Bank of Montreal's Chief Executive Officer from 1979 to 1989. The entire BMO
family is saddened by the news, and sends its sympathies to his family and
friends. Mr. Mulholland was 81.
"Bill Mulholland was CEO of the bank during a turbulent decade," said
Bill Downe, President and Chief Executive Officer, BMO Financial Group, who
joined BMO when Mr. Mulholland was CEO. "Under his strong personal leadership,
BMO changed the systems and structures that had served our bank for more than
150 years, and created a new, stronger financial services organization capable
of meeting the challenges of globalization."
Mr. Mulholland's most dramatic contribution and a lasting legacy to BMO
Financial Group was the acquisition in 1984 of Harris Bankcorp Inc. of
Chicago. Mr. Mulholland recognized that the bank would need to strengthen its
long-established presence in the United States to assure future growth and to
serve the needs of its Canadian clients. Harris continues to be the
cornerstone of BMO's U.S. strategy.
It was also Mr. Mulholland who negotiated the acquisition of Nesbitt
Thomson Inc. in 1987, the first bank acquisition of a brokerage house after
the barriers between the so-called four pillars of finance were removed as
part of the overall restructuring of the industry. Nesbitt Thomson's successor
continues to be the cornerstone of BMO's capital markets strategy.
Less visible but equally important to the ongoing success of the bank
were the changes brought about during Mr. Mulholland's tenure to the bank's
technology platform and to its portfolio management and credit-granting
processes. He steered the bank through its conversion from a manual ledger
system in branches across the country to a central computer system, and the
quality of the bank's loan portfolio has been of lasting competitive advantage
to BMO over the years.
"As important as his contributions to the business were, Bill Mulholland
will also be remembered for his commanding presence and his timely and
insightful comments on public policy issues of the day," said Mr. Downe. "He
didn't hesitate to speak his mind, even when it contradicted 'common wisdom.'"
In his last Chairman's Message to Shareholders in 1989, on the eve of the
fall of the Berlin Wall, he wrote prophetically that "one cannot help but be
awed by the spectacle of the millions of people who are expressing their
dissatisfaction with the status quo and their yearning for something better.
The consequences for the world if these aspirations are frustrated are
difficult to predict, but they are unlikely to be pleasant."
Bill Mulholland's intelligence and wit and many lasting contributions
will be remembered fondly by his friends and colleagues at BMO Financial
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