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BMO reports profit up as loan growth continues, expenses also creep higher

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A Bank of Montreal sign is shown in the financial district in Toronto on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. BMO Financial Group raised its dividend as it reported a second-quarter profit of $4.76 billion. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO — BMO Financial Group said Wednesday that loan growth remained strong in the second quarter as businesses kept investing and residential mortgages were up, but that it is also ramping up its risk assessments as economic pressures including inflation grow.

Central banks have been responding to rising prices by raising interest rates, leading to fears they could overstep and push the economy into a recession, but BMO says it hasn't seen a retreat in the numbers yet.

"There's certainly more uncertainty given some of the continued issues that we all know about, supply chain, inflation," said David Casper, who leads North American commercial banking at BMO.

"But the demand for our clients' products still is outstripping supply. So they're still growing, they're trying to keep up, and the other part of it is there continues to be, both in Canada and the U.S., more movement to onshoring, less reliance on foreign sourcing, more capital expenditure to improve productivity."

The bank recorded average net loans up nine per cent year over year, as well as up three per cent from the prior quarter, with commercial loans a little ahead of consumer balances.

While the bank says it hasn't seen signs of an economic pullback, it has been ramping up its risk management, chief risk officer Patrick Cronin said.

"We did recognize the potential for economic headwinds by increasing the weighting of our adverse scenario, as well as reducing parts of our economic outlook in our base case scenario."

The bank has also been working over the past two years to improve its automated and data-driven risk mitigation processes, which will serve the bank well in the face macroeconomic and geopolitical risk, he said.

Overall, the bank reported a second-quarter profit of $4.76 billion as it said it will now pay a quarterly dividend of $1.39 per share, up six cents from $1.33 per share.

The increased payment to shareholders came as BMO's second-quarter profit amounted to $7.13 per diluted share, up from a profit of $1.30 billion or $1.91 per diluted share a year ago.

Revenue in the quarter totalled $9.32 billion, up from $6.08 billion in the same quarter last year, while the bank's provision for credit losses amounted to $50 million compared with $60 million a year ago.

On an adjusted basis, BMO says it earned $3.23 per diluted share, up from an adjusted profit of $3.13 per diluted share a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of $3.21 per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

BMO reported adjusted expenses were up two per cent in the quarter from a year earlier, including an 11 per cent jump in its Canadian personal and commercial division, as investments in technology and its sales force that started last year accumulate. 

The bank is now expecting a year-over-year expense increase of about 2.5 per cent this year, up from a previously guided 1.5 per cent, as it sees more movement in salaries, said chief financial officer Tayfun Tuzun.

Scotiabank analyst Meny Grauman said in a note that the earnings growth at the bank was good, but the results were "not quite as red-hot as what we have been accustomed to seeing from this bank."

"The good news from these results is that there is no sign of recession anywhere in the numbers," Grauman wrote.

The bank said its Canadian personal and commercial banking business earned $940 million in net income, up from $777 million in the same quarter last year, while its U.S. personal and commercial banking operations earned $588 million, up from $538 million a year ago.

BMO's wealth management business earned $314 million, down from $322 million a year earlier, while BMO Capital Markets earned $448 million, compared with $558 million a year ago.

The bank's corporate services arm earned $2.47 billion in the latest quarter compared with a loss of $892 million a year ago as the bank recorded higher revenue from fair value management actions related to the announced acquisition of Bank of the West and lower expenses due to the write down of goodwill related to the sale of its EMEA asset management business a year ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BMO)

Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press