NCRC Announces $40 Billion Community Benefits Plan With BMO Harris Bank

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and BMO Harris Bank (BMO) today announced a Community Benefits Plan (CBP) that outlines a more than $40 billion commitment to local communities in the United States, with over $16 billion of the plan commitment targeted for the State of California. The plan outlines commitments to local communities across BMO’s expanded footprint in the United States after the approval and closing of its proposed acquisition of Bank of the West, announced on December 20, 2021. The acquisition remains subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions. 

The five-year plan was developed with input from over 85 community groups from across the country through listening sessions facilitated by NCRC and the California Reinvestment Coalition, a public meeting and written comments submitted to regulators. The plan reinforces BMO’s focus on increasing home ownership and supporting the growth of small businesses in low- to moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods and communities of color. It also strengthens these communities through investments and lending to support affordable housing and economic development as well as philanthropic giving. 

“BMO’s commitment to work together with us and leading community groups was vital to creating a plan that drives significant impact to the communities served,” said Jesse Van Tol, President and CEO, NCRC. “This community benefits plan is a substantial move in the right direction by addressing racial equity and access to capital in specific and tangible ways that will create more economic inclusion in the markets where BMO operates.”

“We commend BMO leadership for its collaboration with the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) and our members over the last several months to put together an agreement that reflects the needs of California communities,” said Paulina Gonzalez-Brito, CEO, California Reinvestment Coalition, Oakland, California. “Mergers must provide a clear public benefit. This agreement accomplishes this through increased investment and services in LMI communities and communities of color and increased lending to BIPOC-owned small businesses. We look forward to working with BMO as it implements this agreement over the next five years.”  

“We want to thank all of the community groups that invested their time to meet with us and provide feedback that has helped shape this plan,” said David Casper, U.S. CEO, BMO Financial Group. “We are committed to ongoing community engagement to realize the full potential of this plan.” 

“We have a duty to continue addressing the barriers that disproportionately affect people of color and remain committed to creating more opportunities that achieve progress for all,” Casper added. “Our Community Benefits Plan reflects our promise to ensure we have a strong combination of financial and community-driven investments that will create a more equitable society anywhere we do business. Eliminating barriers to inclusion while building a thriving economy and sustainable future is at the core of our Purpose to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life.” 

The BMO plan is the 25th such community benefits agreement facilitated by NCRC. These combined agreements constitute more than half a trillion dollars in bank commitments to lend, enhance services and expand support for marginalized communities.

Numerous NCRC member organizations who participated in the process expressed excitement for the progress the new agreement will foster:

“The Community Reinvestment Act ensures that banks are held accountable to the communities that they serve,” said Peter Hainley, NCRC Board Treasurer and Executive Director, CASA of Oregon, Sherwood, Oregon. “Community groups came together to provide BMO Harris Bank and Bank of the West with a plan that serves low and moderate income families. We look forward to helping make that plan actionable.” 

“The Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council is grateful for BMO Harris Bank’s commitment to more fully serve Wisconsin’s people and neighborhoods,” said Bethany Sanchez, NCRC Board Vice Chairperson and Senior Administrator Fair Lending, Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “We look forward to working with our partners at the bank to continue their work to eliminate the racial homeownership gap and to support existing homeowners.” 

“BMO’s investments in tribal communities in Canada are significant. Native Community Capital applauds the bank’s leadership in making progress towards similar if not greater levels of investment in tribal communities in the U.S. and we stand ready to assist leading in such efforts,” said Dave Castillo, CEO, Native Community Capital, Laguna, New Mexico.

“Iowa Community Capital appreciates the BMO Harris commitment to addressing gaps in access to capital and financial education needs for low-income target populations and underserved rural and urban entrepreneurs in states like Iowa,” said Mark Edelman, Board Chair, Iowa Community Capital, Boone, Iowa

“As consolidation trends continue in the financial sector, banks must prove they can deliver positive benefits to the communities that have historically been shut out from fair financial services,” said Rawan Elhalaby, Associate Director, Economic Equity, The Greenlining Institute, Oakland, California. “We’re hopeful that this agreement with BMO Harris will incentivize the bank to address the needs of communities it will operate in. The agreement includes crucial commitments to invest in climate resilience, expand capital access to BIPOC mortgage borrowers, and support small business lending in California. We look forward to continuing work with BMO Harris to ensure these commitments live up to the bank’s goal to serve communities effectively and equitably.” 

“Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE) appreciates the commitments from BMO Harris and Bank of the West to implement a solid Community Benefit Plan,” said Sonya Gray-Hunn, Lead Housing Organizer, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement, San Bernardino, California. “This collaboration is a strong start of financial institutions working directly with the communities to lay a foundation of transparency, cooperation and financial stability for generations to come.” 

“Focusing on shared equity housing models may be a first for CRA agreements and demonstrates BMO has listened to its community partners and recognize growing and investing in innovative housing options like cooperatives and land trusts will be fundamental for inclusive community development,” said Kevin Jackson, Executive Director, Chicago Rehab Network, Chicago, Illinois. “Thank you to all who participated to create equitable opportunity for LMI communities and households and repair the racial wealth gap.” 

“Universal Housing Solutions CDC is a grassroots nonprofit organization in Chicago, Illinois,” said Phyllis Logan, Executive Director, Universal Housing Solutions CDC, Chicago, Illinois. “We welcome this opportunity to work with BMO Harris Bank in assisting many families within our communities of color in building wealth through homeownership. We look forward to participating with BMO Harris Bank to ensure that this Community Benefits Plan lives up to its directives.” 

“When banks merge or consolidate, United South Broadway Corporation is most concerned about service continuity and access to credit and capital for low and moderate income communities,” said Deborah Norman, Program Manager, United South Broadway Corporation, Albuquerque, New Mexico. “We commend the thoughtful process pursued by BMO Harris and NCRC to center community needs in this benefits agreement.” 

“As the community action organization of northwest Indiana, NWICA, understands the needs of low- to moderate-income families,” said Jennifer Trowbridge, President and CEO, Northwest Indiana Community Action, Crown Point, Indiana. “They need affordable housing. They also need support in order to level out of poverty. BMO’s Community Impact Fund and Rural Philanthropic Initiatives will help us achieve this for our communities.” 

The new plan continues and expands on the progress by both BMO and Bank of the West to promote economic growth and provide greater access to capital for all. The result is a bold plan that will increase investment and expand BMO’s strategic partnerships in underserved communities. It’s also an expansion of, and is incremental to, the BMO EMpower initiative, a $5 billion commitment which was launched by BMO Financial Group in 2020 to advance an inclusive economic recovery in the United States through a series of long-term initiatives designed to drive meaningful change and champion racial equity.  

A detailed summary of the major provisions of this more than $40 billion commitment can be found at the bottom of this release.

The plan has been endorsed by the following NCRC member organizations:

African American Trade Association

African Career, Education, & Resources Inc. 

California Community Economic Development Association

California Reinvestment Coalition

CASA of Oregon

Chicago Community Loan Fund

Chicago Rehab Network

Chicanos Por La Causa

Community Reinvestment Alliance of Florida

Community Relations-Social Development Commission

Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement

Continuum of Care Network of NWI

First Community Capital, Inc. 

The Greenlining Institute

Habitat for Humanity of Iowa

Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha

Horizons, A Family Service Alliance

Housing Action Illinois

Iowa Community Capital

Jewish Community Action

John Boner Neighborhood Centers

Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council

Milwaukee Christian Center

Native Community Capital

Neighborhood Development Collaborative

Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago

NeighborWorks Southern Colorado

Northwest Center 

Northwest Indiana Community Action

Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance 

Pima County Community Land Trust 

Prestamos CDFI

Prosperity Indiana

Proud Ground

Small Business Majority

The Resurrection Project

United South Broadway Corporation

Universal Housing Solutions CDC

UPI Loan Fund

Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin, Inc.

Urban Land Conservancy

Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development

Woodstock Institute

Summary of the Community Benefits Plan Agreed Between BMO and NCRC Members

Increased Convenience 

BMO has committed to maintaining all BOTW branches with no planned closures related to this transaction. In addition to these existing branches, BMO will open five new financial services offices in underserved communities in California.

In addition to an expanded branch network, new customers will have access to an enhanced digital platform and an array of innovative new products including our Savings Builder Account that pays customers for saving; our Credit Builder Account that helps customers increase their credit score; as well as a host of affordable mortgage options including a self-funded down payment assistance program.

A Historic Investment

The cornerstone of the plan is a more than $40 billion commitment that includes:

Advancing Home Ownership: $7.5 billion in home mortgage lending to support LMI and minority homeowners. Key commitments and programs include:

    • More than 25 percent increase over the combined banks’ historical home mortgage lending to LMI and minority individuals and communities
    • More than 75 percent of home mortgage lending under the plan to people and communities of color
    • An expansion of BMO’s low-down payment and LMI portfolio home mortgage lending products across our new footprint
    • The launch of a new Welcome Home Grant program in San Francisco and San Jose with over $125 million in home mortgage lending
    • The creation of a $3 million Native Community Housing Fund to support affordable housing on tribal trust lands 
    • The expansion of BMO’s financial literacy and education programs to support affordable homeownership
    • $15 million in philanthropic support targeted to affordable homeownership and housing
    • Doubling the number of our CRA mortgage bankers and increasing our CRA relationship managers by 50 percent over current levels, providing greater outreach and better service to LMI borrowers and communities of color 

Growing Small Businesses: $16.5 billion in small business lending that will help jumpstart the growth of small businesses in underserved communities across BMO’s footprint. Key commitments include:

    • Close to 60 percent of small business lending targeted to minority communities
    • A $200 million commitment to expand BMO’s small business programs that support women, Black and Latinx-owned businesses, and a new program for Native American-owned businesses
    • $5 million in support for non-profits, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other organizations that provide training and support for these small businesses

Strengthening Communities: $17.5 billion in community development loans, investments, and other support for underserved communities to create greater opportunity for success. This commitment: 

    • Includes $12 billion in lending for affordable housing and economic development and $3 billion in investments in low-income housing and new market tax credits, CDFIs, CRA-qualified private equity and other loan funds
    • Represents an increase of 50 percent compared to prior level of qualified community development investments made by the combined banks
    • Targets $150 million of investments to funds or CDFIs led by women or people of color
  • Creating a More Equitable Society: Over 50 percent of the plan is expected to benefit communities and borrowers of color to help close the racial wealth gap and advance a more inclusive society. Key commitments include:
  • More than $15 billion in small business and home mortgage lending to minority borrowers or in minority communities
    • $95 million of philanthropic giving committed to serve minority-led organizations and/or organizations serving minority communities
    • $5 million to support Native American communities, including a $3 million fund to support affordable homeownership on tribal trust land
    • $325 million in special purpose credit programs for mortgage and small business lending designed for women and borrowers of color, including BMO’s newly launched small business program for Native Americans
    • $150 million of investments to funds or CDFIs led by women or people of color

We’ve also committed to more diversity in our own business by:

  • Growing our diverse spend by 40 percent over the course of the plan
  • Targeting 30 percent or more of BMO [Financial Group]’s U.S. senior leadership roles to be filled by people of color and between 40 percent and 60 percent to be filled by women under our Zero Barriers to Inclusion policy
  • Doubling our current utilization of diverse owned media and increasing the number of strategic partnerships with outlets owned by or serving people of color
  • Expanding our workforce development program BMORE and tripling our hiring goals, focused on career development of diverse talent in coordination with various community partners

Creating A More Sustainable Future 

As part of BMO’s Purpose vision to Boldly Grow the Good in Business and in Life, we are taking steps to help build a sustainable future. BMO has been recognized for its sustainability efforts and is a member of financial sector sustainability initiatives, including the United Nations Principles for Responsible Banking, the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials, and was a founding signatory of the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative. 

In 2021, BMO announced our Climate Ambition to be our clients’ lead partner in the transition to a net zero world. The BMO Climate Institute was established to accelerate our climate work and provide thought leadership at the intersection of climate change and finance, allowing us to better advise clients and partners on climate risk and opportunity. Under its Climate Justice Pillar and aligned with BMO’s Purpose to empower entrepreneurs facing systemic barriers, the Climate Institute will support strategies to provide access to affordable capital for underserved groups and communities for the acceleration of climate solutions.  The Climate Institute is also working closely with BMO’s Fair and Responsible Lending team to assess the extent to which marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

BMO has also committed C$300 million to the BMO Impact Investment Fund, deploying capital for sustainability impact in both the United States and Canada. Since 2019, Bank of Montreal has mobilized $176 billion CAD, including $71 billion in support of green objectives such as clean transportation, low-carbon energy, green buildings, waste management, and sustainable agriculture, with a goal to mobilize C$300 billion by 2025.  

Increased Community Engagement

  • Commit $135 million in philanthropic giving to our communities over the course of the plan, a 50 percent increase over current levels
  • Create the bank’s first Community Advisory Council comprised of members of the community with input from our community partners who helped formulate our plan
  • Form working groups to help focus and guide the bank’s work in responding to the needs of communities of color and to tackle affordable housing issues in rural and low- income communities and communities of color
  • Form a Native Land Advisory Group to help the bank better understand and serve the needs of Native Americans which will comprise a greater share of the bank’s footprint post-closing.
  • Expand our network of strategic partners
  • Increase outreach through diverse media outlets and partners for greater connectivity to diverse communities
  • Expand our strategic partnerships, committing to at least 75 new philanthropic partners over the plan
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