Great Interview Claude Gagnon, President of BMO Financial Group, Quebec | From banker to producer of mini kiwis

After 47 years at the Bank of Montreal, during which he rose from a simple teller in the Rivière-du-Loup branch to operations manager for Quebec, Claude Gagnon will soon start a new career as a producer of mini kiwis. . . The man who succeeded Jacques Ménard as Quebec operations manager four years ago looks back on his work and tells us how much he has changed since he started in 1975.

Posted at 5:00 am

Jean Philippe Decarie

Jean Philippe Decarie
The press

“The profession has remained the same but has evolved with completely new tools. When I started in 1975, there was nothing computerized. We were just beginning to install terminals in certain branches,” explains Claude Gagnon, a few months before his retirement.

The outgoing President, who died on Janah November by Grégoire Baillargeon, currently Managing Director of BMO Capital Markets, Quebec, began his career as an intern in Rivière-du-Loup on a branch manager program.

“I started my internship when I was 18 as a cashier in Rivière-du-Loup. During my interview I was asked where I would not like to work. I had answered them at the Bas-du-Fleuve and in Montreal. I spent a year in Rivière-du-Loup and was transferred to the Galeries d’Anjou branch in 1976. You have to believe that they wanted to test my ambition to work at the bank,” says Claude Gagnon with amusement.

The cashier’s job was to manually record deposits and withdrawals on each customer’s cardboard card. In the case of major commercial customers, the notes had to be indexed daily. The first computer terminals appeared at the end of 1975, then technological changes only accelerated.

There was the beginning of branch-to-branch transactions, then the advent of ATMs in the 1980s, and finally the standardization of Canada’s banking system that allowed for bank-to-bank transactions.


Claude Gagnon, President of BMO Financial Group Quebec Operations

But as late as 1975 we were still providing cashiers with a gun. The branch manager lived in the accommodation above the bank and provided security. There are no more raids today.

Claude Gagnon, President of BMO Financial Group Quebec Operations

Claude Gagnon specifies that technological changes have also changed the security profile of financial institutions, while the Bank of Montreal faces thousands of phishing attempts every day and invests hundreds of millions a year to protect itself against computer fraud.

Close to retail and communities

In 47 years at the Bank of Montreal, Claude Gagnon has climbed many levels while always remaining close to retail activities that affect the general public.

“I have developed within the bank. During my MBA degree, I progressed from cashier to assistant accountant to head of administration. I have a lot to do with Human Resources, I was responsible for recruitment, assignments, labor relations,” he explains.

Skills that served him well as the pandemic forced widespread teleworking by bank employees.

We’ve been trying to implement part-time telework for years. We were only able to convince 5% of our employees to participate, while our target was 13%. Then came COVID and there more than 90% of our employees needed to be trained and equipped to work from home. We will take positives from this crisis.

Claude Gagnon, President of BMO Financial Group Quebec Operations

Obviously, the highlight of his four years at the helm of BMO Financial Group’s operations in Quebec was the management of COVID-19.

“COVID has been a big part of my tenure, but I’m also proud to have embarked on a grand tour of the regions in my first year as President. I toured Quebec and insisted on meeting Aboriginal community leaders in each region,” explains Claude Gagnon.


Our columnist spoke to Claude Gagnon, Operations Manager at BMO Financial Group in Quebec.

The Bank of Montreal is the first bank for Aboriginal communities, the President reminds me. A historical reality that I was able to verify during a stay in the small community of Wemindji in James Bay, where a branch of the BMO was clearly visible in the heart of the village of a few hundred inhabitants.

This is one of three BMO offices in Aboriginal communities, while a dozen others are located in urban centers alongside as many communities in Quebec.

“It was important for me to engage in dialogue with community leaders to learn more about their aspirations and build bridges with entrepreneurs in each region. It’s part of our legacy,” says Claude Gagnon.

After 47 years at BMO, the outgoing President decided it was time to leave the company while he still had the health and energy to undertake other projects, including the one he has been pursuing for the past three years: the culture of Mini -Kiwis.

“We have bought a small farm of about 20 hectares in the Lacolle region and we will produce mini kiwis that look like bunches of grapes. We have made tests and the plants are resistant to our cold. We want to plant next year. It is our project that will keep us busy for the next few years and will enable us to travel in winter too,” says Claude Gagnon happily.

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