Bank of Montreal BMO-T is hiring a new chief risk officer, bringing on board Citibank executive Piyush Agrawal later this year as current risk chief Pat Cronin prepares to retire after nearly 30 years at the bank.
Mr. Agrawal comes to BMO from Citibank N.A., the consumer banking arm of U.S. financial services giant Citigroup Inc., C-N where he was Citibank’s chief risk officer and global head of climate risk.
Mr. Cronin has been chief risk officer since 2018 and helped steer BMO through the COVID-19 pandemic, a period when risk officers were under intense pressure to insulate banks against the threats stemming from a fast-changing public-health crisis. He was also at the centre of the bank’s plans to build adequate reserves against possible losses.
Starting July 1, Mr. Agrawal will be deputy chief risk officer for a brief transition period, then take over as chief risk officer when Mr. Cronin leaves on Nov. 1.
The appointment of Mr. Agrawal marks the second time in two years that BMO chief executive officer Darryl White has hired a top executive from a U.S. rival, as more of the bank’s senior leaders arrive with experience at U.S. banks. In 2020, BMO poached its chief financial officer, Tayfun Tuzun, from Ohio-based bank Fifth Third Bancorp.
BMO is in the midst of an aggressive U.S. expansion, working to close its $17.1-billion acquisition of California-based Bank of the West, which was announced in December. The deal will boost BMO’s U.S. assets by 63 per cent and expand its geographic reach from the Midwest to California.
Mr. White praised Mr. Agrawal’s expertise in risk management, climate, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in a statement released Wednesday morning. He also cited Mr. Agrawal’s “reputation for personal curiosity and lifelong learning, as well as developing high performing teams.”
In Mr. Cronin’s three decades at BMO, he has served as CEO and chief operating officer of the bank’s capital markets division, BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc., where he was head of trading products. He joined BMO in 1993.
In 2020, he was also central to the bank’s efforts to convince investors that BMO’s heavier reliance on commercial lending was not a liability, stressing its disciplined approach to measuring risk. The bank’s performance rebounded in 2021, with its shares outperforming its Big Six rivals.
“He expertly steered our COVID-19 response and our risk function through the pandemic and the complex credit and market environment that has defined the past 24 months,” Mr. White said in a statement.
On Tuesday, BMO also announced that Claude Gagnon, the bank’s president of operations for Quebec, will retire Oct. 31. Grégoire Baillargeon, the current co-head of BMO Capital Markets in Quebec, will take over as the bank’s Quebec president on Nov. 1.
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