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BMO Global Asset Management has hired Kristi Mitchem, the former chief executive officer of Wells Fargo Asset Management, as its new CEO.

Bank of Montreal said on Wednesday Ms. Mitchem will replace Richard Wilson, who has been CEO of BMO GAM since 2014 and will retire in June.

The change in executives at BMO occurs at a time when the asset-management industry is seeing large competitors begin to join forces to provide greater access to advisers and more low-cost products, such as exchange-traded funds. ETFs have steadily been growing in the Canadian fund industry and have become an integral part of all asset managers' business plans.

“When we were looking for a new CEO, we really looked for someone who could both deliver for today and deliver for tomorrow,” Joanna Rotenberg, group head of BMO Wealth Management, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

“On today, [Kristi’s] credentials speak for themselves. She has deep asset-management skill and a strong client mindset, and what I was equally excited about is that she really does think about tomorrow. That includes a track record of really focusing on the power of technology to help evolve asset management but also being very practical at the same time."

Ms. Mitchem will start in the position March 18 and report to Ms. Rotenberg.

BMO GAM manages more than $320-billion in assets and is the second-largest ETF provider in Canada, with more than $48.6-billion in ETF assets. The ETF business is a segment that Ms. Rotenberg says BMO is committed to improving after being the first bank to launch ETFs a decade ago.

But competition is heating up. Earlier this month, Royal Bank of Canada and Blackrock Inc.’s Canadian division formed a partnership to launch the country’s largest ETF business, RBC iShares, based on assets.

The partnership will help Blackrock maintain its leading position in the ETF market and create a bigger gap between the players who were slowly catching up to to it, including BMO, which holds more than 31 per cent of the market.

Ms. Rotenberg said she continues to feel good about BMO’s position and says she welcomes the competition. At the same time, she did not discount the idea of BMO looking at partnerships in the future as “the days of just looking to build or buy are over.”

Ms. Mitchem will be part of that future strategy of growth, which includes a goal for BMO GAM to double earnings over the next five years, Ms. Rotenberg said.

At Wells Fargo, Ms. Mitchem led 28 independent investment teams with approximately US$500- billion in assets under management. Ms. Mitchem has also held positions at State Street Corp., BlackRock, and Goldman Sachs.

“BMO has built an exceptional global asset management business and is well positioned for future growth,” Ms. Mitchem said in an e-mail. “Like BMO, I have a passion for building long term successful client relationships and look forward to joining the team.”

Earlier this month, BMO also announced the launch of BMO Private Wealth Canada and Asia, a new entity that will place BMO Private Banking and the bank’s full-service brokerage, BMO Nesbitt Burns, under one leadership team. Andrew Auerbach, currently head of BMO Nesbitt Burns, will lead BMO Private Wealth Canada and Asia.

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