Bank of Montreal BMO
Q2 2013 Earnings Call Transcript
Transcript Call Date 05/29/2013

Operator: Good afternoon and welcome to the BMO Financial Group's Q2 2013 Earnings Release and Conference Call for May 29, 2013.

Your host for today is Ms. Sharon Haward-Laird, Head, Investor Relations. Ms. Sharon Haward-Laird, please go ahead.

Sharon Haward-Laird - Head, Investor Relations: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks for joining us today. Our agenda for today's investor presentation is as follows. We will begin the call with remarks from Bill Downe, BMO's CEO, followed by presentations from Tom Flynn, the Bank's Chief Financial Officer and Surjit Rajpal, our Chief Risk Officer.

After their presentations, we will have a short Q&A period where we will take questions from prequalified analysts. To give everyone an opportunity to participate, please keep it to one or two questions and then re-queue.

Also with us this afternoon to take questions are BMO's business unit heads; Tom Milroy from BMO Capital Markets; Gill Ouellette from the Private Client Group; Frank Techar, Head of P&C Canada; and Mark Furlong Head of P&C U.S.

On behalf of those speaking today, I note that forward-looking statements may be made during this call. Actual results could differ materially from forecasts, projections or conclusions in these statements. Information about material factors that could cause results to differ and the material assumptions underlying these forward-looking statements can be found in our Annual MD&A and our second quarter report to shareholders.

With that said, I would now like to turn things over to Bill.

William Downe - President and CEO, BMO Financial Group: Thank you, Sharon, and welcome to all of you on the call. This morning BMO reported solid Q2 results, the fifth consecutive quarter of adjusted earnings of C$1 billion. For the first six months of the year, adjusted EPS increased 4%, with operating group adjusted net income up 12%. Each of our businesses has grown from a year ago.

We continue to see good net income growth from our capital markets and traditional wealth businesses, and Personal and Commercial Banking had strong balance sheet growth in the quarter. We had a consistent strategy; it's well-explained, it's easy to understand and we haven't deviated from it. We've been deliberate about the path forward.

In the context of moderating growth in consumer debt in Canada, which appears to have plateaued, we have an advantage business mix, diversified both by geography and consumer segments. We're well-positioned given our U.S. businesses and expect to see continued benefits from our strength in Commercial Banking, Capital Markets and Wealth, important areas for growth in the current environment.

A few highlights from our second quarter results. Reported net income was C$975 million, or $C1.42 per share. On an adjusted basis, net income was C$997 million or C$1.46 per share, C$0.02 ahead of last year. Revenues were C$3.1 billion and ROE was 14.5%. Year-over-year adjusted expense growth was 1.9% and has been moderating as a result of our continued focus on efficiency. This will support future growth while creating value for customers that translates into financial performance for the Bank.

Our approach is deliberate. We're making fundamental changes to the business that will reap benefits over time, including simplification of the organization, moving senior executives closer to the customer, taking process out of front-line sales, reducing repetitive tasks and strengthening infrastructure. As we said before, we're taking concrete steps to be more efficient, optimizing businesses, core processes and the resources of the Bank. The restructuring charge this quarter is a part of an active, ongoing commitment to align noninterest expense with the current and future business environment.

Credit performance in the quarter was good. Provision for credit losses was down significantly year-over-year. Surjit will give you more detail on credit later in the call. Our Basel III common equity Tier 1 ratio was 9.7% at the end of Q2. This strong position continues to give us flexibility.

At the beginning of the calendar year, we spoke of our intention to acquire shares under our normal course issuer bid. In the second quarter, we repurchased approximately 4 million shares and we will continue to be active under this program. While we've seen good balance sheet growth with capital growing at a faster rate, purchasing shares and attractive use of excess capital we're generating.

Turning to the operating groups; P&C Canada's adjusted net income for Q2 was C$431 million. Loan growth remained robust, with the total portfolio up C$15 billion or 10%. We're focused on growing high-quality assets and attracting new customers to the Bank. I'm confident the strategy we're following will translate customer loyalty and balanced growth into sustainable revenue growth. As an example, we've gained share in mortgages by bringing in new customers and encouraging them to borrow smartly with shorter amortization periods and we've executed on cross-sell.

Year-over-year loan growth in Commercial Banking has been particularly strong and this continued in the second quarter with loans up 12%. This is the fourth consecutive quarter of accelerating growth and loans were up 4.6% Q2 over Q1. Commercial deposits were also up 12%, the third consecutive quarter of improvement bringing deposit growth more in line with our strong loan growth. We've taken direct action to increase the focus of commercial bankers on deposit origination and it's paying off.

P&C U.S. adjusted net income was $163 million in source currency, 3% ahead of last year. Year-to-date P&C U.S. earnings are up 9%. Total loans grew quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year, as the core commercial and industrial portfolio demonstrated continued momentum. Year-over-year growth of 17% and sequential growth of 4% in core C&I loans more than offset lower growth areas and non-strategic runoff, which is now less of a headwind, and the efficiency ratio was 59.6% in the quarter.

In the short run, administered rates have had a downward impact on deposit spreads for the entire banking sector in the United States. But at a point in time, this will reverse. We continue to track and evaluate brand performance across our footprint. Brand awareness has increased significantly for BMO Harris Bank, with particularly strong gains in Indiana and Minnesota. We're making gains against key competitors, and importantly, awareness and favorability continues to build among noncustomers.

BMO Capital Markets delivered Q2 adjusted net income of C$276 million with ROE of 19.4%. Results were highlighted by good year-over-year revenue growth, reflecting increased rating in corporate banking. Year-to-date, we rank first in equity capital markets in the Canadian league table. These rankings reflect our commitment to focusing on clients and our strong market position.

Private Client Group produced second quarter adjusted net income of C$148 million. Traditional wealth was up 14% from last year, largely driven by growth in client assets and focused cost management. Good underlying growth in the insurance business continues in both creditor as well as life products through our vast network of managing general agents, and online sales continue to grow. There has been variability in this business due to movements in long-term interest rates, and we would expect to see benefits when rates rise. We remain confident in this business.

Before wrapping up, a few words on the business environment going forward. The Canadian economy continues to grow modestly. In the long run, slowing household credit and fiscal policy restraint are necessary for healthier growth in the future. The U.S. economy continues to show strength, particularly in productivity and global competitiveness. Importantly, unemployment is expected to decline from 7.4% this year to 6.7% in 2014, the lowest rate in five years, which further supports the better operating environment for each of our U.S. businesses.

To conclude, we continue to focus on the areas where we have strength and competitive advantage. Our Capital Markets and wealth franchises are delivering strong earnings grounded in Canada, with important contributions from the U.S., where combined year-to-date earnings are 47% ahead of last year. We expect to generate incremental returns from investments we've made in the United States.

We're effectively leveraging our large North American platform in Commercial Banking, with strong loan growth in both Canada and the U.S., and this will support future earnings growth.

Continue to focus on efficiency while creating value for our customers, will translate into financial performance for the Bank.

And with that, Tom, I'll turn it over to you.

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: Thanks Bill, and good afternoon, everyone.

Moving now to Slide 7, BMO had a solid fourth quarter with reported net income of C$975 million. On an adjusted basis, net income was C$997 million, up 2%, and EPS was C$1.46. Adjusted ROE was 14.5% on a very strong capital position. Year-to-date, adjusted EPS was up 4%. We had strong year-over-year growth in the Private Client Group, excluding Insurance, and in Capital Markets. We have continued growth in Commercial Banking with strong loan and deposit growth of 12% in Canada and core loan balances up 17% year-over-year in the U.S. Lower interest rates reduced insurance income by approximately C$0.05 per share. Consistent with past quarters, our retail businesses contributed over 75% of operating group revenue. Items removed to arrive at adjusted net income were generally similar in character to prior quarters and totaled just C$22 million, or C$0.04 per share.

Slide 29 shows details on the adjusting items, including a restructuring charge of C$59 million after tax, related to our ongoing focus on managing productivity.

Moving now to Slide 8, Q2 adjusted revenue was C$3.8 billion, up 1% year-over-year and down 3% in the first quarter, largely due to fewer days and lower capital markets revenue. Adjusted net interest income was lower due to fewer days in the quarter and quarter-over-quarter volume growth was offset by lower margins. Year-over-year adjusted noninterest revenue was up 4% due to higher trading revenues and good growth in mutual fund revenues and lending fees. Quarter-over-quarter, adjusted noninterest revenue reflects lower underwriting, lending and advisory fees from the high level of QI.

Turning now to Slide 9, Q2 adjusted expenses of C$2.4 billion were up 2% year-over-year as higher employee costs and select initiative spending were partially offset by the benefits of a focus on expense management. Excluding the impact of the higher U.S. dollar, expenses were up just 1%. Quarter-over-quarter adjusted expenses were down 2% and down 3% in source currency largely due to costs related to employees eligible to retire in the first quarter and fewer days.

As shown on Slide 10, capital ratios are strong. The Basel III Common Equity Tier 1 Ratio was 9.7%, up 30 basis points from the first quarter. The increase reflects higher retained earnings and the decrease in RWA mainly due to lower risk in certain portfolios and better risk assessments. During the quarter, we repurchased 4 million shares under our normal course issuer bid, and as Bill said, we expect to continue to be the active under this program.

Moving to Slide 11, in Q2, P&C Canada adjusted net income was C$431 million, essentially flat year-over-year. Results reflect a combination of volume growth, better credit provisions and lower margins. Loan growth continued to be strong in the quarter with total loans up 10% from last year and good sequential month of approximately 2%. NIM declined six basis points quarter-over-quarter, primarily due to changes in mix and lower deposit spreads in the low rate environment. Loan spreads were unchanged. Lastly, expenses were down 2% quarter-over-quarter due to fewer days in the current quarter and compensation in Q1 for employees eligible to retire. Expenses were up 3% year-over-year reflecting select investment in the business including higher employee related costs.

Moving to Slide 12, P&C U.S. adjusted net income was $163 million, up 3% year-over-year and down from a strong first quarter. Revenue of $718 million was down 4% from a year ago as increased Commercial lending fees and strong growth in the core C&I portfolio were offset by lower margins and deposit fees.

NIM was down by 4 basis points quarter-over-quarter, primarily due to lower loan and deposit spreads.

Adjusted expenses were down primarily due to synergies, net of selective investments in the business. The efficiency ratio improved from last year to 59.6% in the quarter. Total loans were up year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter. Core C&I loan growth continues to be strong, with balances up 17% year-over-year and 4% quarter-over-quarter.

Turning to Slide 13, BMO Capital Markets adjusted net income of C$276 million was up 19% year-over-year and down from a very strong first quarter. ROE remains good at 19.4%.

The performance compared to a year ago reflects good results across a number of business lines, with higher revenue driven by trading and corporate banking and improved performance in the U.S. segment.

Turning to Slide 14, Private Client Group adjusted net income was C$148 million. As noted earlier the insurance business was impacted by lower interest rates in the quarter. Traditional wealth results were strong up 14% year-over-year and 8% quarter-over-quarter, due to increased revenue driven by growth in new client assets, improved market conditions, and the continued focus on productivity. Assets under management and administration of were up 12% year-over-year and 4% quarter-over-quarter.

Turning now to Slide 15, the Corporate segment had a net loss of C$26 million on both the reported and adjusted basis. Adjusted revenues were down year-over-year due to a higher teb group offset and a variety of items, none of which were individually significant. Adjusted recoveries of credit losses were stable year-over-year and up quarter-over-quarter, reflecting higher recoveries on purchased credit impaired loan portfolio.

As a reminder, we record all acquired loan accounting items in the Corporate segment. Adjusted expenses declined year-over-year primarily due to lower technology-related costs. The quarter-over-quarter decline of C$54 million was mainly due to lower performance based compensation due in part to the costs for employees to impart to the costs for employees eligible to retire recognized in the first quarter as well as due to lower severance costs.

With that, I'll turn it over to Surjit Rajpal.

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. It has been another good quarter from a risk perspective. Roughing to Slide 18, specific provisions excluding purchase portfolio were C$217 million or 35 basis points and 30 basis points year-to-date. This quarter's provisions are up from last quarter, which included higher recoveries and diversity. Provisions for the purchased performing portfolio was C$65 million, down C$17 million quarter-over-quarter, reflecting reductions in both the consumer and Commercial portfolio.

The recovery on the purchased credit impaired portfolio was C$107 million, an increase of C$48 million from last quarter. The portfolio is now down to roughly 36% of its original size. We attribute this performance to an improving U.S. credits environment and the Bank's strong workout capability. Our strategy of value maximization remains unchanged.

On the next slide total impaired formations at C$595 million were lower this quarter with majority of the decrease coming from the U.S. portfolio. With respect to real estate in Canada, the government-mandated lending changes are having the intended impact on the housing market, slowing activity and reducing the likelihood of a significant correction. Our real estate secured portfolio is small relative to peers, well diversified, and of a high-quality.

Overall, I'm satisfied with our credit performance this quarter and remain optimistic about our credit outlook given the improving economy in the U.S. and moderating Canadian housing condition.

I'll now turn over to the operator for the question-and-answer portion of today's presentation.

Sharon Haward-Laird - Head, Investor Relations: Operator, we're ready to take questions now.

Transcript Call Date 05/29/2013

Operator: Gabriel Dechaine, Credit Suisse.

Gabriel Dechaine - Credit Suisse: My first question is for Frank. Just on the NIM trend, I guess I'll get the ball rolling on NIM. In Canada, I guess, you've had some strong deposit growth in the high-interest savings account, and that's got new customers into the Bank, but also caused some to switch out of checking into the HISA. I'm wondering how big of an impact that had, and is this part of a persistent issue we should expect in coming quarters? I've got one for Surjit, just on Page 17 of your presentation there, if you can help me just to understand a bit more the composition of two loan portfolios; the CRE/investor-owned in Canada, that's C$10.7 billion, and in the owner-occupied commercial mortgage, C$2.1 billion. Really what the C$10.7 breakdown is like between developer and REITs or whatever, and then the owner-occupied as just an example of what that could be?

Frank Techar - President and CEO, Personal and Commercial Banking Canada, BMO Bank of Montreal: It's Frank. I'll take the first one. As you pointed out, our margin this quarter was down a little bit more than we expected; 6 basis points. It was a few basis points more. The primary reason was stronger growth in our low-margin, high-interest savings account. We have been repositioning our deposit lineup over the last few quarters and we did see some balanced movement from core checking products to high-interest savings accounts. So, to your question, I'm not concerned about this as we're in flight with some plan changes that are going to address the issue over the coming quarters. It wasn't a big surprise and I'm not expecting it to be a big impact going forward. Overall…

Gabriel Dechaine - Credit Suisse: Why not? Sorry, like what's – like because you had promotional pricing and that's going away or why wouldn't you be…?

Frank Techar - President and CEO, Personal and Commercial Banking Canada, BMO Bank of Montreal: Well, we're adjusting some of the features to the product set that we believe will mitigate some of the movement that we've seen. Overall, just to the NIM question as long as I have the floor, I haven't changed my view on NIM as a result of the answer to your question. Consistent with my comments last quarter, I expect to see moderating NIM declines of up 2 to 4 basis points for each of the next couple of quarters, and my expectation is we're going to see that reduce even more as we go into 2014 in the 1 to 2 basis point per quarter range. I will just say and reinforce what Tom earlier. We've seen note sequential decline in our loan spreads and our loan spreads have been relatively flat now for three quarters and this was due to our very strong growth in higher spreads commercial loans and slower growth in our residential lending and I expect those trends to continue so from confidence perspective that, coupled with stronger deposit growth. If you give me confidence that these moderating trends are going to show up in future quarters.

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: Gabriel, this is Surjit. Your question on the CRE investor-owned mortgages, the builder component of fed is not a very large component. It's roughly, let's say, about 25% or so. And even within that builder component the condo part which we've looked at in the past is a very small portion. On the high rise side it's about 800 and the total is about 1 billion. So, that's as far as the builder portion is concerned. The investor-owned portion is very well diversified across different segments. With respect to your owner-occupied commercial mortgage, owner-occupied commercial mortgage is one where the person who actually takes the mortgage is also using it for their own business purposes, generally. So, that categorizes as a separate category. So, this reflects the…

Gabriel Dechaine - Credit Suisse: (The guy) that owned the factory, I guess. Sorry.

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: Yeah.

Gabriel Dechaine - Credit Suisse: Actually, just the investor-owned, like that'd be REITs or something like that I guess or…

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: Yeah. That could be REITs as well. But it will be a combination of even businesses across various industries that have borrowed on a mortgage basis for real estate that they actually use for their business purposes. So, it's very well diversified book, and it could be a combination of office, factories, everything, all kinds of real estate.

Operator: Steve Theriault, Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Steve Theriault - Bank of America Merrill Lynch: A couple of questions. First, for probably, Tom. Tom, so you mentioned that risk-weighted assets shrinkage this quarter which was a little surprising, can you give us a little detail around some of the model refinements, some of the changes in collateral that came through this quarter? And maybe more importantly, is there more of this coming down the pipe for you guys or was it just that coincidental culmination of a number of things that came together just coincidentally all at the same time?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: Sure, it's Tom. I'll give you some color on this. The reduction in RWA was about C$3 billion in the quarter related to both having lower risks in the portfolio and also some changes in our risk calibrations. So, on the lower risk in the quarter point, our securitization risk-weighted assets were down close to C$1 billion. Most of that related to reductions in our legacy run-off structured credit positions and also a bit of a positive migration in those portfolios. Given the new capital rules related to derivatives, we have been spending time looking at collateral management, and also working to move some of our business into CCPs, and those two things contributed around C$1 billion dollars in aggregate to the reduction in RWA over the course of the quarter. Our average stressed bar was down a bit in the quarter and so that contributed to lower market risk, and that was mainly just lower volumes and some of the portfolios. And then lastly, we had a credit card securitization related transaction that reduced the RWA in that area. And then, in addition to those items, which I would characterize as items related to simply having lower risk in the portfolio and as a result lower RWA, there were some changes in our risk assessment that resulted in lower RWA. And to the point around expectations going forward, I'd look to the capital build that we've had over time, and we have had very good strength in the capital ratio over the last couple of years, probably stronger than we'll expect going forward because we do have good volume growth in the portfolio. But we do expect the capital ratio to continue to grow quarter-by-quarter on average, not quite by as much as we saw this quarter, but the trend should be a positive one.

Steve Theriault - Bank of America Merrill Lynch: And is that most of Links and Parkland in those items? Have they – what are they running at now? I know they're probably 80% lower than what they were at the peak.

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: They are more like 90% plus lower. There's a very good story around that. The Links and Parkland assets are down to approximately C$200 million at the current point, and we expect that they will be gone in short order. So, that part of our RWA will be shrinking further, although the current number is very low.

Steve Theriault - Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Second one is for Mark Furlong. The synergies now have mostly come through, but the efficiency ratio is for the most on an adjusted basis is still kind of hanging around close to 60%, again on an adjusted basis. One thing I wanted to ask, Mark, is how much of the run rate synergies have been or being reinvested versus flowing through to the bottom line? Is it, we’re talking a quarter or is it more like really three quarters? It’s hard to tell. Then the second part was, again on efficiencies. Can you give us a bit of an outlook for second half of the year as sort of 60% from this quarter or 57% from Q1 more indicative of what you’d expect?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: On the synergies, we’ve talked about progress over time and as we look at our tracker on synergies, we are now around the 85% mark in terms of realizing on the expense reductions that we targeted from the transaction. We feel good about those. The reductions are coming through in a variety of areas, including in Mark’s business, but also in our U.S. wealth business, which with the combination of Harris and M&I is a good size. We’ve done a good job managing that business through the transition, and also from our technology and operations and corporate areas. So the synergy has come through in a variety of areas. We do have reinvestments and we have talked about that for a number of quarters. The reinvestment relates to taking advantage of opportunities that we see in the market. Mark will elaborate on this if he wants, but the two in particular in that business have been on the Commercial side and the mortgage side, where we’ve had good results and the market opportunity is good.

Mark F. Furlong - President and CEO, BMO Harris Bank, N.A.: So to answer the second part of the question, the goal is to get the efficiency ratio into the mid-50. So, I am not sure that we will get it there by the end of this year. Really the driver from this point on is going to be the revenue side. We’ve taken most of the expenses we’re going to take out of any real substance, and so now it's really top line growth. So that's kind of what we will fight the second half of the year. We see really good volumes across all the businesses, but we're facing the same pricing challenges you see all across the U.S. banks, but good momentum in the rest of the business though. But we may – I don’t know that we're going to get to the mid-50% by the end of this year, let's see.

Steve Theriault - Bank of America Merrill Lynch: And then in terms of that coming through the revenue line, I presume you certainly need some assistance from just better market conditions?

Mark F. Furlong - President and CEO, BMO Harris Bank, N.A.: That's a good question. I think certainly great economic tailwinds are always wonderful, but I would say that again back to start out with the same pricing pressures you see affecting other U.S. banks, they are affecting us, but we've had good volume and expect to see good volume on the C&I side. That growth has been strong. Now we're six or seven quarters in a row, and great activity all throughout the businesses and all throughout the markets. On the commercial real estate side, we really haven't landed on one of those quarters where you see the growth yet. But in the first half of 2013, we booked over C$1.2 billion of commitments. So we've only funded a quarter of those. When you get pay-downs in that portfolio, of course, we will begin to see some momentum, because we still see some very good opportunities that we have this quarter and going into the fourth quarter. On the consumer side, that's more a function of we're selling 60% or so of what we produced, that’s down a little bit of what we originate. That's down a little bit from where we were a couple of quarters ago. And so what we portfolio just isn’t quite enough to keep up with the amortization, but we're up 6% linked-quarter, the home equity side our fundings are up 15%, commitments are up 10%, the auto side originations are up 5%. Really, the metrics on the sale side across the board, pretty much without exception in both the Personal business and Commercial business are strong. So, we're seeing the good volume growth and expect – and see no reason why we wouldn't continue to see it. Economic tailwind would make that even better. For example, you saw the release on housing that Case-Schiller came out with earlier, and nice to see big market like ours in Chicago would be up 7.8%. The challenge in Chicago, of course is, it's still down quite a bit from the peak, but the great thing is that momentum wasn't there a year ago, and so that will be another positive reinforcer and wealth creator in Chicago that will be a big part of our base to grow from too. So, probably a little long-winded answer, but just trying to give you a little bit of perspective on different pieces of our business and why we feel good about it.

Operator: Brad Smith, Stonecap Securities.

Brad Smith - Stonecap Securities: My question also deals with the efficiency ratio in the U.S. When we went into this M&I transaction, I think you originally estimated that the synergies would be C$250 million, and I think that number is now up to C$400 million. I believe the run rate revenues of the combined business was just north of C$3 billion on an annualized basis at the time. So, can you explain to me why the efficiency ratio hasn't come down considerably? I think if you just took the C$250 million and compared it to the C$3.2 billion run rate revenues, you would expect something in the 7% to 8% – 700 to 800 basis point decline in the efficiency ratio, all other things held equal; of course, I know everything is changing. But the fact that we've seen virtually no decline in the efficiency ratio, and in fact, it may have deteriorated. Is there something else that's working in counter-purpose to that efficiency improvement?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: Tom, I guess, I would go back farther in time. And I think if you looked at our efficiency ratio pre-transaction in 2008-2009-2010, it was much higher than the current 59% to 60% that we're looking at. And so, the number has come down materially from the level that we were running at pre-transaction. If you're looking in the supp, the numbers you're looking at reflect the benefits of the transaction. And as we've talked about before, the synergies came in, in part higher than we first projected because both organizations started to contain expense growth as soon as we announced the transaction. And so that resulted in the productivity ratio when we closed being down from where it had been running earlier, and I think helps to connect the dots.

Operator: Mario Mendonca, Canaccord Genuity.

Mario Mendonca - Canaccord Genuity: Probably for Tom. The Bank has talked about 2% operating leverage on the total Bank basis and I think you've even suggested that that was possible in 2013 with half of the year behind us, what does it feel like? Is that 2% operating leverage a reasonable expectation for all of 2013 or did I misinterpret that in the past?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: As we were ending last year we talked about mid-term target which is the 2% and expressed hope that we would be able to achieve that in the current year. Sitting here at the halfway point, I think it's fair to say that revenue in areas have been lower than we thought it would be and with that the operating leverage is not as strong, and I think hitting 2% for the year will be a tough number to hit at this point. We are focused in all of the businesses on hitting positive operating leverage going forward, and our current expectations would be that for the year, we will be in positive territory but 2% is a pretty big number from where we sit today.

Mario Mendonca - Canaccord Genuity: A follow-up question for Surjit. I think you made a fairly astute call in – it’s just that the recoveries on the impaired loan portfolio would be lower from a routine 2 and 250 and that seems to be shaking out. What I'm interested in is the decline in the reserve from 405 last quarter to 284 this quarter. That was fairly substantial decline in one quarter and I suppose that connects to the C$107 million we saw on recoveries. What do you figure happened in the quarter that would cause such a quick decline in, and is it something that you could see happening again next quarter?

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: Yeah, the improvement in the U.S., particularly in the residential market causes that number to go down because when we do our cash flow re-estimation based on how we see our cash flows from individual transactions coming out, we're able to go back and reverse some of the loss that we've taken against it. So that causes it to go. Plus we've had a lot of recoveries and resolutions as well during the period of the last quarter. So the reduction to the – little under 300 is not surprising at all. In fact, if the market did keep improving, that number will come down, and by the way, we are following a pretty aggressive resolution and recovery program including loan sales. So I would expect that you will see good results coming forward as well in the next half of the year.

Mario Mendonca - Canaccord Genuity: I'm sorry, if I could just squeeze one more here, the restructuring charges that we saw this quarter, maybe Tom again, how do you make the distinction between an expense that you would call restructuring and just a normal expense? Is there a lot of subjectivity that goes into this or do you have nice tight definitions?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: I would say we have pretty definitions in the ordinary course and all of the groups, and the functions and our technology group, you have, what I'd characterize as ordinary course severance-related activity, and we take those charges as they come. And the larger restructuring charge that we've taken in the quarter reflects a bank-wide program that we have in place to focus on improving productivity and improving our ability to have resources focused on the frontline. And when we've got an initiative that is bank-wide and formal in nature, and as Bill said in his comments, go to how we're running the Company, we think that that kind of a charge or expense has a different character and we group it together and call those.

Operator: Robert Sedran, CIBC.

Robert Sedran - CIBC World Markets: Tom, just a question on the insurance revenues. Was the charge this quarter related to like an ultimate reinvestment rate or the initial reinvestment rate, or perhaps something else? What I'm trying to get at is that rates have backed up fairly meaningfully so far in the third quarter, so is the benefit – or as rates are reversing, is that benefit going to be felt in Q3 or is it going to be felt at some point in the future?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: In the current quarter, the rate related charge in Insurance is about two-thirds related to the move in rates in the quarter and one-third related to the ultimate reinvestment reset which occurs periodically as you know. Rates are up meaningfully so far in the third quarter. We are hopeful for that business that that continues and there would be a significant through into the P&L if it does. We've probably got one more ultimate reinvestment rates lump to take in the fourth quarter and it will be sort of C$10 million to C$12 million and you can project those because reset is based on a formula and it moves slowly through time. So freights hold where they are. It will be up in the third quarter and then we'd have a lesser adjustment in the fourth quarter related to the ultimate reinvestment rate.

Robert Sedran - CIBC World Markets: And then just a quick question on the tax rate. On a teb basis, it's been up for the last couple of quarters. Compared with the last three quarters of last year, is there something odd in the last couple of quarters? Or the taxes are perhaps last year – quarters of last year. Where would you put a teb tax rate right now?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: I think the current rate which is around 20% is a pretty good rate to use. The number does move around quarter-to-quarter for a variety of reasons. But the current level is a pretty reasonable level to think about.

Operator: Darko Mihelic, Cormark Securities.

Darko Mihelic - Cormark Securities: A question for Surjit. With respect to the construction formation this quarter. This is the first time we've nice a sizable ones since last year. Is there something chronic going on or was that a condo developer? Can you give us any sort of flavor on what that impairment was related to?

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: Can you repeat? I missed the question, you're talking about..?

Darko Mihelic - Cormark Securities: The impaired loan formation of C$30 million in the construction portfolio.

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: No, it's not related to any one, it's a combination of a few.

Darko Mihelic - Cormark Securities: It's a combo of a few. Okay.

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: It's a combination and the one that is the slightly larger one is really not directly related to the building trade. It's a contracting and engineering company, mechanical and electrical company. So it's not specific to any particular name.

Darko Mihelic - Cormark Securities: So we still haven't seen any signs of weakness let's say in construction. And I wanted to ask also as well. I wanted to ask you particularly because I think you're one of the better positioned banks to answer this question for me. We're visiting the whole concept of adverse scenarios with respect to residential home prices, and all of you run your stress test and you all sort of suggest that if it might lead to severe adverse scenarios, the outcome is manageable. Two questions on that. The first is when you say manageable, does that mean you still make money? And secondly, when you run these adverse scenarios and you have a large decline in real estate prices, do you assume that all claims are honored by CMHC, or do you assume that some level of claims are refused?

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: Let me start. I'll start with the question you asked last, and then I'll go back into the stresses that we run. When we do our stress scenarios, we do assume a certain level of insurance claims that may get disputed and we go back to our track record with CMHC in determining what that level should be. With respect to stress testing our portfolios, in a scenario that could be adverse, when we say that we are able to manage, it's a combination of things. Firstly, I think even if our losses from that particular segment were to go up – and I'm not talking about the Consumer segment in total, because strangely but logically the losses really do not come out of the residential mortgages or from the HELOCs; they actually are felt more acutely in the Personal lines of credit as well as in credit cards. So that's the segment of the Personal business that gets impacted. Now, fortunately for us, we are not very big in the Personal line of segment – Personal lending segment relative to our size, but when we stress it, in some scenarios the losses go up by two times, and in more adverse scenarios they can go up four times. And when you look at it from that basis, our P&C business does get impacted, but it's quite easily able to absorb it and still remain profitable.

Operator: Michael Goldberg, Desjardins Securities.

Michael Goldberg - Desjardins Securities: A few questions. First of all, with the 9.7% CET1 ratio, now what you do, you said continued stock buybacks are good, but is your next priority growing your business in order to use up this capital that's being generated or what?

William Downe - President and CEO, BMO Financial Group: Michael, it's Bill. We've seen strong loan growth in Commercial Banking on both sides of the board and we've seen very good personal loan growth in Canada. I expect at some point we're going to see a pick-up in personal loan growth in the United States which has been very, very quiet for some extended time and if you even look at the mortgage market, it's been largely refinancing on low interest rates. But with construction picking up and new buyers coming into the housing market with the consumer balance being healthy or much more healthy than it was you've seen what's going on in the car lending business in the United States. So, just a broad pickup. So, I think the first priority for the use of cash as organic growth and good balance sheet growth and we're really spending both money and energy on building the visibility of the Bank's presence in the U.S. and as Frank can elaborate and I'm sure you'd be happy too on increasing our position in the Canadian market. But I said and I think I specifically said, buyback continues to be an attractive use of capital above that level. And we have been generating and increasing common equity ratio, B3 common equity common ratio. Since the date of acquisition of acquisition of M&I and we're now in a position where we have great flexibility in that regard.

Michael Goldberg - Desjardins Securities: Next question for Surjit. You had high (cured) sales and repayments offsetting gross formation since M&I was acquired presumably from the purchase credit impaired portfolio. How much longer before these (cured) sales and repayments decrease to more normal levels

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: I missed the last part of your question. How much longer before?

Michael Goldberg - Desjardins Securities: The (cured) sales and repayments decrease to more normal

Sharon Haward-Laird - Head, Investor Relations: Sorry Michael, we're just not – we're not following the sales, the terminology you are using.

Michael Goldberg - Desjardins Securities: Okay. Maybe I should follow-up offline.

Sharon Haward-Laird - Head, Investor Relations: Yeah, I'll be happy to do that after.

Michael Goldberg - Desjardins Securities: And finally, I'm sure you're aware of what TD talked about in terms of positioning itself for interest rates to rise in the U.S. What would be the impact of the 25 basis point increase along the curve for you guys?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: It's Tom, Michael. I'll say a few things. Firstly, we have over the last several quarters moved our positioning around somewhat. We haven't moved it radically, but we have shortened our duration and reduced our security holdings in places and increased our sensitivity to rate increases from a negative position a year ago to a positive position in our plus 100 scenario in the current quarter. There is a lot of complexity involved in your question related to what the impact is of a 25 basis point move. So I'll preface my answer by saying that. But if the curve was to go up by 25 basis points, you would in effect have a repricing of the yield that you earn on your floating rate deposits and your non-rate-sensitive deposits. The repricing would occur through time. So this is not a number that would hit the P&L in a short period of time. You'd have to re-price the portfolio over time. We have about C$160 billion in total of those deposits. Some of the increase would end up being passed on to our customers; some would be retained. And as a ballpark kind of a number to think about, we think it would translate into C$190 million of pre-tax revenue.

Michael Goldberg - Desjardins Securities: So, is that the amount over time, or is that…?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: That's the amount over time.

Operator: John Aiken, Barclays Capital.

John Aiken - Barclays Capital: A question for Tom Milroy. Tom, if the Bloomberg headlines are to be believed, it looks like you're doing an expansive rollout again on the U.S. equities side. Can you let us know whether this is a change in the strategy, if this is a tweaking, and where you expect to see the U.S. business going in context of the moderating commodity markets?

Thomas V. Milroy - CEO, BMO Capital Markets: You can't believe everything you read in Bloomberg. This is tweaking. We are pretty happy with what we are – the strategy we have in the U.S., we're just trying to make sure we have the right people in the right seats. And if you look at the U.S. business, we're pretty excited about the results so far this year and we think that we're seeing the reward for our efforts. That being said, as you know, the equity part of the business is pretty tough everywhere right now, but we think we've now positioned to be able to capitalize in that area when things go forward. In terms of the commodities, it depends how you look at commodities. I mean, broad-based last year and even the first part we've seen in terms of the energy space, we continue to have good business and good flow. In metals and mining, obviously, we've seen a little bit of a slowdown, but that business even though we have such a significant share in it, it represents at least, if I look backwards last year, approximately 3% of our total revenues. So, we've seen some pull back in the market generally, but we've also seen ourselves win more than our fair share of what's out there. So, we're pretty comfortable for both in terms of where we are positioned against metals and mining part of the commodities question, and in the U.S. we are very pleased with continuing to execute on the plan we have and the progress we're making.

Operator: Peter Routledge, National Bank Financial.

Peter Routledge - National Bank Financial: I have just a follow-up on Darko's question. Just on the CMHC issue, for what reasons would they reject the claim generically?

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: They would reject the claim if the underwriting or adjudication we done, was done incorrectly not in keeping with the criteria that they have for insuring mortgages. So, we made a mistake in adjudicating the loan in the first place and used something that was –basically we made a mistake, then they would not honor it. Also I think – and I'm going out of memory over here – I think the other issue where they can is where there is internal fraud associated with it. I think those are the two major circumstances under which they could repudiate the claim.

Peter Routledge - National Bank Financial: Would one of those stakes be like appraisals?

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: It would depend on the situation. I don't think it would be appraisal because the appraisals that are being received at the time we would have made the loans.

Peter Routledge - National Bank Financial: I guess where I'm going with this is in the case in the U.S. you had some systemic problems with product origination and then incompetence around documentation. Stepping back at 50,000 feet is there any systemic issues in Canada that might cause a similar set of problems in the mortgage system in Canada that you can see?

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: Not that I can see, but if it was proven that systematically valuations were being done erroneously by somebody, then it could become an issue, but I don’t think that's the case here; and so, it's hard to see.

Peter Routledge - National Bank Financial: Just another question on credit since I have. Credit card balances are declining across the industry, not just at BMO, but certainly at BMO as well. Is there any early warning sign in that, are people feeling the stress and maybe they're paying their credit cards down today but tomorrow they go delinquent? And then are you seeing any very early-stage delinquency issues elsewhere in your current portfolio that maybe not worry you, but that you are watching closely?

Surjit Rajpal - EVP and Chief Risk Officer, BMO Financial Group: We always watch our delinquencies on the card portfolio and the delinquencies are roughly at the same levels as they've been in the past, and nothing has translated into losses. It's all – there are some early-stage delinquencies that we watch and we take a risk-based approach to how we follow-up on the collection process when it comes to delinquencies. We have not seen anything on that front yet. And yes, the balances are down, but I wouldn't read into it that people are paying them down and that at the same time, there's a fear that they would default later. I wouldn’t link the two at this stage. I don't think there's a basis to link that. I'll ask Frank whether he has a different perspective on it, but I don't link the two.

Frank Techar - President and CEO, Personal and Commercial Banking Canada, BMO Bank of Montreal: Yeah, I'd agree with Surjit, Peter. I think card growth has been relatively soft in the industry as you point out. Ours has been particularly soft mainly because of the management decisions we've made around being a little cautious over the last few quarters back into last year, just recognizing the risk that we saw in – the potential risk that we saw in the marketplace. So, I chalk it up more to our caution more so than seeing some type of customer change regarding their risk.

Operator: Sumit Malhotra, Macquarie Capital Markets.

Sumit Malhotra - Macquarie Capital Markets: Two hopefully quick ones please; first for Tom Flynn the follow-up on insurance. If I heard your answer to Rob's question correctly, of the C$0.05 EPS impact in insurance, I think you said about two-thirds of that was due to the fluctuation in interest rates during the quarter. Is that correct?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: That's correct.

Sumit Malhotra - Macquarie Capital Markets: So, if I look at that, the revenue was – from your supplement was down about C$40 million in that business, and I think the spot move-in 10-year yields in the U.S. and Canada was about 25 basis points in the quarter. It seems like we talk about this business and its fluctuation a lot in terms of – or compared to how big it is for BMO. So, how comfortable are you with the fact that a relatively small business is driving and EPS change of C$0.03 to C$0.05 on an interest rate move that doesn't seem that big?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: Yeah, a few things. The rate exposure is roughly C$10 million per 10 bps. The way I think about this is, it's a number that…

Sumit Malhotra - Macquarie Capital Markets: Sorry, Tom, that's quarterly C$10 million per 10 bps per quarter, or it doesn't really matter; C$10 million for 10 bps I guess what you're saying is the…?

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: That's right.

Sumit Malhotra - Macquarie Capital Markets: Okay.

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: But the way I think about it is, this is a number that can be material in the context of the PCG earnings, if rates move significantly. We had that in the second quarter. At the level of BMO overall, I call it a nuisance issue and we'd rather not talk about C$34 million change in the insurance business because of rates but at the end of the day, it's not a material number. And so, we think that we're in a reasonable place with the business from an overall risk perspective. It's large enough to change the way you might feel about the quarter, so we disclosed the impact because it does have impact at the bank level even though it isn’t that big. Our other thought behind this exposure is that we've had a huge move down in rates over a long period of time. We have reduced the sensitivity to raise somewhat over the last couple of years, probably by around 15%, but we don't think it makes sense to neutralize the exposure given where we are in the rate cycle. And if rates start moving back up, this obviously will go the other way for us. So, we think that's not an unreasonable place to be.

Sumit Malhotra - Macquarie Capital Markets: And we could see that as it came up, because (we've seen it) this quarter, at least a portion of it.

Thomas E. Flynn - EVP and CFO, BMO Financial Group: Yeah.

Sumit Malhotra - Macquarie Capital Markets: And then lastly for Tom Milroy, your corporate loan, I think you said this on an average basis, so average corporate loans in the Capital Markets segment came back with a very strong increase this quarter. I think currency may have played a role there. But a couple of your competitors have talked about using corporate lending as a differentiator, as a way to win investment banking business particularly out of Canada. Now you've had some big wins on the commodity side particularly in M&A, I don’t think all of those have actually hit your results yet. But do you view your corporate lending the same way as just a tool that BMO can use to perhaps win more investment banking business outside of Canada in some nontraditional sectors that we wouldn't see at home?

Thomas V. Milroy - CEO, BMO Capital Markets: We obviously view that – it’s a good question, because what we absolutely view in corporate banking is a core product of capital markets. So we have been pretty confident and we said I guess on past calls that we think as things start to improve you would see us being able to deploy our balance sheet more with existing clients and frankly targeted to where we are targeted. So, in terms of seeing it outside or the in areas where we haven’t been before, I would say, not necessarily but we continue to expand our client base. And as we do that obviously the opportunity set to sell not just for corporate banking, but all our products increases.

Operator: Thank you. This will conclude the question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the meeting back over to Ms. Haward-Laird.

Sharon Haward-Laird - Head, Investor Relations: Thank you everyone, and thank you for joining us today. If we didn’t get to any questions, please call us in Investor Relations, and we’d be happy to answer them. Thank you.

Operator: Thank you. The conference has now ended. Please disconnect your lines at this time and thank you for your participation.