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'Beemo' Takes On United States, Eh?


BMO (that's pronounced "Beemo") Global Asset Management is a familiar name in the Canadian mutual fund industry. But, even with 24 mutual funds and over 75 other strategies, the fund's U.S. subsidiary boasts a small -but growing-presence south of the border.

And Phillip Enochs, a Russell Investment alumnus who handled U.S. institutional defined contribution business as head of its Chicago office, is looking to increase BMO's footprint in the U.S. in 2013 and beyond as its head of relationship management.

Now in his third year, Enochs is striving to strengthen BMO's global brand, with internally-built asset management shops in Chicago and Toronto, and acquisitions such as Marshall & Ilsley Corporation, Pyrford in London and Lloyd George in Hong Kong. The firm now manages $110 billion in assets, with $10 billion in its mutual fund complex.

Enochs recently spoke to Money Management Executive about the firm's approach to better acquainting prospective clients with its brand and its major growth objectives going forward.

What kinds of strategies do BMO funds offer clients?

Our mutual funds are across the risk return spectrum. So we go all the way from money market funds to emerging markets funds.

One of the unique common characteristics of the way we manage money across many of our strategies is an attention to risk. So for example, our Pyrford international equity strategy, which is now in a mutual fund, pays a lot of attention to risk and volatility.

What are some of BMO's current growth initiatives?

Our strategy really is to develop a global asset management firm that leverages our organic capability, and where we don't have a particular expertise, we've gone out and acquired it. We've built a pretty broad and deep platform, we're pretty happy with where we are.

From a hiring perspective, we've assembled a distribution team. We've had a lot of growth there over the last 18 months. We've gone through a fairly aggressive growth and re-allocation of resources to distribution. We have many channels of distribution throughout the organization, and almost across every channel, we've had a hire. We've hired in our intermediary distribution channel, and there's going to be some significant long-term growth in our mutual fund platform.

We have just hired our DC I-O person, Matt Smith, Director of Retirement Sales and Strategy. We do expect that, as we continue to hit our growth targets and take advantage of this platform, we will be adding resources over time.

How do you plan to increase brand recognition for BMO?

We have a lot of knowledge and experience in the business, but the element that's missing is we just need more folks to know who we are and what our capabilities are. We're doing that on the ground, reaching out, calling prospects, calling clients, telling our story, but we've got to marry it up to increasing brand recognition.

People say, "Well, it's B-M-O, but isn't it the 'Bank of Montreal'"? That's the stock symbol, BMO, and by the way, it's not based in Montreal, it's in Toronto. But we say Beemo. So part of the advertising campaign is, BMO is spelled out on the billboard, where in parenthesis it says "Bee" and "Mo". Kind of tongue-in-cheek. So it's just getting people acclimated to who we are and the brand.

BMO Funds, now a relatively new brand, we started reaching out to intermediaries. Part of that conversation is, take a look at our product because we think we have some real value to come and talk to you about. And then the next phone call is, this person says, this is the best mutual fund company I've never heard of. It's not an uncommon response, "Where'd you guys come from?" It's a fun problem to have.

What's your outlook for the coming new year?

Our view is, based on our solutions approach, if we focus on what client challenges are and then match them up to our solutions, that's going to be a winning strategy regardless of what the market does. That's what we're focused on. I'm hopeful that in the wake of all this, things are going to get resolved and it's going to be a positive year for the markets, but if it's not, it lends even more credibility to our low volatility strategies, and managing risk will become important and there'll be a place for some of the things that we do with our clients.

For example, in our retirement services business, baby boomers started retiring a couple of years ago and they'll be retiring for a long time. There's going to be a focus on their needs for generating an income in their post-retirement years. So there'll always be a need for income-related diversified multi-asset class solutions, regardless of what happens to the euro.

Given that we don't know what's going to happen in the markets, I think that's why our strategy makes so much sense because we have a diversified set of products and uncorrelated solutions, and we can help clients regardless of the environment.


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