Chicago bank is attracted to Omaha

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013 12:00 am

BMO Harris Bank is set to open an Omaha commercial lending office today as the Chicago-based banking giant seeks to gain more loan customers in the Great Plains.

The bank is seeking to lend to businesses with revenues between $25 million and $3 billion, said Kevin Munro, the bank’s Omaha-based regional managing director.

“We like the economy in Omaha and have a real focus on the Midwest,” Munro said. “We have a large presence in Minneapolis, of course Chicago, and Kansas City and St. Louis, so we kind of have Iowa and Nebraska surrounded.”

BMO Harris will compete with lenders based in Omaha and others that have offices in the metro area. They include metro-area deposit share leader First National Bank of Omaha, and its four rivals in the Top Five: Mutual of Omaha Bank, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co., Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank and South Dakota’s Great Western Bank.

The new lending office is at 13616 California St., Munro said, and so far consists of himself and Larry Guenther, who was named director of commercial banking. The men will concentrate on business loans in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota.

BMO Harris was formed after Canada’s BMO Financial Group, formerly known as Bank of Montreal, acquired Harris Bank in 1984. In 2010, BMO acquired Wisconsin-based Marshall & Ilsley Bank, and combined it with Harris Bank, forming BMO Harris.

Munro said the bank has existing Omaha customers that include regional and national leaders in engineering and construction, wholesale grocery distribution and refrigerated warehousing. Those customers stem from earlier relationships with Harris Bank and Marshall & Ilsley Bank, Munro said.

Guenther and Munro are Omaha banking veterans. Munro, with 20 years of banking experience, was hired by BMO Harris last year; his most recent position was Omaha market president for U.S. Bank. Nebraska native Guenther has 23 years of banking experience and was most recently a senior vice president for Great Western Bank, where he led commercial, real estate and equipment banking.

Munro said BMO Harris expects to hire another commercial banker for the office, which will hold a reception today at 4 p.m. with refreshments.

Business owners and managers, Munro said, are “cautiously optimistic” after the recession and are concentrating on restoring sales and profits. He said the biggest unknown he is hearing about is the prospective cost of the federal health insurance law, the Affordable Care Act.

BMO Harris Bank, a U.S. unit of Canada’s BMO Financial Group, operates about 600 branches in Illinois, Indiana, Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota, Kansas, Nevada, Florida, and Wisconsin, with $95 billion of assets. Parent BMO Financial Group is one of Canada’s Big Five banks and has $544 billion in assets.

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