William Downe


William Downe is a well-known Canadian businessman and the former CEO of Bank of Montreal (BMO), retiring in 2017. He joined BMO in 1983 and worked his way up through the ranks, eventually becoming CEO in 2007. Under his leadership, BMO became one of the most successful and respected banks in Canada, with a strong focus on customer service and innovation.

Early life

Downe was born in London, Ontario, Canada in 1951. He grew up in a working-class family and was the eldest of four children.

Downe has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Toronto. In 2003, he received the Rotman Distinguished Business Alumni Award from the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management.

After graduation, he began working in the banking industry, starting out as a trainee at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). He quickly moved up through the ranks, working in various roles and eventually becoming the head of CIBC’s corporate banking division.

Downe has been awarded honorary degrees from the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, Cape Breton University, and the University of Windsor.


In 1983, Downe joined BMO as the head of corporate banking. He quickly made a name for himself as an innovative and dynamic leader, and he was soon promoted to the position of chief operating officer. In 2007, he was named CEO of BMO, becoming the first non-family member to lead the bank in its 190-year history.

Under Downe’s leadership, BMO experienced significant growth and success. He had a strong focus on customer service and innovation, and he was credited with helping to modernize the bank and make it more customer-centric. He also led the bank through the global financial crisis of 2008, which many other banks struggled to survive. BMO came out of the crisis stronger than ever, and it continued to grow and expand under Downe’s leadership.

One of the key achievements of Downe’s tenure at BMO was the bank’s expansion into the United States. In 1984, BMO Harris Bank was established through the acquisition of Harris Bank, and BMO expanded its footprint in the US through several other acquisitions. Today, BMO Harris Bank is one of the largest banks in the US Midwest, and it is considered a major contributor to BMO’s overall success.

Another major achievement of Downe’s tenure was the bank’s strong performance during the financial crisis. BMO was one of the few banks that did not require government assistance during the crisis, and it was able to maintain its strong financial position throughout the recession. This was due in part to Downe’s focus on risk management and his efforts to diversify the bank’s revenue streams.

Downe’s tenure at BMO was also marked by a strong focus on community involvement and corporate responsibility. He was a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, and he worked to promote these values throughout the bank. He also placed a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability and was a vocal supporter of the fight against climate change.

In 2017, Downe announced his retirement as CEO of BMO and was succeeded by Darryl White. Downe’s retirement came after a decade of strong performance and growth for the bank, and he left behind a legacy of leadership and innovation. He is widely regarded as one of the most successful and respected CEOs in Canadian banking history, and his contributions to the bank and the industry as a whole will be remembered for years to come.

In addition to his professional life, Downe is an active philanthropist and community leader. He serves on the board of various organizations and is actively involved in philanthropic work. He’s a member of the board of trustees of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Royal Conservatory of Music, and the University of Western Ontario.

Downe served as Chairman of the 2009 Campaign Cabinet for United Way of Greater Toronto. He is a member of the Rotman School of Management Campaign Cabinet, and he sits on the board of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation. He is also the past Chair of the Board of Directors of St. Michael’s Hospital.

William Downe’s tenure as CEO of BMO was marked by strong leadership, innovation, and a commitment to customer service. He led the bank through the global financial crisis and retired after leaving behind a great legacy.

Net Worth

Multiple online sources have reported Downe’s networth is in the millions, but an exact estimation isn’t known.


Downe has many achievements throughout his career in banking. Downe is the only Canadian member of the International Business Leaders Advisory Council of the Mayor of Beijing, and he is a member of the International Advisory Council of Guanghua School of Management at Peking University.

He is a director of Catalyst, and a member of Catalyst’s Canadian Board of Advisors. Mr. Downe is also a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and Past President of the Federal Reserve Board’s Federal Advisory Council. Other achievements include:

  • recognized in September 2016 by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Canada Institute
  • received the Center’s Award for Corporate Citizenship
  • was honored with the Rotman Lifetime Achievement Award by the University of Toronto in October 2017
  • received the Rotman Distinguished Business Alumni Award from the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management
  • a Member of the Order of Canada