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BMORE: Making Banking Careers Accessible

Our participants’ long-term success is built on relationships with trusted employment partners that collectively provide more than 900 jobs annually to untapped talent across Chicago and beyond. We couldn’t create hope, jobs, and opportunity without them, which is why we are spotlighting our employment partners and their commitment to building an inclusive economy. This month, get to know our friend and partner BMO Harris Bank.

For members of our community who may not know BMO Harris Bank, tell us a little bit about your company.

BMO is a leading North American bank with its U.S. headquarters in Chicago driven by a single purpose: to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life. Our Purpose informs our strategy, drives our ambition, and reinforces our commitments to progress: for a thriving economy, a sustainable future, and an inclusive society.

To the point of inclusivity, we have what’s called our Zero Barriers to Inclusion 2025 strategy, which is our plan to foster an inclusive society by providing access to opportunities for groups facing systemic barriers – both inside and outside our doors. This includes improving access to advancement for our diverse colleagues, expanding financial inclusion for minority customers through banking products specialized services and key resources – and building relationships with community partners to support racial justice, reconciliation, and inclusive economic opportunity in neighborhoods we serve.

Additionally, BMO is the 8th largest bank in North America by assets. We provide personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment services to more than 12 million customers. We are very proud to be fueling progress for individuals, families, and businesses across North America.

What about BMO’s work and culture makes Cara Collective a great fit for your hiring needs?

BMO has a long tradition of helping the communities we serve make real financial progress and we know Cara Collective is doing the same to ensure equitable success in our communities. We are committed to supporting equity, equality and inclusion and to building a more just society – especially for groups facing systemic barriers. Our two organizations are aligned in every way on that and regarding workforce development needs, which is why we co-created BMORE – our program to remove barriers to employment and increase access to careers in banking and finance.

Now celebrating our 2-year anniversary, BMORE – our inclusive hiring and employment program – recruits, trains, and places diverse talent into customer service roles at BMO. By leveraging Cara Collective’s 30 years of workforce development experience, it has been crucial to providing BMORE cohorts the readiness and skills needed to succeed. Once we hire talent, Cara Collective ensures that our BMORE colleagues have a robust network of support on and off the job during their first year.

Over the course of our partnership, what types of roles have you hired our participants for?

The BMORE program has been focused on recruiting, training and placing individuals into customer service roles. The Associate Banker (AB) job description was also workshopped with Cara job seekers to better appeal to local, diverse talent. Newly hired ABs assist BMO customers, build meaningful partnerships, support branch operations, and serve as critical BMO brand ambassadors.

How have Cara participants impacted your organization as a whole?

Beyond helping us build a pathway into the industry for underrepresented talent and serving our customers to help them achieve real financial progress, our BMORE colleagues inspire us to dig in deep on what it means to be inclusive.

We often hear from BMORE hires – “I never imagined myself working in a bank” – and we have realized that we need to lock arms with Cara, our Branch colleagues, our executive team, and the talent themselves to build belonging and confidence so they can best navigate careers in the financial industry.

That confidence takes time to develop, which is why it is crucial we continue building our program and process that supports retention specifically, so our Branch colleagues stay with us and build their banking careers at BMO.

Do you have any specific stories of Cara participants who went the extra mile on the job? If so, we’d love to know them!

Mercy Lara, an Associate Banker at our Bucktown branch, defines the concept of ‘above and beyond’ through her everyday actions. Whether she is taking ownership of our branch operations and leading by example or simply being brilliant at the basics with every customer interaction, she continues to prove herself as an asset to our team. 

BMO clients frequently comment on how welcome they feel when Mercy warmly greets them. We hear her using their names and she’s genuinely curious about their lives when she sparks conversations with them. Products like Smart Portfolio and our Savings Builder are at the forefront of Mercy’s mind as we observe her frequently bring these up.

Mercy is highly committed to helping our clients make real financial progress as her own values align with BMO’s, and she knows these products will help her customers take that ‘next step’. We’re happy to say that Mercy will be celebrating one year on the job on October 25 and she’s going back to school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business.

What can participants expect to learn during their time on BMO’s team?

BMORE participants learn the ins and outs of financial services and what it means to be part of the best team in banking at BMO. With the help of Cara Collective, we collaborate to recruit, train, and place individuals for our customer service roles and guide them through their first year with mentoring programs to build confidence, belonging and professional navigation skills necessary for career development.

Most importantly, they’ll learn to lead by example. We’re always striving to catalyze positive change by bringing together partners with a common will to build a more sustainable society and environment. That means knowing our stakeholders deeply – starting with our customers – and actively listening to what they care about, offering support in many forms, and above all, living the values that underpin our actions. That’s what all our employees learn.

How has the partnership between BMO and Cara Collective grown over the years?

At the beginning, recruitment for the BMORE program focused primarily on the Austin and Little Village neighborhoods in support of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative, which is designed to address economic disparity in key neighborhoods across the city – although the the roles were open to all Cara participants.

We’ve since expanded across Chicagoland as well as throughout Wisconsin in both Madison and Milwaukee. Each year, more people come through the program as it continues to grow, and we continue to collaborate on ways we can expand BMORE within the communities we serve.

To meet more of our employment partners, check back here for the latest spotlights. You can also engage with our mission in other ways:

  • Do you work for a company interested in hiring our motivated job seekers? Contact us!
  • Is your organization looking to deepen their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion? Check out Cara Plus.