* CEO says improving efficiency is top priority
* Says doesn’t expect headcount to increase
* Says confident of positive NAFTA outcome (Recasts, adds comments from interview with CEO)
By Matt Scuffham
TORONTO, April 5 (Reuters) - Bank of Montreal’s new Chief Executive Darryl White said on Thursday he wanted to lighten the bank’s structure and did not expect the bank’s overall headcount to increase under his leadership.
White, who was formerly the chief operating officer, said that since being promoted in November, he was reviewing every role and process to make sure the bank was being run as efficiently as possible.
“It’s a continuous improvement process,” he told reporters after the bank’s annual meeting. “We’re mapping literally every process and every skill and every piece of work that gets done in the bank against what the desired outcomes are.”
He did not expect the bank’s headcount, currently at more than 45,000, to increase during his leadership, but declined to say if there would be job losses.
“I don’t have a projection on headcount, but I don’t think it will be a heavier bank going forward,” he said.
The bank was looking at ways to improve its expense-to-revenue ratio more quickly, White told shareholders.
“Since November, we’ve been taking a closer look at how BMO is organized and how work gets done - making sure all roles are in line with the market opportunity,” he said.
White said the bank’s strong capital position gave it flexibility to expand existing business or make acquisitions. However, he said the pool of potential targets was limited.
He told shareholders that Canada’s fourth-biggest bank, which also has substantial operations in the United States, was confident that talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would result in a positive outcome.
The United States, Canada and Mexico have been in talks for more than eight months to revamp NAFTA after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to abandon the pact unless it was reformed to his liking.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday the three countries had made good progress in the talks but there was still work to be done.
Reporting by Matt Scuffham Editing by Susan Thomas and Bernadette Baum