BMO invests further in Ryerson tech hub partnership

From Strategy Ad Tech: The bank leverages its relationship with DMZ to find fintech solutions for small business clients.

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BMO is continuing to broaden its partnership with DMZ, Ryerson University’s tech accelerator, with the goal of using a “successful” track record of connecting with Toronto’s fintech community to help serve an important business segment.

The bank first started working the Toronto-based tech hub in 2016, deepening it relationship in 2017 with the launch of a fintech-focused accelerator to run for two years within the broader DMZ.

Now that the accelerator program is finished, BMO is partnering to launch the DMZ Small Business Banking Challenge this October, which will include a pitch contest, as well as an “exclusive thought leadership event” delving into industry trends and BMO partnership successes, as well as “one-on-one deep dives” with BMO experts. The goal is to bring in eight startups, with a focus on those offering solutions for the small business sector.

“It’s hard to understate the importance of small businesses to the Canadian economy,” Hugh McKee, head of BMO Partners, BMO Bank of Montreal, said in an email interview. “We think working with DMZ will help us identify fintechs that can help us better serve this important segment. We’re also targeting the fintech entrepreneurs to help them continue to develop, innovate and grow their businesses.”

BMO’s work with the DMZ has steadily increased over the years. The first year of the partnership started by identifying a single startup to support in 2016, to six in 2017, to eight for the Small Business Banking Challenge.

While the Challenge is looking for solutions specific to key segment of the market, McKee said working with the DMZ over the years has given the bank a broader opportunity to align with Toronto’s fintech ecosystem. That is part of the broader digital strategy at the bank, as well as at its competition, which have established their own partnerships with other startup accelerators or launched their own.

There are many ways for banks to get involved with fintechs and other startups, but an accelerator gives a company the size of BMO direct access to a community they might otherwise be disconnected from. The bank also works with the Creative Destruction Lab in Montreal, with its U.S. outpost working with 1871 in Chicago.

“Partnering with players like the DMZ allows BMO to access top fintechs to develop collaborative partnerships and proofs of concept but, more importantly, it provides BMO with a platform to be a community builder to help grow and develop emerging start-ups,” McKee says.

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Beyond courting fintech and entrepreneurs as BMO clients, the DMZ partnership may also lead to tech that the back could use in their day-to-day business, noted McKee.

Hugh McKee“Beyond supporting the entrepreneurial community – which has always been a focus – we hope to seek out the country’s leaders in fintech and explore if we can apply their solutions to the bank and our customers,” said McKee. “For us, the bank and these companies are better together. By partnering and looking for opportunities to collaborate, we can have the greatest and most efficient impact on our industry and customers.”