BMO’s Asset Management Arm Eyes Alts Expansion

New CEO Kristi Mitchem called alternative investments a “major growth area” for BMO Global Asset Management.

Stewart Bennett (Photo courtesy of Sunstar Strategic)

Stewart Bennett

(Photo courtesy of Sunstar Strategic)

BMO Financial Group’s asset management division on Monday announced one of its first major strategic changes under the $320 billion unit’s new chief executive officer.

One month into Kristi Mitchem’s tenure as CEO of BMO Global Asset Management, the division has combined its private equity, real estate, and real estate securities businesses to form a global alternatives offering. The firm said it has hired Stewart Bennett, head of the financial institutions group at London-based investment banking firm Ondra Partners, to fill the newly created role of global head of alternatives.

Combining the firm’s three alternatives groups into one structure will help meet client demand and drive BMO’s ambitions to expand globally, according to the statement. The launch of the global alternatives offering also coincides with the retirement of Nick Criticos after more than 20 years at BMO Real Estate Partners, where he has for the last decade served as CEO.

“We have significant strengths in direct property investment, real estate securities, and private equity, and see alternative investments as a major growth area for the business globally,” Mitchem said in the statement.

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Starting May 7, Bennett will oversee the new global alternatives business from the firm’s London office, reporting directly to Mitchem. He has been charged with “effectively leveraging synergies across the three business and significantly expanding its reach globally,” according to BMO’s statement.

“In Stewart, we have a highly experienced financial services professional who has been given a mandate to develop and execute an evolved and expanded strategy,” Mitchem said.

Per the announcement, Stewart has 25 years of experience in investment banking and private equity, including 10 years as a partner at Ondra Partners as well as roles with private equity firm Botts & Co. and Dresdner Kleinwort, which was acquired by Commerzbank in 2009.

Under the new structure at BMO, the heads of private equity, BMO Real Estate Partners and the firm’s real estate securities Thames River Capital will report to Stewart. Regional teams will not be affected by the change, and the integration of the three businesses will not impact their existing investment processes, according to the statement.