CHICAGO — On Monday, BMO Financial Group completed its acquisition of General Electric (GE) Capital Corporation’s transportation finance business, more than two months after the company hinted at a reduction of its U.S. indirect auto finance portfolio to fund the purchase.
The newly acquired business unit, which BMO officials said represents North America’s largest financier to the truck and trailer segment, will be renamed BMO Transportation Finance. It will continue to operate under the leadership of Dan Clark and his management team. On closing, the business had net earning assets of about $8.9 million, BMO said.
“The trucking industry is vital to the North American economy, and we intend to grow that business, building on the team’s 40-year track record of providing industry expertise to its customers,” said David Casper, president and CEO of BMO’s subsidiary BMO Harris Bank, which will oversee the new business unit.
BMO Harris Bank stirred suspicions when it informed dealers on Oct. 1 that it was exiting approximately 12 states in order to refocus “its indirect auto business to solely include the bank’s core market states.” The pullback was thought to be the linked to the bank’s April 2014 decision to move to a flat-fee compensation model in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s scrutiny of dealer participation policies. Market insiders believed the bank lost dealers as a result of the move.
At the time of the announcement, a spokesman for BMO Harris Bank denied the move to flats resulted in lost business and maintained that the pullback was the result of a strategic decision. That claim was backed by a Sept. 10 conference call in which BMO Financial Group announced to media and investors its intentions to acquire GE’s business unit.
“The transaction will be funded using existing balance sheet liquidity, additional deposits and some wholesale funding,” Tom Flynn, BMO Financial Group CFO, said during the conference call. “In addition, our funding strategy includes a reduction of our U.S. personal and commercial indirect auto lending portfolio over the next few years.”
BMO Harris Bank, which terminated dealer agreements in those 12 noncore state on Oct. 31, continues to serve dealers in Illinois, Wisconsin Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and Florida.