John Speers is Managing Director for Institutional Relationships at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, a division of Bank of Montreal, Canada’s oldest bank. John joined Institutional Relationship management in February 2011, taking on responsibility for managing the Capital Markets Sales and Trading relationships with 20 of the bank’s largest clients. He was appointed Managing Director in 2004 for the International Financial Institutions businesses in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand team. John joined Bank of Montreal in September 1987 after emigrating from Northern Ireland where he spent 14 years working for Northern Bank in various Belfast branches. In my time with BMO, he has worked in the Treasury, Credit, Risk Management and Capital Markets groups. John is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers in Ireland and has completed the Executive Program at the University of Southern California. He serves as a Director of the Ireland Fund of Canada and previously served as Governor of the University of Ontario, Institute of Technology. John’s wife is from Belfast and both their children are Belfast born.
What, for you, is the importance of our global diaspora and how do you contribute to its success?
I believe the global diaspora is of great importance to presenting the new face of Belfast to the world, especially now in the changing business and political environments that Brexit presents. We all can help promote the city and what it offers through our actions with friends, colleagues and business associates. We can highlight the warmth of the people and their welcoming attitude to newcomers and what the city offers. We need to focus on our strengths, such as the work ethic and drive of the young population, great schools and universities, restaurants and night life, sports and recreational facilities, good local infrastructure and ease of doing business.
Tell us how you connect to Belfast:
I am a Director of the Ireland Fund of Canada and participate in various forums and groups in Canada promoting Belfast and Northern Ireland. I assist in hosting business groups, government agencies and ministerial visits to Toronto, helping these individuals, groups and entities establish and build contacts with businesses and their counterparts in the various levels of government in Canada. I top up my Belfast DNA through frequent visits home to see family and friends, encouraging the engagement of the diaspora in Toronto through social get gatherings and having my children and grandchildren join my wife and I on our visits home, to refresh their knowledge on where their parents came from and where our extended family still lives. Every day I access local news and print media and stay in contact with family and friends through e-mail and phone calls.
You know you’ve got Belfast heritage when…:
When in a foreign country, you hear a Belfast accent and you try to catch the eye of the speaker to introduce yourself. You check out the Tele and BBC websites every day for the local news and sports results. You can’t wait to get home to taste the local bread, fresh home-made baked goods, produce and pork and beef sausages and if an Ulster Fry is on a menu you order it.