CCO Profile: Kimberley Goode, BMO

This is the latest in a series of posts featuring CCO stories, examining their priorities and challenges and sharing their experiences. 

The implosion of Silicon Valley Bank earlier this year sent shockwaves through the banking community. While its problems were born of poor risk management, communication gaps may have sealed their fate. They suffered from the absence of a CCO, a crisis plan, or a recognition that even financial decisions (like selling $21 billion worth of bonds at a loss of nearly $2 billion) are a form of communication that can cause concerns at least or panic at worst.

While all that was unfolding, Kimberley Goode, the CCO at BMO, the eighth largest bank in North America, was counseling her C-Suite to remain calm. “When a crisis is happening, you don’t want to contribute to it by adding to the fray. You have to assess when and how to engage when your organization is connected to an issue but not directly involved," she told me. Banks thrive on a combination of trust and stability, and Kimberley sees her job as protecting both. Overreacting could have created more uncertainty and concern about the U.S. banking system. 

In a world beset by economic uncertainty and socio-political shifts, Kimberley plays a pivotal role in understanding stakeholders' perspectives and positioning BMO accordingly. The company is guided by its purpose “to Boldly Grow the Good in business and in life,” and for Kimberley, that purpose is personal because it aligns with her ambition to help organizations play a role in solving societal issues. As an example, when she was CCO at Northwestern Mutual, she helped people understand how to plan for their long-term financial security. In this role, she learned that one of the main threats to that security is an unplanned health event, which can be financially devastating. This motivated Kimberley to take on the CCO role for a health plan to determine how to address the economics of health care. Here’s the insight that led her back to financial services and her current role: “Eighty percent of what affects a person’s health and well-being has nothing to do with a doctor or a hospital. A number of other social factors impact health and well-being, and they all generally have an economic tie,” she explained. “The power of banking is that we can use our resources and our influence to support activities that improve people’s circumstances and create more equity and ultimately better health outcomes. That leads to a better world for everyone.” 

For BMO as a more than 200-year-old bank with one of the longest dividend paying histories on the Nasdaq, it recognizes the need to balance its social purpose with strong financial stewardship. "In my mind, it's a virtuous cycle. We are purpose-driven, but we have to deliver strong financial performance because ultimately it's performance that allows us to make progress, whether it's for our customers, our shareholders, our communities or our colleagues." 

Kimberley has integrated her passion for diversity, equity and inclusion into every role she’s had. "At BMO, we believe that an economy best thrives when everyone can participate in it," she asserted. This belief underscores BMO's forward-thinking approach to driving change, often empowering communities through outreach, education and access to capital. "Our relationship managers and bankers engage with the community to make sure they have the right financial literacy and understanding of how they can do business with BMO," she told me. BMO's dedication to equitable lending and community support contributes to creating economic empowerment that bolsters the economy overall. It also is key to lifting BMO’s reputation which is core par of Kimberley’s role.

Driving the organization’s purpose is not without challenges. Recent Supreme Court rulings have introduced challenges for companies aiming to build diverse workforces and drive progress in underserved communities. The landscape of policies and attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion remains a concern. Kimberley acknowledges these hurdles but maintains a strategic outlook. "We see the legislation and policies that are coming out and we have already begun to understand what it all could mean to our business. It doesn’t change our commitment, though it may cause us to shape different approaches to achieve our goals,” she noted. Kimberley’s leadership in this space is an example of the widening role of CCOs in corporate America. “We are more than storytellers. We help shape strategy and serve as a trusted advisors to leaders to help the organization win,” she said.

Kimberley knew early in her career that she wanted to be a CCO after working for a Black woman named Rita Wilson who led the Allstate Corporate Affairs team from a big corner office. “I saw Rita as a conductor. She was able to define the priorities, pick and develop the talent, drive change, and be a point of connection for senior leaders so they saw the value in what we were doing,” she added. “Her leadership inspired me and shaped the trajectory of my career. It also inspired me to be a role model for others.”

Kimberley lives in Chicago with her husband and one of their three children; the other two live on the West Coast, where Kimberley splits her time. Her favorite pastime is traveling, which she feels is important to do with the children. When we spoke, she’d just returned from a trip to Italy, Turkey, Croatia and Greece with her daughter and is looking forward to planning future visits to a number of countries in Africa.

Kimberley posing with some of her favorite books.Kimberley and BMO share a passion for doing
good in the community as employees volunteer at local Chicago charities.