Bank of Montreal Chief Executive Officer Darryl White said the lender’s business clients in both the U.S. and Canada are seeing demand pick up, but are still struggling with rising costs and supply constraints. 

“They’re seeing an interesting and very helpful demand increase for their products and services,” White said Thursday at the Scotiabank Financials Summit. “They’re having a reasonably -- I won’t say easy -- but a facilitative time in terms of driving price increases for their own products and services.”

Those trends, combined with a “cautiously optimistic” growth outlook, are improving credit quality for the bank’s commercial clients and allowing them to invest more, particularly in technology and automation that can help them cope with labor shortages, or consider acquisitions, White said.

Bank of Montreal will look to provide “catch-up” dividend increases when Canadian regulators allow the banks to resume raising their payouts, White said, adding that the bank could return to its historic 40 per cent to 50 per cent dividend payout ratio as soon as “day one.”

The next priorities for deploying excess capital the bank built up during the pandemic would be to evaluate acquisition opportunities or, if no appropriate opportunities arise, buy back shares, he said.