(Bloomberg) -- Bank of Montreal, which just completed its $16.3 billion takeover of Bank of the West, expects to be able to gain share even in US markets where the firm only has a sparse branch presence.

The Bank of the West deal expands Bank of Montreal’s US footprint to 32 states and gives it 1.8 million new customers. But, in many of those markets, Bank of the West has a limited branch presence, raising questions about whether the Canadian lender will have sufficient scale to attract new customers. 

While such a sparse footprint in some cities would have hurt a bank’s ability to grow in a market a decade ago, customers’ increased reliance on digital capabilities makes even a single branch in a city sufficient for many clients to give a bank their business, said Ernie Johannson, Bank of Montreal’s head of North American personal and business banking.

“Consumers are very much what we call ‘light-branch ready’ — as in they have digital capability, but they want to know that there is a branch somewhere where they can have a conversation,” she said. “That combination of a light branch with a strong digital capability is really the power play in retail right now. You combine that with marketing and analytics, and you’re able to really punch above your weight based on your branch market share.”

Bank of Montreal sees the new Bank of the West markets being of particular benefit to its digital deposit-taking efforts and its wealth-management franchise, Johannson said. The Toronto-based company purchased Bank of the West from BNP Paribas SA.

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