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M&T PROMOTES CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TO CHAIRMAN OF MID-ATLANTIC REGION

M&T Bank Corp. reshuffled its top management Thursday, moving Chief Financial Officer Michael P. Pinto to Baltimore to take over the bank's crucial Mid-Atlantic region.

Pinto, a vice chairman of the Buffalo-based bank, will also become chairman and chief executive of the region that includes Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Much of that was acquired by M&T when it bought Allfirst Financial in April 2003.

Pinto succeeds Eugene J. Sheehy, 50, who is returning to his native Ireland as Group Chief Executive Designate for Allied Irish Banks, M&T's biggest shareholder. Sheehy had been chairman, president and CEO of Allfirst when M&T bought it.

The move means Pinto will not be dealing with Wall Street as much and will not be at the bank's headquarters. But at least one Wall Street analyst, Joseph Fenech of Sandler O'Neill & Partners LP, suggested it could position the 49-year-old executive to "eventually succeed" Chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers, who is 70.

Pinto, who has directed the bank's finances and played a key role in its acquisitions, will now oversee 348 branches and 5,750 employees in a geographic area that has fueled much of M&T's recent growth. The Baltimore and Washington metro areas are faster-growing and wealthier than M&T's traditional markets in New York state.

"M&T Bank has been successful in our Mid-Atlantic markets because we've remained consistent to the basic principles that make us successful in our other markets," Pinto said in a release.

The region does not include operations in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, but is nevertheless the bank's largest retail banking unit. And the new role gives Pinto management responsibility for a region that once was a separate bank.

Wilmers, who has led the bank since 1983, has not indicated plans to step down, and reiterated that in an interview on Tuesday after the bank's annual meeting. But some observers have speculated about who would succeed him and when.

However, bank spokesman Chet Bridger noted that Robert E. Sadler Jr., 59, is still the company's No. 2 executive, as chairman of the bank subsidiary. And Emerson L. Brumback, 53, is president and chief operating officer of the bank. Both are corporate executive vice presidents, like Pinto, and would be rivals for the top job.

Pinto, a native of India who once worked in the African nation of Zambia, joined M&T in 1985 as an executive associate, and was named vice president and division controller for the retail bank in 1987.

He became administrative vice president and manager of financial planning and analysis in 1989, and was promoted to senior vice president and controller in 1993. He was named CFO in 1996 and vice chairman in 2003.

"Mike Pinto's banking experience goes far beyond balance sheets and income statements," Wilmers said in a statement.

He will be replaced as CFO by Rene F. Jones, currently senior vice president and manager of the bank's Financial Performance Measurement Department. Jones started with the bank in 1992 as an executive associate and now oversees several units in the Finance Division.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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