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Northwest set to convert 18 First Niagara branches effective Monday morning

Get ready to see more Northwest Bank branches in the Buffalo Niagara region.

Effective Monday morning, 18 First Niagara Bank locations in Erie and Niagara counties will switch to Northwest.

When everything is complete, Pennsylvania-based Northwest Bancshares will have a total of 26 branches in Erie and Niagara counties, including the eight it already operates here. Northwest is expected to move up to the No. 4 spot in deposit market share in the region, according to the most recently available Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. figures.

New signs were installed on the branches this week, but won’t be unveiled until sometime after the switch becomes official, said Melanie Clabaugh, Northwest’s communications manager.

The 18 First Niagara branches will close for business at 3 p.m. Friday and reopen to customers as Northwest locations at 9 a.m. Monday.

Northwest agreed to buy the branches in April for about $78.2 million. KeyCorp and First Niagara Financial Group had to sell off some locations to satisfy Justice Department concerns about the impact their deal would have on banking competition. Northwest picks up $1.7 billion deposits, $511 million in loans, 185 employees, and 70,000 customers through the deal.

Northwest has sent about 100 employees to the region, including from its operations, marketing, facilities and information technology divisions, to work on the conversion, Clabaugh said. The bank’s education and training teams have been preparing the branch employees for the switch, and a number of managers will remain in the area through Oct. 21 to help with the transition.

The changeover has caused confusion among some local bank customers who said they were surprised to learn their accounts were switched to Northwest.

Frank Polino, a merger integration executive at First Niagara, said if customers opened accounts at multiple branches, they were assigned to the branch where they most often conducted their transactions in the past 12 months.

Customers who don’t visit a branch for transactions – using digital services instead – were assigned to the branch closest to their home address.

Polino estimated two-thirds of the affected customers had opened accounts at only one branch, making the switch straightforward. But the other one third had opened accounts at multiple branches, requiring a decision about where to assign them.

In a few cases, First Niagara customers mistakenly received “welcome” letters from both Key and Northwest, Polino said.

First Niagara’s mobile and online banking services will not be accessible to customers from about 7 p.m. Friday through Saturday evening, said David Lanzillo, a First Niagara spokesman. During that period, customers can complete transactions at any First Niagara ATM or other branches.

More details on the conversion are available at


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