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Evans Bancorp CEO has big plans

The new head of Evans Bancorp has some big ambitions for the small community bank.

President and CEO David J. Nasca wants to double the bank's size to $1 billion in assets within three to five years, by creating what he calls a "dynamic, growth-oriented" bank.

He plans to accomplish his goal by acquiring other companies or branches, opening new offices in Western New York, and attracting new business.

That growth rate is faster than the pace it has achieved more recently, but Nasca is confident the bank can do it, even without buying anything. The bank currently has $497 million in assets, and has been growing about 14 percent a year since 2002, when it had $288 million.

"Growth is important to our company, but we are not growing just for growth's sake," he said, speaking to about 50 people at the bank's annual shareholders meeting Thursday at Cradle Beach. "Scale is required to protect our independence."

Evans has made 11 insurance acquisitions and has stated its desire for more in either banking or insurance. "We're willing to talk to anybody about opportunities as they present themselves," he said.

At the same time, he wants the bank to stay profitable, target underserved small and middle-market businesses, and build enough scale to be competitive and to handle technology investments and increased regulatory burdens. It will do this, he said, by making business lines more accountable for their performance, deepening customer relationships, enhancing and managing staffing, and analyzing how the bank can better deliver products and services.

The bank will focus on reducing its cost of funds, managing its capital effectively, and stressing fees. He also hinted at possible changes or additions to its branch network, especially in the Northtowns, and to its brand, which will be examined closely because it is "not well known outside our home markets close to Angola and Derby."

"The organization is in need of productive change, and we will drive that change," he said.

But he cautioned, too, that the bank is "facing strong head winds as we pursue our strategy and growth," citing pressure on lending profit margins at all banks, sluggish growth in deposits in markets with no growth, and a lack of success so far in maximizing the bank's "earnings potential."

"Your company is evolving as we strive to meet a difficult operating environment and position for enhanced earnings performance," said Nasca, a former First Niagara Financial Group executive who succeeded the retired James Tilley.

However, that's already proving to be challenge. Nasca spoke less than a day after Evans said net income for the first quarter fell 8.5 percent, as higher revenues were overcome by one-time expenses for salaries, professional services, and a check scam that one individual customer fell victim to.

The Angola-based parent of Evans National Bank reported profits of $1.29 million, or 47 cents per share, down from $1.41 million, or 52 cents per share, a year ago. Results included charges of $90,000 from a management transition and the company also incurred a $150,000 loss when a customer fell victim to a scam in which he was asked to wire money to a distant location in exchange for two cashier's checks that turned out to be fake when he cashed them. The bank absorbed the loss.

Without those charges, officials said, profits would have risen 5 percent. And total revenues rose 3.3 percent to $7 million.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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