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Northwest buys Veracity Benefit <br> Bank to boost financial services

Northwest Bancshares has acquired Veracity Benefit Designs, an Amherst-based employee benefits firm, to boost its financial services offerings for business customers.

The Warren, Pa.-based parent of Northwest Savings Bank did not say how much it paid to buy Veracity, which will now operate as a subsidiary of the savings bank. It will still be run by former principals Laura A. Otander and Bridgette Cassety, who will be president and vice president, respectively.

Northwest officials cited the opportunity to cross-sell insurance, investment, trust, retail and business deposit and lending products and services to Veracity customers, even as the bank can offer Veracity's services to its own clients.

Officials said they hope to expand Veracity's services, already offered throughout Western New York, Rochester and northwestern Pennsylvania, throughout Northwest's market area.

"Veracity brings another needed dimension to our financial services group," said Gregory C. LaRocca, executive vice president of Northwest Savings Bank. "Their corporate mission and values are very similar to ours and they emphasize customer relationships over transactions, just like Northwest."

Founded in 1999, Veracity specializes in offering group medical, dental, life, accidental death and dismemberment, long-term disability, travel, accident and vision insurance plans to employers and employer groups. The company also provides retirement plans, and offers employee benefit consulting services.

With offices in Amherst, Jamestown and Olean, the firm serves a list of municipal, educational, nonprofit, manufacturing, service, construction and professional clients, and has posted double-digit revenue growth for the past five years, according to a news release.

This is the latest effort by Northwest to expand in the Western New York and Rochester markets, where it has been growing in recent years. It also marks a step toward the company's goal of gaining an insurance business over the next five years. Northwest has seven branches in Erie County, one in Cattaraugus County and five under the Jamestown Savings Bank name in Chautauqua County, plus four in Monroe County around Rochester. Founded in 1896, Northwest has $8 billion in assets and 171 branches in all in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Florida.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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