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Evans Bancorp outlines ambitious growth strategy

David J. Nasca, president of Evans Bancorp, outlined an ambitious growth strategy in his annual letter to shareholders released this week.

The bank is preparing to announce its 14th Western New York branch, to open late this year, followed by another in early 2012, Nasca wrote.

While declining to identify the locations, he said, "The northern suburbs of Buffalo continue to be our focus for this footprint expansion to complement existing locations."

The new branches mark the first expansion by the Hamburg-based parent of Evans Bank since it acquired the assets and deposits of the failed Waterford Village Bank in Clarence in July 2009, gaining an office on Main Street. Its previous branch opening came a year earlier on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, before the financial crisis and recession hit.

The planned branch expansion is part of the bank's broader strategy to expand its operations and market share throughout the region, through a mixture of opening new offices, attracting more customers from competitors and making acquisitions where possible.

Nasca also said the bank will "lead with commercial business and seek to expand our share of business with these customers," including by "pursuing customer intimacy" to deepen relationships. The bank has become the area's No. 3 Small Business Administration lender after being unranked a year earlier.

It also is expanding its insurance and financial services businesses to boost fee income and growing its cash management products to attract more customers, he said. The bank opened its Evans Financial Center in the Clarence office in April 2009, housing staff from every sales area, including lending, insurance, investments and private banking. And it introduced a bonus program to encourage more cross-selling and referrals.

The bank is also investing in a new data processing system and is hiring experienced staff, including lenders, credit analysts, portfolio manager and specialists in cash management and employee benefits.

Finally, Evans is seeking to enhance its reputation and brand, both locally with customers and also on Wall Street, Nasca noted.

The company raised $13.4 million in a capital offering last May, while institutional ownership quadrupled to 33 percent from 8 percent. Wall Street brokerage Sandler O'Neill & Partners began publishing research on the bank for clients, and Evans switched to the New York Stock Exchange Amex LLC from Nasdaq in December to broaden its appeal.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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