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HSBC was never invested here as its competitors are

HSBC calls itself "the world's local bank." However, Western New Yorkers are finding that the London-based financial institution is more worldly driven than locally.

The parent company of HSBC recently announced plans to eliminate up to $3.5 billion in costs globally by de-emphasizing retail banking and focusing on commercial banking and wealth management. According to a June 17 report by American Banker, HSBC's 175 upstate New York branches have been put up for sale. The stakes are high for our economy. HSBC has the largest deposit market share in the area, operates 71 offices in the eight-county region, and is the biggest private employer with more than 5,000 jobs.

HSBC's decision to sell off its branch network in Western New York is not surprising. HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver in May told the Wall Street Journal that upstate New York branches looked the least important strategically. HSBC operates in 87 countries and territories, with more than 300,000 employees, and in the grand scheme of things, Buffalo means very little to it.

In contrast, M&T and First Niagara, both headquartered in Buffalo, are a part of the fabric of this community with strong local connections. HSBC is not in the same category as M&T and First Niagara when it comes to being corporate citizens. That's not to say that HSBC doesn't sponsor local causes and events, it does, and it should be noted that HSBC is a partner member of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. Yet, Western New York is not an important market for HSBC. That isn't true for M&T Bank and First Niagara.

As M&T Chairman and CEO Robert Wilmers has proudly declared: "Buffalo is my city and I want to see it be one of the best in the United States." M&T is one of the area's most generous patrons of culture, the arts and education. In addition, M&T recently announced that it will create 133 new jobs in Buffalo, adding to the 5,000 jobs the bank already has in Western New York, which includes the creation of 1,800 new positions since 2000.

Also headquartered in Buffalo, First Niagara has almost 5,000 employees, including 2,500 in upstate New York, with 400 in the Larkin building and 1,300 across Western New York. First Niagara recently announced it would add 500 new good-paying jobs over the next five years across New York, with 300 to 400 of the positions likely in the Buffalo Niagara region, paying an average salary of $78,000.

"We're committed here. We're invested here, emotionally as well as financially," said First Niagara President and CEO John Koelmel. "Buffalo and Western New York will always be at the heart of our corporate success."

In a banking world that has come to be dominated by multinational giants like HSBC, it's nice to know that Western New York is home to the headquarters of M&T and First Niagara, banks that are truly serving the needs of this community. For them, this is home.


Greg Slabodkin of Kenmore has worked for the financial services industry.

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