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Changes to accounts won't come immediately; Bank officials promise a smooth transition

The sale of HSBC Bank USA's upstate branches to First Niagara Financial Group will result in sweeping changes to the banking industry in the Buffalo Niagara region. Here are the answers to some common questions from account holders.

>Q: What will happen to the HSBC branch where I bank?

A: Nothing immediately. Nothing will change with the HSBC branches in upstate until the deal with First Niagara is completed, which is expected in early 2012.

>Q: What should I do about my HSBC accounts?

A: Nothing will change with your deposit, loan, credit card or investment products until the First Niagara deal is done. If your account is held at one of the branches included in the sale, your banking products held with that branch will be automatically transferred to First Niagara when the deal is completed. Both banks pledge a smooth transition, including new checks, debit cards and the like.

>Q: Will all the HSBC branches in Western New York switch to First Niagara?

A: Not all of them. First Niagara expects to sell some to address federal antitrust concerns, and to close others that are near First Niagara branches. It is still working on that plan.

>Q: How many of the HSBC branches might First Niagara sell off and close?

A: First Niagara says it could divest itself of as many as 100 branches, including those it sells and closes. But it hopes the total will be less than that. Closures could account for 35 to 40 percent of the divestitures, and sales could make up 60 to 65 percent.

>Q: Which HSBC branches will close?

A: First Niagara has not identified them, but locations near existing First Niagara branches are considered at greatest risk.

>Q: What if the HSBC branch where I bank is bought by an institution other than First Niagara, due to this deal?

A: Just as with First Niagara, a transition would take place once a sale is complete. Customers will be told of changes.

>Q: Some HSBC ATMs in upstate are not at HSBC branches. What happens to them?

A: They remain HSBC ATMs for now. Once the deal is done, they will be transferred to First Niagara.

>Q: I have an online savings/HSBC Advance Account, but no other accounts with HSBC. Will my account remain at HSBC?

A: Yes. If you do not have a branch relationship, your online savings/HSBC Advance Account will remain with HSBC regardless of where you live.

>Q: I have an online savings/HSBC Advance Account and also accounts at a branch included in this deal. Will my online savings/Advance Account transfer with my other accounts?

A: Once the deal is done, if you have a branch relationship, all accounts associated with your branch relationship (including online savings/Advance Account) will be automatically transferred.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com