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First Niagara completes HSBC purchase; $1 billion transaction gives bank 500,000 new customers and 1,200 new employees

It's official: First Niagara Financial Group has taken over most of HSBC's upstate New York retail banking business, bolstering its workforce by 1,200 and its customer base by 500,000.

"We're fired up to have new employees and customers," said Scott Fisher, senior vice president and retail channels director. "First Niagara is poised to be a big and better employer for Western New York."

The $1 billion sale of HSBC's 195 branches in upstate New York and southwestern Connecticut to First Niagara was finalized Friday.

First Niagara will convert 100 branches this weekend, switching over computer systems and equipment, along with other changes.

"And on Monday we'll open up and unveil new First Niagara signs," Fisher said.

The sale of HSBC's branches is part of a downsizing effort by the British banking giant to save $3.5 billion in costs.

"We're pleased to have completed this transaction with First Niagara and proud of our long-standing history of service to the upstate New York region," Irene Dorner, president and CEO of HSBC USA, said in an email. "HSBC will remain a notable private sector employer in the area, with Buffalo continuing as a center for commercial banking and back-office support operations."

The acquisition includes $15 billion in deposits and $2.8 billion in loans, and it comes with 1,900 employees, 1 million accounts and 650,000 customers.

But not all HSBC customers will see a change on Monday. First Niagara will sell 64 branches to KeyCorp, Community Bank System and Five Star Bank. First Niagara will consolidate three branches in September, and the reminder will close due to overlapping in certain communities.

The branches that First Niagara is selling will operate as HSBC branches until they are sold this summer.

KeyCorp will acquire 37 of them -- 26 in Western New York and 11 in Rochester -- and its conversion will be in July.

In the meantime, HSBC customers can continue to use the branches and their accounts as they do now. During the weekend of July 13th, KeyCorp will convert the branches it is buying and they will open July 16 as KeyBank branches. KeyBank executives held a conference call Friday to clear growing confusion among clients about multiple conversions.

"It's important to note there will be not an interim conversion for these branches from HSBC to First Niagara, and then again to Key," said Hugh Donlon, president of the northeast region of KeyBank.

The dates for the conversions of the branches that Community Bank System and Five Star are buying are tentative, but they will be done after the KeyCorp branches.