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First Niagara CEO had 13% compensation drop for 2014

First Niagara Financial Group president and CEO Gary M. Crosby’s total compensation declined by 13 percent in 2014, to $3.9 million, despite an increase in salary.

Crosby’s base salary in 2014 was $975,000, a 2 percent increase from the year before, according to a regulatory filing. A big reason his total compensation declined in 2014 was that in 2013, Crosby received a $1 million bonus for completing his duties as interim president and CEO. At the end of 2013, he was named to those roles on a permanent basis. In 2014, Crosby did not receive a bonus.

In other categories, Crosby’s stock awards declined by 2.3 percent, to $1.7 million, and his option awards soared to $632,325, from $271,889 the previous year. Another notable difference: his non-equity incentive plan compensation declined by 12 percent, to $562,000.

While Crosby’s compensation dropped from a year ago, it is still high for a Buffalo-based executive, and was close to that of M&T Bank Corp. Chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers, whose 2014 compensation package was $4.2 million.

First Niagara’s regulatory filing also contained details on total compensation for four other officers:

• Gregory W. Norwood, chief financial officer, $1.64 million, down by 24 percent from 2013.

• Richard M. Barry, chief risk officer, $1.19 million.

• Mark R. Rendulic, executive vice president of consumer financial services, $1.14 million. Both Barry and Rendulic also received salary increases.

• Joseph V. Saffire, executive vice president of commercial financial services, $1.3 million, including a salary of $334,615.

Saffire, who was hired last April, was new to the list. Included in his total compensation was $147,277 in relocation payments to offset the cost of Saffire’s move from England, where he had worked for Wells Fargo & Co.

Buffalo-based First Niagara’s 2014 was marked by a $1.1 billion accounting write-down of its prior deals. The bank has struggled to capitalize on those acquisitions, and its stock price has traded below $9 per share, leading some analysts to speculate whether the bank could become a takeover target at some point.

The bank also cut jobs in what it said was an effort to streamline operations.

First Niagara has scheduled its annual shareholders meeting for April 29. At last year’s annual meeting, Crosby urged patience for a plan the bank announced earlier that year: spending $200 million to $250 million over three to four years in investments designed to maximize profitability.