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M&T working “playbook” to bring Hudson City into the fold

M&T Bank Corp. will send six tractor-trailer loads of signs, materials and documents into Hudson City Bancorp’s territory next month to fully bring those 135 branches into the M&T fold.

Meanwhile, about 1,100 M&T employees will help out at Hudson City locations, to ensure a smooth transition for personnel and systems alike. The branches are spread across New Jersey, downstate New York and Connecticut.

“It’s a real transformation that happens during that time period,” said Michele D. Trolli, M&T’s executive vice president and chief information officer.

The adoption of M&T’s branding will drive home the point that M&T’s $5.3 billion acquisition of Hudson City is a reality, but the conversion has been unfolding behind the scenes ever since the long-awaited deal was completed Nov. 1. And the process will continue after M&T’s green and white signs appear on Hudson City’s branches and 121 ATMs.

This marks the 24th such conversion M&T has carried out in the past 28 years, but Trolli said the bank takes nothing for granted.

“It certainly makes it easier because you have a playbook to work from,” Trolli said. “But I would fear that if you assume that that’s going to play out exactly by the playbook, you could be caught by surprise.” M&T officials hold a “transition meeting” each Thursday, where representatives of different departments share progress reports on all the tasks a merger entails.

A big piece of the transition will come when M&T converts the branches in mid-February. Among the 1,100 M&T employees assisting in the transition are 400 employees who M&T refers to as the “buddies.” They are branch employees who will partner with Hudson City branch staff, to get them familiar with M&T’s systems and policies.

“It’s an honor to be selected to be a buddy because it is such a critical role in our acquisition strategy,” Trolli said. They will be drawn from Buffalo as well as some other areas where M&T has branches.

Just after the deal was completed last November, M&T started connecting Hudson City’s technology to its own network. By early December, M&T had converted Hudson City’s systems for residential mortgages, commercial real estate and commercial lending. “So by mid-December, when you were opening new mortgage accounts in the Hudson City footprint or commercial loans, you’re actually opening them on systems that were here live in Buffalo, and they were being serviced in Buffalo,” Trolli said.

M&T this week plans to finish converting Hudson City’s human resources systems, such as payroll. And M&T is about to mail out catalogs to Hudson City customers, to provide them with specific information about their accounts and how to take advantage of new M&T services.

Trolli’s view of the conversion thus far: “We’re on track. We haven’t had any disappointments or surprises that would impact the end goal.”

After M&T finishes switching the branches and systems, the bank will decommission Hudson City’s data center, since M&T has plenty of capacity with its Amherst data center and a backup center in Delaware.

But the “cultural aspect” of the conversion will continue after the systems and signs change, Trolli said. “After that date, they’ll have our technology, our process, they’ll have support from the buddies, but it’s really important they take on our DNA and our culture, and that will take some time.”