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Signs of changing times: NY companies benefit as M&T rolls out refreshed logo

M&T Bank Corp.’s particular shade of green appears practically everywhere inside Premier Sign Systems in Rochester – on the floor of the paint booth, on metal posts stacked against a wall and on bank signs of all sizes on the production floor.

The signs will soon show up at M&T branches, stand-alone ATMs and bank offices in Western New York and Albany.

Premier and a longtime Buffalo company, Flexlume, are splitting the task of replacing signs at more than 100 locations in the two markets by the end of this month.

M&T rolled out a revised logo in early 2015, so now comes the time for the bank to update its signs in its hometown market.

Ralph Baranes, sales project manager at Premier, takes pride in the project. He has worked with M&T on signs for the past 25 years – even at the two other sign companies where he used to work.

“Everything we do is custom, starts from nothing and has to be built, put together and painted,” Baranes said. “It has to look good.”

M&T awarded Premier a contract in June for about 2,000 signs. Each M&T location requires multiple pieces: signs erected outside a branch, directional signs telling motorists where to find the drive-through ATM and signs drawing attention to the ATM.

Making signs is only part of the job for Premier. The company must attend to other details, as well.

The company has to let municipalities know about a change in signs to make sure the new versions meet code, Baranes said. If there is a quibble, Premier – sometimes with an assist from the bank – will go before town officials to seek a variance.

The 29-employee company also installs the signs. It expects to send out six to eight two-member crews, possibly with some outside help, to take care of the work.

Some of the signs Premier produces are aluminum, while others are vinyl. The outdoor signs must be sturdy enough to endure upstate New York winters.

“Aluminum doesn’t rust, so when we prime it and paint it, it’s going to last 20 years, if not more than that,” Baranes said.

Lighting options have also changed over time, with LEDs growing in popularity for illuminating signs.

Flexlume, with which M&T has worked for decades, handles its share of the project, with some signs made locally and others produced by another company in Ohio, M&T officials said.

For a bank like M&T, which buys and rebrands facilities, new signs come with the territory, said Keith Belanger, senior vice president and corporate services manager for M&T.

“But you’re also regularly going back and refreshing in your old markets as time goes on,” Belanger said. “That’s kind of what we’re doing right now.”

In Western New York, the new signs will appear at about 90 locations, from bank branches to the 8-foot-high letters on the M&T Bank Club inside Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Another highly visible sign replacement: the 12-foot-high letters forming the logo on M&T Center, the bank’s downtown office building.

Belanger said it made sense for M&T to use sign companies like Premier and Flexlume for its upstate New York jobs.

“When we’re looking to hire contractors to do any work for the bank, we like to do business with customers of the bank within the marketplace where we’re doing the work,” he said. “That’s our preference.”

Both local companies should have the signs installed within a few weeks. It seems like an aggressive schedule. But Belanger called the timetable typical.

“You want it to be impactful. You don’t want to dribble it out,” he said. “You just want to get it done, and make an impact in that marketplace and move on to another one.”

With about 750 branches in its network, M&T plans to roll out the full rebranding over several years. The bank declined to reveal the total cost of the project.

The bank last tweaked its logo in 2006, said Betsey Locke, group vice president of advertising and promotions for M&T. She described the logo’s new look as more of an “evolution” than a dramatic change. The new signs eliminate a symbol the bank has used since 1936 and adopt a new typeface for the letters spelling out “Bank.”

The type designer was an M&T customer who lives in Baltimore, which has become a significant market for the bank. And the typeface itself is named “Balto,” another Baltimore homage. The M&T portion of the logo is a custom font.

“We wanted the logo to be as sharp and refined as the company,” Locke said. “So there’s been a lot of care given to that.”

Locke said the M&T font in the logo “kind of looks back to our history, and the Balto font is sort of forward looking, it’s more modern and forward looking.”

Baranes said he can still remember the first time he met with someone from M&T to talk signs, when he worked for another company. It’s a relationship he wants to continue.

“They’re always updating,” Baranes said. “You can tell they want to look fresh and be fresh. And we’re constantly changing because of that, because they change.”


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