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Key CEO expects “smooth transition” with First Niagara

KeyCorp chairman and CEO Beth Mooney pledged the bank will be ready to bring First Niagara customers on board when the handoff happens next month.

“You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and we’ve worked hard to ensure that our one million new clients have a smooth transition and a positive experience, which will be on a brand-new, modern [digital] platform,” Mooney said this week at the Barclays Global Financial Services Conference.

Key will convert First Niagara branches and transfer customer accounts over Columbus Day weekend. First Niagara branches will reopen as Key locations on Oct. 11; Key has already identified 69 First Niagara branches that will be shut down and combined with a nearby branch.

The challenge and importance of keeping customers happy during such a handoff was driven home last weekend, when Northwest Bancshares converted 18 former First Niagara branches and added 95,000 customer accounts. Northwest faced complaints from customers about missing or malfunctioning debit cards, trouble with accessing online accounts, and long wait times on the phone for help.

Mooney didn’t talk about Northwest’s problems in her remarks. But she said Key has “highly coordinated and detailed plans surrounding the conversion to the systems and the branches.”

“We go into this fourth-quarter integration with a high degree of confidence,” she said. “I will also say, you don’t know what you don’t know, but I think we’re prepared to do this in an extremely good and successful manner.”

Key is a much bigger financial institution than Northwest. At the same time, Key is completing a deal on a far greater scale, consisting of operations in four states, compared to a select number of branches in one region.

Mooney told conference attendees that Key remains confident it will deliver on the $400 million cost savings target it has set for the First Niagara acquisition.

“As I’ve said before, our internal [cost savings] target is higher and has remained consistent,” she said.

But don’t look for those cost savings to start showing up in its results until next year, she said.

“I would not expect to see meaningful cost savings in the second half of 2016, given that we expect the conversions to occur in the fourth quarter,” Mooney said.


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