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M&T gaining customers amid branch sales

M&T Bank Corp. didn't acquire any branches when First Niagara Financial Group was sold, but it's gaining customers anyway.

M&T's third quarter was its best for customer growth in the past eight quarters, said Darren J. King, M&T's chief financial officer.

"That's a franchise-wide statement, because there's been disruption in other parts of the [M&T] network, too. But Western New York has been particularly good."

M&T's rate of new customer growth in the July-through-September quarter was 20 to 25 percent higher than in the second quarter, King said.

KeyCorp completed its deal for First Niagara on Aug. 1, and converted branches and customer accounts over Columbus Day weekend. Last month, Northwest Bancshares acquired 18 area First Niagara branches that were divested as part of the deal. Other banks, including M&T, have been vying to pick up customers amid the changes.

"We've been around for 160 years. We're not expecting to change hands," King said. "So if there is some frustration the customers are feeling because of the changes that are happening, then we're there to help out."

It's been almost one year since M&T completed its long-awaited deal for Hudson City Bancorp, a purchase that enabled M&T to make greater inroads in New Jersey. King said M&T is "about where we expected to be, six or seven months post-systems conversion" at the Hudson City branches.

"Winning over the hearts and minds of individuals and changing a culture is something that happens over years, not weeks and months," he said. "We feel really good with the pace we're on."

M&T on Wednesday reported a 25 percent increase in its third quarter profits from a year ago, to $350 million. Its  diluted earnings per share rose 9 percent from a year earlier, to $2.10, topping analysts' estimates by 5 cents.

King said the results were bolstered by an increase in mortgage banking revenues --  particularly on the commercial side of that business -- as well as strong growth in the bank's commercial real estate and commercial loan portfolios.

The bank's non-interest income increased 11.6 percent from a year ago, to $491 million. That included $28 million in pre-tax gains from the sale of investment securities that had been obtained in acquisitions.

 M&T net interest income from making loans and taking deposits increased 24 percent from a year ago, to $858.3 million.









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