Steuben Trust plans to complete the purchase of a former bank branch in Clarence within a couple of weeks, and intends to open it in late December or sometime early next year, said John Eagleton, the bank's president.
Hornell-based Steuben Trust earlier this year disclosed its plan to open its first Erie County branch, as it aims to make greater inroads in the Buffalo Niagara market.
The bank will buy a former First Niagara Bank branch at 8503 Main St., at Main Street and Harris Hill Road. Key closed the branch nearly one year ago, as it consolidated its branch network following its deal for First Niagara.
"As soon as we own it, then we'll start finalizing some design for a rehab in there," Eagleton said. Steuben Trust will set the budget for the project and determine what the branch's layout will look like, he said.
"It really is just a matter of pulling the trigger on the acquisition at this point and then getting moving with the contractors," he said.
The bank is in the midst of a leadership transition. Eagleton became the president in June. Brenda Copeland, who had served as president, remains the CEO, but she is expected to hand those duties to Eagleton after this year when she retires. Eagleton most recently served as Evans Bank's chief commercial lending officer and has about 30 years of banking experience.
Eagleton said the Clarence branch manager will play an important role calling on commercial loan customers, by getting out to meet with them and talking about their needs. Building those relationships will help generate ongoing business, he said.
"You need to turn these branch managers into commercial calling officers, and that to me is going to be the biggest change in the retail branch network going forward," he said.
Steuben Trust has had a commercial lending office in Elma since 2015, with two commercial loan officers. "We are starting to build a portfolio there that needs a branch," he said. "This will solve that issue, and then we'll raise deposits in order to fund those loans. We want to do that within the same community if at all possible."
The bank will also extend its trust and investment services arm into the Buffalo Niagara market once the new branch opens. "We have not been able to do that without a branch and without somebody there that knows the wealth business and can call on the higher net worth individuals and bring over business that way," Eagleton said.
Steuben Trust chose a vacant branch at Main and Harris Hill because the location "is pretty much the highest income demographic in Western New York," with close proximity to Transit Road, where lots of businesses are, Eagleton said. And when that First Niagara branch closed a year ago, he said, "it left a void there, there's no question about it."
Within a year or so, Eagleton said the bank will probably consider additional branches in the Tonawandas or downtown, due to the growth of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Even with some other new banks entering the market, including Tompkins Bank of Castile and Bank on Buffalo, Eagleton disputes the notion that the region is "overbanked."
"Quite frankly, First Niagara was a massive company and a dominant player within the Buffalo market, and is gone, and Key is still trying to figure that out, in my opinion," he said. "So there's a lot of room left for people to come in and take advantage of that disruption that's there."