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KeyBank's business banking builds on First Niagara deal

KeyBank's business banking segment benefited "disproportionately" from the First Niagara Bank deal last year compared to other segments of Key, said Jamie E. Warder, Key's head of business banking.

"First Niagara had such a strong business banking franchise," said Warder, whose segment works with businesses with sales of up to $10 million.

Warder on Tuesday led the first day of a two-day strategy session in Amherst for about 85 Key business banking employees from around the country. Key has branches in 15 states.

Warder said First Niagara brought to Key a solid track record in areas such as small business credit. But he said Key also benefited from the newly hired First Niagara employees offering a fresh perspective on how Key ran its operations.

With the merger now complete, "there's an excited core of our business banking relationship managers and colleagues that are really looking forward to sort of the next chapter of this book," said John Wright, Key's business banking sales leader for Western New York.

Jamie Warder, head of business banking at KeyBank. (Provided photo)

Key has risen to the No. 13 U.S.-based commercial bank as a result of the First Niagara deal. Warder said he sees "untapped opportunity" in markets like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. "We have gone from a presence, to a big presence," he said.

"We now have a scale in these markets. We're just enjoying a scale that we've never enjoyed before. I think then there's a responsibility to take advantage of that scale and serve more clients and get our word out there," Warder said.

Seven of the bank's 20 markets have effectively have doubled due to the deal, creating "unique market dynamics," he said.

Warder, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and Harvard Business School, joined Key early this year. He was most recently president of USAA Bank, a Texas-based bank that serves members of the military and their families.

While Key has become more prominent in upstate New York, the bank also has a presence in the West, in states like Oregon and Colorado, and Alaska. "We've had strategic acquisitions in the West, growth opportunities in the Rockies and Pacific Northwest," said Kevin Rask, who is based in Oregon and national sales manager for Key's business banking segment. "We do have a really good branch presence that has helped that."

When First Niagara branches were converted in October 2016, Key sent employees from the West Coast to provide coaching and support in First Niagara markets, Rask said.

Warder said Key chose the Buffalo area among all its markets for its strategy session because "it's the heart of New York" and home to the bank's Northeast regional headquarters.

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