BY RICHARD LEE
First Niagara Bank Financial Group Inc., is strengthening its presence in Fairfield County with the opening of six more branches on Monday.
The openings of the branches at 2500 Black Rock Turnpike and 1761 Post Road in Fairfield, 155 Main St., in Monroe, 108 Danbury Road in Ridgefield, 30 Danbury Road in Wilton and 702 Bridgeport Ave., in Shelton, follows an announcement last July that the growing Buffalo, N.Y.-based bank was acquiring 195 HSBC offices in New York state and Connecticut.
The new branches join three First Niagara branches in Stamford and one each in Greenwich, Norwalk, Stratford and Westport. First Niagara’s branch at 350 Bridgeport Ave., less than a mile from the former HSBC branch, will close Friday, and its employees will move to 702 Bridgeport Ave., in Shelton.
A total of 1,200 HSBC employees have been added to the First Niagara staff in the transaction.
“This is a people business, and we worked hard to earn the hearts and minds of the 1,200 new teammates,” said Scott Fisher, managing director of retail channels for First Niagara, which gains $15 billion in deposits through the acquisition.
He said First Niagara will work hard to retain those deposits and customers.
“We’ll make them feel like they want to stay through personal service and fast and easy banking,” said David Ring, New England regional president and head of enterprise banking, adding that First Niagara has had experience in similar transitions, conducting three integrations in the past three years. “As of 3 p.m., on Friday (today) the HSBC branches will close.”
Branch signs will be switched, along with computer systems, ATMs and collateral material.
Fisher said a team of HSBC and First Niagara employees and vendors have met weekly since the announcement. “We’ve had three mock conversions.”
Fairfield County is an important region for First Niagara, Ring said, noting the bank is emphasizing its private banking, wealth management and commercial lending offerings.
When First Niagara completes its acquisition of the HSBC branches, it will have nearly 430 locations in the Northeast, $30 billion in total deposits, $38 billion in assets and more than 6,000 employees across New York state, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
First Niagara’s desire to bolster its presence in the county makes sense because of its strong commercial foundation, said Gerry Noonan, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Bankers Association, commenting that the bank is “establishing a beachhead” in the county.
“There’s a lot of competition and great banks there,” he said. “But First Niagara’s commitment to the community has been terrific.”