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M&T Bank Acquiring People's United Financial

An M&T Bank location in Latham, NY
Jim Levulis
An M&T Bank location in Latham, NY

M&T Bank announced this week that it is acquiring People’s United Financial in an all-stock transaction. The combined company will total about $200 billion in assets and more than 1,100 branches spanning 12 states from Maine to Virginia, plus Washington, D.C.

People’s headquarters in Bridgeport, Connecticut will become the New England regional headquarters for M&T – which is based in Buffalo.

The merger is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals and the go-ahead from shareholders of each company. M&T Bank has been a WAMC underwriter.

WAMC's Jim Levulis spoke with Mike Keegan, the M&T Bank Area Executive for Upstate New York and New England, about the move.

Keegan: Well M&T Bank is a New York state headquartered bank. And when you think about People's, they've been around for 178 years. M&T has been around for 165 years. We're like-minded institutions. And they're in a footprint where we have done some business, Jim, but not a great deal. And it's a really nice mapping of similar cultures in an extended geography. So it brings the best of both banks into New England. It allows us to learn a great deal about what they do and what we do. And we can bring that back to our communities where we already operate.

Levulis: And will this move add jobs or reduce employment numbers?

Keegan: I think over time, it will absolutely bring on an increase in employment. I mean, we did put in our numbers that there are synergies. And it's too early to say what that means specifically. We just announced yesterday. But if you look at what we've done in other communities, we've grown jobs.

Levulis: And from an outsider's perspective here, it seems that banks have taken on a greater role in their communities as a result of the federal pandemic relief programs that have been rolled out. What has been M&T Bank's experience in handling those efforts, such as the Paycheck Protection Program?

Keegan: The Paycheck Protection Program was one of the most inspiring things I've seen in my nearly 27 years with M&T. In literally a week's time, we engaged close to 3,000 employees, to work 24/7 to process applications, to call back clients, to verify information and make sure that nearly 35,000 applications were processed through M&T on the first round. So it was a wonderful program. It was put together very quickly. And we had to innovate very quickly to make sure that we could create an experience that our clients could follow, get information and ultimately get the funding that they desperately needed. So that's just one example.

Levulis: And sort of on a flip side of the pandemic here, you know, a lot of business and conversation has gone virtual. And now banking services were moving online, even before the pandemic, the ability to deposit checks online, transfer money with just the click of your phone using an app. So has the pandemic, in your mind at all sped up that process in terms of digital banking, online banking?

Keegan: I think it has, I think it has definitely sped up the adoption of digital. If you think about people today, they want touchless payments, so they don't even want to you know, hit a keyboard. So if you look at the adoption, it had to happen quickly, because essentially we were shut down. But people have really migrated to it. And I think that they're enjoying that optionality of an experience. So you can actually go into a branch, but you can do it remotely. So self-service will become an increasing component of how people access banking services.

Levulis: And how does that work with branch buildings, people going into a bank with this move between M&T and People's United Financial? If I have my numbers correct, there will be more than 1,100 branches and over 2,000 ATMs spanning 12 states from Maine to Virginia. How do you have those two items work together?

Keegan: Well, if you think of what branches do, they provide a variety of outlets for customers, they can come in and actually physically transact business. But they can also come in to meet with an advisor to talk about wealth management and retirement strategies. If they have a problem, they can access an individual directly and work on problem resolution. So branches are intended to be a place where business can get done. But when people are busy, when people are afraid because of the pandemic and all that that has done I mean, half a million people have died in the United States, giving them the optionality of doing that remotely, allowing an older person to which…I have to use this as an example. So my father is 89-years-old, and he's not technologically capable. But if he can take an image of a check, or do something online versus having to go out on an icy day, those things are safety oriented as much as they are convenience.

Levulis: And going back to the earlier portion of our conversation, we were speaking about the Paycheck Protection Program and banks’ role and assisting businesses throughout this pandemic, with this merger between M&T Bank and People's is there any concern that becoming too large might take away from filling that “community bank” role?

Keegan: It's a wonderful question. Because the way that I've looked at this in my career with the bank is we have always been a community-focused institution. So everything we do is around the communities that we serve. And our ability to take on a bank in a in a contiguous footprint, where we're able to bring the best of what we do into those communities, and we can learn from them. So that we're able to provide world-class capabilities to our clients and all of the communities we serve. We look at that as a net positive. And the reason I say that is that when you think about an institution that focuses on its employees on its customers and its communities, that's just the way it's been for M&T for as long as I've been here and certainly since our inception. It's fundamental to who we are, that you immerse yourself in your community and it's community first.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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