Taking stock: Tips for measuring your business’s financial wellness

As 2022 comes to an end it’s a perfect time to pause and take stock of various aspects of our personal and professional lives, including banking and finance.


“We encourage on an annual basis that businesses take a step back and contact their advisors for a financial wellness review,” said Thomas Dunning, vice president, relationship manager, at Evans Bank, a Buffalo-based full-service financial institution with locations in Fairport, Penfield, Perinton, and Irondequoit. “On an annual basis, the customer has the ability to bring forward all the issues facing them, whether it’s within their business or their operating environment.”

And, from indicators of an impending recession to record high inflation and continued supply chain and labor issues, 2023 is shaping up to include many issues businesses will want to get ahead of now. Proactively addressing these issues with a strong advisory team in place – including an insurance agent, attorney, accountant, and banker –  is key according to Dunning and other local community banking professionals.

Robert Cieslica Jr.

“There are a lot of potential headwinds and it will be important for business owners to have their eyes wide open going into next year,” said Bob Cieslica Jr., senior vice president and Rochester regional manager for business and professional banking for Buffalo-based M&T bank, a multi-state community-focused bank founded in 1856. “Make sure you have a banking relationship with someone who understands your goals and needs and has experience in your industry.”

Another tip Cieslica has for businesses going into 2023 is to have a solid understanding of their cash flow and liquidity and access to capital like a line of credit from their bank. He also encourages businesses to be mindful of cybercrime and to have proactive security systems and fraud prevention tools locked in, as well as have cyber insurance in place should a breach or attack happen.

PwC’s Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2022 reports that 46% of surveyed organizations experienced fraud, corruption or other economic crimes in the last 24 months. Of those organizations experiencing fraud, 70% reported that it came from an external attack or collusion from external and internal sources. Among the emerging threats the report noted businesses should be aware of are ESG reporting fraud and supply chain fraud.

In their Thwarting the Cyberattack Resources and Insights article, M&T Bank presents other emerging cybersecurity trends businesses should be aware of, including spear phishing and whaling (typically conducted by email), ransomware (a form of malware that can or lock files on a computer or network), mobile malware (malware designed for Android and Apple devices) and social networking trickery, like promoting an article link to a website with malware.

Tips Dunning has for businesses in the year ahead include assessing capital needs, revisiting long-term objectives, examining depository services, ensuring emergency operating plans are thorough and up to date, and keeping the lines of communication with one’s advisory team open.

“Be proactive with your banker — reach out to them routinely and on a continuous basis and if you have any concerns bring them forward. Your banker can help you craft solutions,” said Dunning, who notes Evans Bank makes it a priority to meet with customers at their place of business so they can learn even more about their business and how they operate and customize better solutions for their individual needs.

Harry Powell

Harry Powell, CFO of One Stop Janitorial and Office Supply on Scottsville Road in Rochester, is a case-in-point of a business owner who understands the value of having a strong working relationship with his community banker and is passionate about encouraging other businesses to do the same. One Stop is a provider and distributor of items like office supplies and furniture, cleaning products, safety equipment, and promotional items, for other businesses.

“I see my banker once a month,” Powell said. “It’s important for any business — small or large — to have that relationship because none of us knows what’s around the corner. It’s as important as having an attorney or an accountant — a good banker is a must-have piece.”

Powell has been a business client with Canandaigua National Bank — a local full-service, community-owned financial institution founded in 1887 — since 2011. He found great comfort in the relationship he already had in place with the bank when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“When your business almost stops instantly and everything closes down there’s a fear there,” Powell said. “We relied on Canandaigua National Bank during that time and they were extremely helpful, especially with navigating the somewhat complicated PPP loans and the forgiveness aspect of them. It was a good time to have a bank we already had a trusted relationship with.”

Looking at the economic uncertainty of the year ahead, Powell notes continued concerns about labor costs and high interest rates but is overall positive and feeling prepared. Weathering the COVID-19 pandemic has given him added confidence in the resiliency of his business and other businesses that have the right support in place.

“Everything goes in cycles,” he said, about the economy. “Looking out six months to a year from now is important — reach out to your bank if you have concerns. Don’t wait until the last minute.”

Caurie Putnam is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

Forecast for 2023: Expected recession may be swifter, softer than feared

As we say goodbye to November — another month when the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point — and prepare to bid adieu to the 2022 calendar year, the bleak news is that a recession seems likely. The bright news is that local banking leaders expect the recession to be relatively mild and short.


“The paradigm has shifted dramatically in as few as three to four months,” said Martin K. Birmingham, president and CEO of Five Star Bank, which provides a wide range of consumer and commercial banking and lending services through a network of more than 45 offices throughout Western and Central New York and a commercial loan production office in Maryland. “The yield curve is showing a likelihood of a recession and it’s fast becoming a perfect storm in terms of expenses growing faster than revenue for many businesses.”

The yield curve — which can be flat or inverted — graphs the relationship between bond yields and bond maturity and has long been a reliable predictor of recession. Every recession since at least 1955 has been foreshadowed by an inverted yield curve and there has only been one false positive during that time. The yield curve is currently inverted in the United States – even more so than it was in the build-up to the 2008 recession.

Dan Burns, Rochester regional president at Buffalo-based M&T Bank, also believes we’re “in for a mild recession but hopefully a quick one,” in the year ahead. He’s optimistic the economy has many things going for it that will soften a recession, including voluminous job openings nationally and, locally, a strong regional business environment.

Dan Burns

“2022 was one of our best years in Rochester — a lot of business owners are doing well,” said Burns, who noted a lot of larger companies are forecasting growth and expansion into larger markets.

Other positives Burns pointed out: demand for housing and affordable housing in the region remains strong, continued economic investment in the City of Rochester (such as Constellation Brands relocation downtown) and the recent pledge by Micron — the world’s fourth-largest producer of semiconductors —  to invest $100 billion over the next two decades on a manufacturing facility in the Syracuse, which Burns expects will bring “a lot of positive spillover” into the region.

David J. Nasca, president & CEO of Evans Bank, a Buffalo-based full-service financial institution that provides community banking, insurance, and wealth management services and has locations in Fairport, Penfield, Perinton, and Irondequoit, is also cautiously optimistic about the year ahead.

“Opinion-wise, I do think we will have some recession in the next year,” said Nasca, pointing to the rising interest rate environment and the inverted yield curve. “But the strength of the economy indicates it will be a shorter impact. Right now, the underpinnings of the economy still have some good strength.” These strengths include a strong labor market, continued indicators of a solid economy in western New York, and an absence of credit issues for most businesses locally.

Still, there are issues for consumers, most notably inflation on the services side of the economy, as opposed to the goods side that was prevalent when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, and supply inflation due to increased costs on labor, energy, food, and building.

When it comes to the uncertainty of the year ahead, local bank leaders stress that one of the ways consumers and business owners can get through it is by maintaining a strong relationship with their bank – and vice versa.

“Communication has always been important in the banking industry, but in times like this it becomes even more important,” Birmingham said.


At Evans Bank, “We are staying close to the customer,” said Nasca, who noted Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell indicated in August 2022 there will be “some pain” ahead as the central bank fights inflation via rising interest rates. “What it portends for banks is that we’re here to help our clients – in good times and bad, we’re here.”

Nasca notes that community banks were very successful in helping clients navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing support with services like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and forgiveness. He anticipates that same strong and guiding relationship in the year ahead.

Burns also stresses the openness and availability of his team at M&T Bank to support customers in 2023. His advice to businesses? “Keep your eye on the ball, pay attention to expenses and capital expenditures, and be smart with your decisions.” Additionally, he encourages businesses to have transparency, good communication, and a strong relationship with their bank, as it will lead to better outcomes for everyone.

Birmingham looks forward to remaining steadfast in taking care of customers and Five Star Bank and encourages businesses to be as proactive as possible. He also recommends businesses of all sizes have a strong command of their cash flow cycle and reach out to the bank if cash needs arise to help navigate their decision tree when it comes to borrowing.

“Keeping an eye on liquidity and cash is so important because at the end of the day it’s cash and liquidity that can help bridge getting through this economic cycle,” Birmingham said.

Caurie Putnam is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

Bills’ star Diggs featured in new M&T Bank campaign

Buffalo Bills receiver Stefon Diggs will be the focus of M&T Bank’s “Football Brings Us Together” campaign (provided photo).

Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs has joined a new team: the M&T Bank team.

Diggs has partnered with M&T to promote the bank’s “Football Brings Us Together” campaign, with a shared desire to make a difference in the lives of community members while creating authentic connections with fans.

“He’s a great fit for M&T Bank, bringing a big heart for community impact and a sharp business acumen that resonates with the entrepreneurs and business leaders we serve,” Francesco Lagutaine, M&T Bank chief marketing and communications officer, said in a news release.

Diggs will play the leading role in the campaign, which M&T says will celebrate the diversity of the community as well as the values and passions that bring Bills fans together.

“M&T Bank gets it; we collectively appreciate that it is imperative to use our platforms to make a difference in our community,” Diggs said. “Being here in Buffalo and growing up in Maryland, I’ve seen first-hand how M&T gets involved in communities to bring people together and meet local needs.

“Our partnership is built on our shared values and focused on creating opportunities to support the Western New York community.”

Diggs and M&T are planning a community event that will focus on supporting single mothers and their families in Western New York. The effort is inspired by Diggs’ mother, Stephanie, who worked to individually support the family after her husband and Stefon’s father, Aron Diggs, died when Stefon was 14. Event details and timing are still being finalized.

“We launched the ‘Football Brings Us Together’ campaign to reinforce an important message about why we support the Bills through our ‘Official Bank’ sponsorship,” Lagutaine said. “It’s not about publicity, rather it’s about investing in programs that strengthen communities and create connections among people of all backgrounds.

“Stefon will help us bring this campaign to life here in Western New York and for the far-reaching community of Bills fans spread across the country.”

Diggs and the bank also will collaborate on engagement activities with fans, including meet-and-greet sessions and a “Fan Feud” social media campaign.

The bank has introduced two debit cards featuring Diggs.

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Digital banking blooms, but in-person interaction still important

Interest in in-person banking had already been declining in recent years and those in the industry expect the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 to shift more people to online banking services even after things go back to normal.

They stress, however, the need to continue to have branches to provide in-person interactions and say plans are underway to strike a balance between the two ways people can bank.


Martin Birmingham, president and CEO of Five Star Bank, says digital access — in areas that range from banking to shopping — has increased during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Digital access and accessibility have been of great importance for our customers and associates during this time,” Birmingham says.

Five Star operates more than 50 branches, and most are now open for drive-up service or by appointment, but there has been a marked increase in the number of customers using online banking options.

The increase in use of online banking services has been seen during the COVID-19 outbreak, but it had also been steadily increasing before it, Birmingham notes.

The bank had already been responding to that increased usage and had been working on a strategy to transition to a new digital banking platform. The COVID-19 pandemic expedited that transition, he says.

Five Star first conducted a survey to gauge customer support for rolling out the new platform at this time, which includes a new digital application, a new look for desktop users and additional online services for personal and business banking.

The customer response has been positive, and Birmingham is pleased with the progress.

Under the new digital platform, Five Star customers are able to access their account information, conduct transactions and be provided more on-the-go access to Five Star Bank digital banking from their computer, tablet or mobile device.

Those new online offerings include a dashboard that allows customers to establish a direct connection to their monthly bills and make payments in one place, as well as CardSwap, a tool to update the payment method on many subscription services.

There are also online financial tools to help with budgeting. Upcoming options will also be available including SendMoney, which allows customers to send money to others.

The digital platform also offers interactive tutorials and an online user guide to help customers with the transition.

Five Star is also looking at ways it does business post COVID-19 with an emphasis on social distancing and safety measures for both customers and employees, he says.

“It is more critical than ever for a local community bank to fulfill its role and take care of its customers, the community and our associates,” Birmingham says.

He notes that Five Star will continue to transition to the new normal. And while there will continue to be an emphasis on, and increased popularity of, online banking, there will still be a need for personal interaction at bank branches.

“We will work on ways to embrace that balance between the personal interaction at branches and the increased digital capabilities we offer,” he says.


Mary Kate Loftus, director of digital banking for M&T Bank Corp., also notes online banking is up during the COVID-19 outbreak.

M&T breaks digital banking down into three categories.

The first is enrollment, which includes those who sign up for digital banking services. The second is digital activity, which is when customers log into their accounts for things such as checking their balances or transferring money. The third is digital engagement, which is when people use digital banking as their primary source of banking.

Enrollment is up some 40 percent from the 60 days prior to the pandemic, Loftus says, and she adds that number continues to increase.

Digital engagement is also up, as is digital activity, she says, noting the bank’s Money Smart tool — which allows users to plan their budgets and track spending — has seen a 33 percent increase in usage.

M&T employees are also helping with online learning for customers, Loftus says.

Employees at the bank branches will distribute information on online options to customers who use the drive-through services and are also available to speak over the phone with customers who need further assistance. M&T also has a customer call center.

There are also online demos that allow users to complete a trial run of an online service before they complete an actual transaction.

The bank has also added some online and mobile features recently that can help with things such as recurring transactions and providing information on topics that directly relate to a customer’s needs, whether it be saving for retirement or paying down debt.

“Our goal is to make it easier for customers to manage their money and access products when and where they need them,” Loftus says.


Caytie Bowser, vice president/director, product development and management at ESL Federal Credit Union, says the credit union has seen its biggest increase in online and mobile usage among its customers during the pandemic.

She notes daily average logins increased 26 percent in April compared to March for personal online and mobile banking.

Also, when the first round of government stimulus check deposits went out in mid-April, ESL’s daily website traffic increased between 114 percent and 140 percent over the daily averages from January through early March of this year.

ESL recently added to its online and mobile offerings, as well. In April, the credit union launched online and mobile capabilities for opening personal checking and savings accounts.

The efforts are having a big impact, Bowser says, noting that over 500 accounts have been opened digitally in the past month since the service was launched.

ESL will continue to offer new digital offerings to customers, and Bowser says there are online demos and employees at the call center who can help customers with any questions they may have on using such tools.

“We will continue to provide services that enhance what customers can do online and make it easier for them,” Bowser says.

The credit union has also begun to look at what steps it will take when stay-at-home restrictions begin to lift, and Bowser believes the process of returning to a new normal will be gradual.

Moving forward, Bowser agrees there has to be a balance between in-person transactions and the growing use of digital applications.

“We will do the best we can to make sure the two complement each other,” she says.

Andrea Deckert is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

SBA funds start to flow, but there’s more help locally for next round

Even though additional pandemic aid for small businesses was under consideration in Congress this week, that may provide little clarity for small-business owners — especially really small ones — whether they will get the financial assistance they need. 

Perhaps more clear is that funding has started making its way to businesses in the Rochester area and there is plenty of help available for negotiating the application process whenever a new round begins. 

M&T Bank, based in Buffalo, processed more than 27,000 applications from Maryland to Buffalo in the last round, which ran out of money a little more than a week ago. The largest Small Business Administration lender in the area for more than two decades, even M&T was hard pressed to meet the overwhelming demand. 

Dan Burns
Dan Burns

“We went from 300 people assigned to do this work to 2,300 people,” said Dan Burns, Rochester region president for M&T. “I’ve never felt more proud of a group of people in my life.” 

In the Rochester area, the bank won approval for 1,800 Payroll Protection Program loans totaling $440 million. CNB reported that during the last round of funding, it helped 2,502 small businesses with SBA loans totaling  $289.6 million. 

Burns agreed that some particularly small businesses may not have won approval before the window closed. “There are a lot of small businesses that maybe, they’re trying to make ends meet and they don’t have a finance person,” he said. “We’re very hopeful that there will be an agreement in Washington and the window will open back up and we’ll be able to take care of these clients.”

National news reports have slammed some of the larger banks for focusing on businesses that most Americans would not consider small, winning hundreds of millions of dollars for public companies with hundreds of employees. 

The National Federation of Independent Businesses, an advocacy group, is lobbying for an aid package of more than $400 billion, with at least half reserved for companies with 20 or fewer employees. 

At the same time, several financial institutions and advisors have stepped forward to assist businesses with future applications. 

On Friday (April 24) at noon, the Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce will be holding a webinar with Canandaigua National Bank President and CEO Frank Hamlin III and other CNB officials. The topic is how the bank and other financial institutions can help businesses with SBA loans and other aid programs. They also offer advice on managing business finances during this disruptive time. Participants can register at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_WQHF79_tSyyL4X320t0pvQ. 

RDG+Partners, a Pittsford-based accounting firm, is hosting a free weekly “COVID-19: Stay Strong Webinar Series” on Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. through the end of May. The seminars cover a variety of topics related to applying for federal aid programs. 

John Rizzo, managing partner of the firm, said “Perhaps the greatest challenge is that new information about financial disaster relief initiatives is released every day, and unless business owners are on top of it, they could miss updates that are critical to their success in securing funding.”

Rochester-based Paychex, meanwhile, has announced it will connect interested clients with several online lenders, including Biz2Credit, Fundera, and Lendio, so they can apply quickly when another opportunity arises. 

Martin Mucci
Martin Mucci

 “The fact that $349 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans were allocated in just over two weeks speaks to the critical financial needs America’s businesses continue to have as they do everything they can to stay afloat during this unprecedented uncertainty due to COVID-19,” said Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO.

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Upstate economy slowing even before virus, says M&T’s Keith

The Upstate New York economy was already showing signs of a slowdown before the pandemic showed up.

M&T Bank’s economist Gary Keith had prepared a presentation on the Upstate New York economy for for Upstate Capital members in Buffalo Thursday night, but he ended up tweaking his remarks to include the changing scenario caused by coronavirus and the sometimes panicky reaction to it.

“Until we get past the fear, this is uncharted waters,” Keith said in his presentation at Big Ditch Brewing Co. in downtown Buffalo.

Attendance at the event was likely affected by health concerns, said Upstate Capital’s executive director, Noa Simons. Though about 40 people were expected, approximately 15 showed up. Friday morning Simons issued a notice saying additional Upstate Capital programs this spring would be rescheduled or offered virtually as a precaution.

Thursday night Keith said that with such uncertain conditions, more than half of M&T’s Commercial customers are having trouble planning.

“The thing that’s kept the economy humming has been the consumer,” Keith said. “If we start to see some backsliding in employment, that’s going to resonate in confidence, some actual spending. If we’re going to start to see now that consumers can’t go shopping, won’t go shopping and will keep their wallets and purses at home, that has implications that are obviously still playing out.”

Economists had been saying that the declines or flattening of economic growth in recent months were nothing unusual and could be overcome, Keith said, but that was before the pandemic.

“There’s probably well over a 50 percent chance now in my opinion that we’re going to see that recession this year,” Keith said, noting that other economic prognosticators’ predictions are ranging  between less than 50 percent chance up to 80 percent chance. “If we get another week like we’ve seen, a short-term downturn is inevitable.”

Keith  doesn’t support a payroll tax holiday, which is one of the measures President Donald Trump is suggesting to prevent a coronavirus-related financial crisis. The measure would be a quick way to get money into the hands of people who live paycheck-by-paycheck, he said, but “for the upper middle class and higher, I suspect it would not be as stimulative” because the extra cash would go into the bank instead of being spent.

He suggested providing relief for people who lose their jobs due to a crisis.

“Getting money into people’s hands is critical,” he said, “not so much the bailouts for industries at his point.”

The Federal Reserve is limited in what it can do now, compared to the 2008 recession, Keith said, because interest rates in lending are already so low there is little room to lower them more.

As for the Upstate economy before this health issue arrived, the previous five quarters showed slowing.

Keith said the issue keeping him up at night is a stagnating or dwindling population and labor force across Upstate.

“It’s hard to grow your economy if your workforce is shrinking,” Keith said. Upstate has been wringing its collective hands for some years over a “brain drain” of young adults who are leaving instead of setting down roots. Statistics show, however, that the youngest adult population is now growing but that growth can’t make up for the decline in people who are in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

These people are in the middle of their careers, Keith, said, but as one industry declines and something different grows, they’re not necessarily making the jump and therefore are forced to become “economic migrants.” And, they take their kids with them.

Keith focused his examples on the Buffalo area, with a chart showing the nation’s working-age population has increased 3.1 percent, but the Buffalo-Niagara area is down 2.6 percent. His chart showed an even bigger decline in the Rochester area, at 3.9 percent.

Similarly, growth in gross domestic product in 2019 was 2.3 percent in all metro areas across the country, compared to 1 percent in the Buffalo-Niagara region and seven-tenths of a percent in Rochester.

“We underperformed, but we grew,” Keith said.

The cause may have to do with upstate communities not being seen as vibrant or moving quickly enough into new economies.

“People come for opportunity. That to me is bigger than taxes or cost of living,” Keith said.

The economist didn’t offer any solutions to the population and workforce issue, but said it’s a critical issue that needs to be solved.

“Until we get that population workforce issue front and center and start to make a dent in it, we have one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake,” Keith said.

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M+T Bank wins accolades for business banking

M&T Bank has just won a slew of regional and national awards for excellence and business banking from Greenwich Associates.

Greenwich, a leading provider of data and analytics on the financial industry based in Connecticut, announced the 2019 Greenwich Excellence Awards and Greenwich Best Brand Awards on Tuesday.

M&T won 13 regional and national Greenwich Excellence Awards, along with two Greenwich Best Brand Awards for small business and middle-market banking.

The awards process involves interviewing 27,000 businesses across the country about banking products and services, and evaluating more than 600 banks.

“The businesses we serve are providing products and services, hiring employees and investing in plants and equipment in our communities, and it is our job is to help those businesses grow and thrive,” said Christina Brozyna, M&T senior vice president for business banking Sales, Christina Brozyna. “We value the input and feedback we receive from our business customers, because it helps us to constantly improve the service we provide.”

M&T Bank, based in Buffalo, is one of the 25 largest U.S.-based commercial banks. IN 2019, it ranked seventh in the nation for U.S. Small Business Administration-approved lending.

The full list of Greenwich’s awards is available online at greenwich.com.

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Epping takes senior VP job at M&T Bank

Steve Epping, a 34-year veteran of the business community, has been promoted to senior vice president at M&T Bank, heading commercial real estate and middle market lending from the Rochester regional office of the Buffalo-based bank.

Epping takes the place of another veteran, Dick Mueller, who will retire in March and help in the transition until then.

Steve Epping
Steve Epping

“Steve is an exceptional leader, one with tremendous knowledge and experience working with businesses throughout the Greater Rochester region,” said Dan Burns, regional president for M&T Bank. “With Steve at the helm, we’re certain our team will continue to bring insight and expertise to the table in ways that drive deep conversations about business opportunities and objectives, not just banking transactions.”

Epping joined the bank in 1992 and his most recent position was as business banking market manager for Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. He works out of the M&T regional office at 3 City Center, located at 180 S. Clinton Ave.

“I’m thrilled to help lead and build a great team here in service of our local customers and community,” Epping said. “Rochester is seeing new levels of growth and revitalization, and 2020 is shaping up to be a milestone year.”

In his new role, Epping reports directly to Burns, and his direct reports include Senior Group Manager Phil Smith, Group Managers Curt Provenzo and Vito Caraccio, and Commercial Portfolio Manager Michele Gilman.

Epping is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo State and serves on the boards of DePaul Community Services, Empire State Certified Development Corp. and New York Small Business Development Center. He and his wife, Jeanne, live in Webster.

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Henrietta firm acquires Maine distributor

Horizon Solutions, a 160-year-old wholesale distributor of electrical, industrial, and safety solutions, has acquired Bangor, Maine-based N.H. Bragg for an undisclosed sum. The deal closed earlier this year.

Dick Wilson, John Kerkhove, Jim Newton, Jon Eames (N.H. Bragg), and Mike Herrmann (Photo courtesy of Horizon Solutions)
Dick Wilson, John Kerkhove, Jim Newton, Jon Eames (N.H. Bragg), and Mike Herrmann (Photo courtesy of Horizon Solutions)

“We are thrilled at the opportunity to acquire a company with such a rich history like ours. The longevity of our companies is due in part to creating a legacy of integrity, trust and excellence, exemplified in our company cultures that value our customers and our people,” Horizon Solutions President and CEO John Kerkhove said.

N.H. Bragg provides industrial and safety supplies to more than 4,000 customers across New England and employs 60 people. The acquisition will increase Horizon Solution’s nationwide employee base to more than 275.

N.H. Bragg will continue to operate under its name, Kerkhove said, and the company will retain its employees, suppliers and customers. N.H. Bragg President Jon Eames will serve as vice president of the industrial and safety supply division across the Horizon Solutions footprint.

“This union will help us grow while maintaining the excellent quality and service our customers expect, expand our solution offerings and market reach, offer employees more opportunities and build upon our mutual core values,” Eames said. “I’m excited for the future of N.H. Bragg and how the companies can work together to achieve greatness.”

M&T Bank Corp. financed the transaction.

“This acquisition brings together two companies that are steeped in history. Horizon Solutions traces its origins back to 1857, and N.H. Bragg was founded just a few years earlier in 1854,” said Dan Burns, M&T regional president for Rochester. “For more than 160 years they’ve provided local manufacturers and builders with the solutions and tools they need to succeed. As a bank that itself was founded in 1856 to serve Upstate New York’s burgeoning manufacturing industry, our team at M&T Bank was excited to have this opportunity to help our customer build on their history and grow their business.”

Horizon Solutions is headquartered in Henrietta and has 12 branch locations across its footprint.

“At Horizon Solutions, we recognized an opportunity to expand our firm by acquiring N.H. Bragg, a historic company that shares our company culture and commitment to serving customers,” Kerkhove said. “M&T Bank understood our vision and its potential to generate sustained growth for our company. The capital they provided helped us complete the deal and enter the next chapter in our company’s history.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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YMCA gets $500,000 boost from M&T

(Provided by YMCA)
(Provided by YMCA)

M&T Bank has pledged $500,000 to the YMCA of Greater Rochester to help build one of the nation’s biggest YMCA facilities. The gift is the largest corporate donation to the new, southeastern region YMCA and establishes M&T as the project’s lead corporate sponsor.

“They’ve always been a great partner and philanthropic support of ours,” said YMCA President and CEO George Romell of the relationship between the two organizations. “We had long conversations with them about their gift, their philanthropy, their overall support of the Y mission, which is just phenomenal in terms of having a corporate partner.”

Romell said the M&T team wanted to give a gift that meant something to the community. As such, M&T has earned the naming rights for the largest of three multi-purpose gyms planned for the new Pittsford facility.

“We’re thrilled about it. When George approached M&T about supporting the capital project for the Pittsford Y, we jumped right in because we think it’s going to be a game changer in our community,” said Dan Burns, M&T regional president. “The way M&T looks at it is, if our community succeeds, so will the bank.”

YMCA President and CEO George Romell, left, and M&T Regional President Dan Burns celebrate with children after M&T pledged $500,000 to help build one of the nation’s biggest YMCA facilities in Pittsford. (Provided by YMCA)
YMCA President and CEO George Romell, left, and M&T Regional President Dan Burns celebrate with children after M&T pledged $500,000 to help build one of the nation’s biggest YMCA facilities in Pittsford. (Provided by YMCA)

The $40 million project broke ground in December, three months earlier than anticipated, and is expected to open in fall 2019. The YMCA has raised roughly two-thirds of its original campaign goal of $15 million, but Romell said he’d now like to raise $20 million and finance the remainder.

More than $10 million has been raised via more than 100 individual, corporate and foundation donors, as well as support from the State of New York.

The new YMCA will sit on 20 acres at Clover Street and Jefferson Road in the town of Pittsford. The three-story, 140,000-square-foot facility will replace a much smaller building on Jefferson Road in Pittsford.

Romell said the new facility will have at least six or seven standout accoutrements, including a full-service childcare center capable of caring for 80 children per day.

“We know that’s a home run because we have one at our downtown branch and we have one in our west side branch, and they’re both very well subscribed,” he said. “Because what parent wouldn’t want their kid to have the full benefit of the whole YMCA rather than just a childcare center?”

The new facility also will feature a 15,000-square-foot medical center including rehabilitation space, a space for orthopedics and other services. The YMCA has not yet announced who will occupy that space.

Included in the new building will be a full-sized community wing that will feature a teaching kitchen, a senior center by day and multipurpose space by night, an art center and an exercise studio.

“All of these things are not new to the Y, but are definitely bigger and better and more focused on serving multiple populations at the same time,” Romell explained.

The new Pittsford YMCA will feature a six-lane pool, but a signature feature of the branch will be its warm-water recreational pool. Kids will be treated to an indoor aqua-splash ground.

Romell noted that the YMCA has built two branches and renovated three in the last 15 years, and used that knowledge when designing the new facility. He said one of the struggles is what to offer for pre-teens and teenagers.

“We build these rooms with pool tables and foosball tables and throw in a computer or two and say, oh, they’re going to like that,” Romell explained. “And they never use it.”

So the YMCA took its member feedback and everything it had learned from benchmarking and created a center specifically targeted to that age group. The Exercise Your Mind, or EYM Center, focuses on science, technology, engineering and math activities. YMCA is working with Rochester Institute of Technology to design the center.

“It can be music, it can be video, it can be green screen production, it can be 3D printing, it can be as simple as learning how to sew or making a cardboard car,” Romell said. “It’s going to be extremely flexible industrial space designed for the kid that maybe doesn’t want to bounce a basketball.”

(Provided by YMCA)
(Provided by YMCA)

The YMCA has doubled the size of its track and added a 90-bike, amphitheater-style spin stadium. The branch will feature three gymnasiums, including an inside turf stadium and the double-sized M&T Bank gym.

The gym donation means a lot to Burns personally, who grew up at the Batavia YMCA. When he moved from Buffalo to Rochester in 1990 to become M&T’s regional president, Burns joined the YMCA board, so he has a long history with the organization. He said Romell is always looking forward.

“We really feel like the Y is a safe place. It’s a place where you can learn financial literacy, learn cooking and get help at the same time. It checks a lot of the boxes,” Burns said. “Why does M&T want to invest in the Y? Because that’s where the people are.”

The new branch is part of the YMCA’s 10-year Strengthening Communities Campaign, which is focused on deepening the Y’s commitment to the region and improving the programs and services that help ensure a healthier and vibrant community. The campaign stands at 85 percent of the total $75 million fundraising goal.

M&T’s latest gift to the new YMCA facility brings the bank’s total donations to the organization to $1.186 million.

“The success of that Y is critical to the success of the Y as a whole and the work they do and their mission of providing quality services in the city,” Burns said. “It’s something that’s going to be a valuable asset in our community.”

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Longtime M&T CEO Robert Wilmers dead at 83

Late M&T CEO Robert Wilmers.
Late M&T CEO Robert Wilmers.

M&T Bank has announced longtime chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers passed away Saturday night at the age of 83.

Wilmers played a vital role in growing M&T from a modestly sized banking operation to the largest in both the Rochester and Buffalo marketplaces. When Wilmers took his positions in 1983, M&T held assets totaling about $2 billion. Today, that number stands at $120 billion. M&T currently holds 64 percent of the market share in Buffalo, totaling $25.6 billion in deposits.

Wilmers also stood behind the move to the Rochester market in 1990. In 1994, the earliest readily available data, M&T held just 7 percent of the marketplace, behind six other banks, totaling $892.3 million in deposits. Today, they control 22 percent of the market with $4.2 billion. Only 23 of the top 100 banks from 1983 exist today, with M&T still ranking number one in stock market growth.

In a release from M&T, long-time friend and M&T shareholder Warren Buffet pointed to Wilmers’ career as an incredible success story.

“He was a remarkable banker, an even more remarkable citizen and a wonderful friend,” Buffet said.

A graduate of Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Administration, Wilmers had a storied career sprinkled with accolades, including the Niagara Frontier Executive of the Year Award in 1992, an American Banker of the Year Award in 2011, Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal from the State University of New York in 2015 and honorary degrees from Canisius College, Niagara University and SUNY Buffalo.

Upon Wilmers’ passing, outside director Robert Brady was appointed to non-executive chairman.

“Bob Wilmers’ accomplishments as Chairman and CEO of M&T Bank are surpassed only by his commitment to our community, and every day he worked to fulfill his belief that the bank can only do well if the communities it serves do well,” Brady said, in a statement. “He will be missed greatly—by his beloved family, by the colleagues whom he respected so deeply, by his incredibly broad network of dear friends, and by all of our neighbors in M&T’s communities. Nonetheless, his legacy will live on. The management team he built at M&T is long-tenured and deeply committed to Bob Wilmers’ conservative, consistent, community-focused banking philosophy, and they will carry on that legacy, continuing to build M&T as a strong, successful and independent bank.”

Wilmers’ passing left long-time members of the Western New York community with a heavy heart. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter said Wilmers will be “greatly missed.”

“I was so fond of Bob as a friend and confidant, and as an exemplary businessman. I always thought of him as the best banker in the world with the highest reputation,” Slaughter said, in a statement. “His accomplishments only tell part of the story of this amazing man. He was generous with his time and expertise, especially during the 2008 recession when M&T stood so strong while others collapsed. The impact he has had on our community and state will continue for many years to come.”

Wilmers is survived by his wife, Elisabeth Roche Wilmers, son Christopher and daughter in-law Serena and grandsons Dylan and Theodore.