First Niagara Financial Group Inc. (FNFG)

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First Niagara Financial Group, Inc. (FNFG)

Q2 2011 Earnings Call

July 21, 2011 11:00 am ET


John Koelmel – President and CEO

Gregory Norwood – CFO

Mike Harrington – Treasurer and Chief Investment Officer


Damon DelMonte – KBW

Collyn Gilbert – Stifel Nicolaus

Bob Ramsey – FBR Capital Markets

Tom Alonso – Macquarie

Theodore Kovaleff – Horwitz

Matthew Kelley – Stern Agee



Greetings and welcome to the First Niagara Financial Group Incorporated Second Quarter Earnings Release Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A brief question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation.

[Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. This presentation contains forward-looking information with respect to the financial conditions and results of operations of First Niagara Financial Group Incorporated, including without limitations statements relating to the earnings outlook of the company. Such information constitutes forward-looking statements, which involve significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from the results discussed in those forward-looking statements. For a list of factors that may cause actual results to differ to materially from those contemplated by such forward-looking statements, please see our earnings press release, which has been posted on our website.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Mr. John Koelmel, President and CEO for First Niagara Financial Group Incorporated. Thank you, Mr. Koelmel, you may begin.

John Koelmel

Thank you very much, Jess, and good morning, everyone. Welcome again and we appreciate you taking time to chat with us. This morning with me is, Greg Norwood, our new CFO. He will handle the bulk of the lot of this morning’s discussion. Mike Harrington, Kevin O’Bryan are also with us and they will offer their perspectives once we get into the Q&A.

I’ll make a couple quick opening comments and then turn it over to Greg. Clearly, for us it’s another solid quarter and continues to the string of consistent performances for us. You see real organic growth again, as well as positive fundamentals and trends all of which provide further evidence that are differentiating story continues to unfold. For those that were curious or wondering about our early traction in New England, you can see that we are off and running again there as well and that makes it a three P, three deals, three new markets, three increasingly solid conversions over the last 19 months I couldn’t be more proud of the organization and the collective ability to execute. All of which underscores our ability to do just that execute very well and our commitment to be ready and prepared to always move forward.

As you always heard me say that starts with team and talent, we continue to win because of the tremendous people in the organization we’ve built and their collective focus from the customers and communities across our footprint. They continue to deliver for the benefit of our constituents each and every day.

And given the ongoing stream of new customers while those other strategic opportunities, Greg talk about this, you’ll see us continue to strengthen our team and ensure we have the infrastructure we need to be even more successful on an even larger stage. Our focus continues to be ever stronger although more efficient and that much better positioned as we move ahead and no question we are disappointed like everyone else with the macro realities, the substance of the economic regulatory and political challenges.

But, in spite of all of that we still very much like what we would see on the horizon for First Niagara and little bit rather more focused and ready to further advance our growth strategy with ever increasing confidence and conviction.

With that, I’m happy to have Greg pick it up and recap the quarter for you.

Gregory Norwood

Thanks, John. Before we dive into the numbers, let me share some thoughts about First Niagara, given that I’ve been on the job about 100 days now. First and foremost, we are a growth company. We have proven that we can effectively grow market share organically and through M&A.

In both contexts, we grow by making the customer our focus and providing them with the right products in the right way. Two simple examples of our focus on the customer are the recent launch of our new checking products, which I’ll talk about more later and our buddy system for putting seasoned First Niagara bankers in the branches of a merger acquisition during the conversion window to help new associates serve our new customers.

For sure, economic recovery we are experiencing or lack there up is not creating real business growth for our domestic companies. However the plain fact is that if you do the right things and make the right investments for your customers and shareholders now, you will be able to take market share and when businesses and consumers come back you will be the company that benefits the most.

We believe that is exactly what First Niagara is doing. So we will continue to invest in our company, to do otherwise and stop investing and focus on cutting cost to generate earnings would be short sighted and compromised long-term growth of our franchise and shareholder value. The success of our commercial business continues to be strong evidence that our strategy is working. We invested heavily in this function during the work part of the cycle adding talent and more sophisticated process. Our strategy actions have been really created attractive returns as tested by the three year 20% compounded annual growth rate we have organically generated in our commercial loan portfolio Dan Cantara and his team run this business and he and the team are definitely getting this done.

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