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Home > About BNE > Press Room > 2011 Archive > April > Bank Buys Connecticut Insurance Brokerage

Bank Buys Connecticut Insurance Brokerage

First Niagara Continues Push into New England

By Jonathan D. Epstein

April 15, 2011

First Niagara Financial Group is pushing ahead with its expansion plans for New England, buying a Connecticut insurance brokerage even with its primary Connecticut bank deal not yet completed.

The Buffalo-based parent of First Niagara Bank said Thursday it has purchased Pierson & Smith, an insurance brokerage, consulting firm and third-party plan administrator based in Norwalk, Conn. The companies did not disclose terms of the deal, which closed April 8.

The purchase is part of First Niagara’s strategy for capitalizing on its pending acquisition of NewAlliance Bancshares of New Haven, which will catapult it into New England for the first time with a significant presence in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

“This transaction clearly demonstrates First Niagara’s commitment to its newest region and building upon its successful foundation to serve the communities of Connecticut and Massachusetts,” said David Ring, newly appointed New England regional president.

Plans call for Pierson & Smith and its staff to remain in its current location as part of First Niagara Risk Management.

“We selected P&S as our flagship local agency because they fit our culture of high-performing insurance agencies,” said Joseph Teresi, First Niagara risk management CEO. “They provide us with the leadership and staff, which will support our business through organic growth and selective acquisition within our footprint.”

The New England expansion is built around First Niagara’s $1.5 billion cash and stock acquisition of NewAlliance Bancshares. The deal has received all necessary approvals and is scheduled to close today, giving First Niagara 88 branches, 106 automatic teller machines, $8.8 billion in assets, $5.1 billion in deposits and $4.9 billion in loans in the two states. In all, the bank will have $30 billion in assets, $18 billion in deposits and 300 branches across four states.

Officials now plan to enhance its operations, work force, products and services in New England, starting with insurance, which is one of its key business lines outside of traditional banking.

After a series of acquisitions, First Niaga-

ra Risk Management, its insurance agency subsidiary, already serves customers throughout upstate New York and Pennsylvania. It ranked as the nation’s 50th largest insurance broker and the ninth-largest bank-owned agency as measured by 2009 revenues of $43.9 million, while insurance and benefits consulting revenues exceeded $51 million last year.

The bank purchased two insurance agencies in eastern and western Pennsylvania late last year. With the addition of Pierson & Smith, its risk management unit will have more than 410 employees and 14 offices in three states.

The bank said it chose its newest agency because of its “position of strength in the insurance business and their local in-market expertise.”