M&T officially owns People’s United Bank. What shall we do now?

BRIDGEPORT — It took more than a year for New York-based M&T Bank to acquire Bridgeport-headquartered People’s United Bank.

With this process officially concluded earlier this month, it remains to be seen what this means in terms of services for People’s customers and whether there will be a net gain or loss of jobs at the bank’s headquarters in the city ​​and in its branches throughout Connecticut.

But state and local officials who met with M&T representatives Friday at the People’s Tower in downtown Bridgeport spoke optimistically about the future. It was a follow-up to a similar rally held by Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration last August following the announcement of 747 possible layoffs.

“I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised at how much they want to be a community and state partner,” Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, said in a subsequent interview Friday. “Once they get over this whole thing of how to handle jobs and stuff and get placed here, they’re going to make sure they want to be well known in the state.”

“I walked away from the conversation in a good place. I felt heard,” said City Council Speaker Aidee Nieves, who attended the rally along with Lamont aides, Bridgeport State officials and staff from Mayor Joe Ganim’s office.

Buffalo-based M&T announced on April 2 that after 14 months, its $8.3 billion purchase of People’s, founded in Bridgeport and one of Connecticut’s largest local financial institutions, had been completed.

M&T this week, in response to several questions from Hearst Connecticut Media about what’s next, said the changes won’t happen overnight.

“While People’s United is now part of M&T Bank, its former branches and most of the services offered will operate as ‘People’s United, a division of M&T Bank’ until we complete the integration of our systems into the third quarter of 2022,” the company said. .

M&T also said that “People’s United customers should continue to bank as they normally would. This includes using their current People’s United checks, debit cards, and credit cards. All accounts will switch to M&T branded hardware after systems conversion. »

M&T will notify customers “well in advance” of changes to their accounts or other services by mail bearing the M&T logo.

The bank also recently hired a well-connected public relations agency — Intersectco-founded by former chief of staff to Lamont’s predecessor, Gov. Dan Malloy, Brian Durand – to help with communications as he seeks to establish his presence in Connecticut.

As for the impact of the takeover on jobs, the picture is murky, with M&T giving few details at this stage.

The bank said it was “delighted to welcome nearly 4,500 new colleagues” – a figure that represents a popular former workforce spread across more than 400

branches in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and Maine.

M&T did not provide Hearst Connecticut with current People’s personnel figures specific to Connecticut or Bridgeport, where the bank has pledged to maintain its regional headquarters in New England and employ “at least 1,000 people. . within 12 months of system conversion”.

Before the pandemic, around 1,350 People staffers went to work in the Bridgeport tower, and last year’s announcement of the takeover and potential layoffs shocked downtown businesses that rely on the patronage of their staff.

It was revealed last summer that the purchase would result in 747 layoffs. But M&T also told Hearst Connecticut this week that “People’s United employees will be given priority when applying to more than 1,000 job openings across all M&T communities.”

Meanwhile, the state banking department said on Friday, “M&T has given written assurances that these employees will be given priority consideration for the approximately 1,500 open positions at M&T, which include approximately 1,000 positions that are work opportunities. from a distance”.

M&T did not respond to a question about the start of layoffs and hiring. The company pledges to “keep 100% of employees in contact with customers currently working in People’s United branches” and to honor People’s previously announced commitment to keep 27 Stop & Shop supermarket branches in-store and all these employees.

When asked if Bridgeport and Connecticut would see a net job gain, loss, or break even, Mounds Friday replied, “The (Lamont) administration’s goal has always been to retain as many jobs as possible throughout this process. We have received commitments from M&T … that even if there is travel, there will be jobs posted and available that may be in Connecticut, which will reduce the number of job losses.

“We will continuously work with M&T, city and state legislators to focus on this mission,” Mounds said.

Mounds said M&T has made it clear to state and city officials that it is committed to community investments and partnerships, particularly in Bridgeport.

“It was important for me to hear and for everyone to hear,” he said.

According to the state banking department, some of these efforts beginning Friday will include: Making annual contributions of $25 million in their market area; investing more than $42 billion across all of its markets for home loans, small business loans, environmental investments, community development, affordable housing and philanthropic contributions; providing banking services and products to low and moderate income areas and supporting small businesses; offer a home ownership program; and increase the use of local small business services and products, with a focus on women and minority-owned establishments.

Nieves said it was important for M&T to “re-establish that kind of ‘community banking’ that People’s meant to people in the past and to start building that relationship of trust.”

“They’re listening, making plans around what it’s going to look like, and reaffirming that they’re going to be an established partner,” she said.

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