M&T Bank CEO Touts Growth Through Fundamentals

23 November 2015

By Dave Hendrick

M&T Bank CEO and Chairman Robert Wilmers says there’s a clear distinction between a “Wall Street bank” and a “Main Street bank,” and while M&T is a long-time Wall Street darling, Wilmers says his organization’s strength comes from its strong rooting in the communities it serves.

Speaking at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business as part of the Leadership Speaker Series, Wilmers, who has led M&T for more than 30 years, insisted M&T was a community bank focused on the bread-and-butter banking practices of taking deposits and making the loans that promote economic development in the cities and towns it serves.

While M&T touts its unflashy business model, the bank has been on an enviable run during Wilmers’ time at the helm, steadily expanding its geographic footprint, growing assets to over $100 billion and never recording a quarterly net loss nor missed dividend.

The solid fundamentals have attracted famed investor Warren Buffett, whose company Berkshire Hathaway owns a significant stake in the bank.

According to Wilmers, the recipe for success is a simple one, focused on recognizing the needs of its communities, constituents and stakeholders.

Foremost, the bank seeks to hire the very best people they can find at every level of the company and then keep them motivated to do well. M&T accomplishes this, in part, by making equity stakes a significant portion of compensation, with over half of the company’s 16,000 employees owning shares.

“They feel responsible for the long-term performance of the company and, ultimately, for the long-term performance of stock,” Wilmers said. “Our employees act like they own the place, because they do.”

Asked if the company often sees a talent loss when it acquires a new bank — something the company has done 24 times under Wilmers’ watch — the CEO said it “hasn’t been a problem.”

“We recognize the talent, treat them fairly and they stick around,” Wilmers said, adding that employees “like the culture.”

M&T’s corporate integration skills are currently being put to the test in a major way, as the company recently closed on the acquisition of Hudson City Savings Bank, a deal that took more than three years to receive all necessary approvals and finally drew to a successful close on 1 November.

Wilmers said the bank planned to “get Hudson City under our belt” before looking for additional opportunities to expand through M&A, and suggested valuations in general were not terribly attractive at the moment.

“The bank graveyard is full of banks that overpay,” Wilmers said.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia