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First Niagara banks become KeyBank on Tuesday

SARANAC LAKE – The two First Niagara Bank branches in the village closed for good on Friday and will reopen Tuesday as KeyBank locations.

Cleveland-based KeyCorp completed its $4.1 billion acquisition of Buffalo-headquartered First Niagara Financial Group in July. As part of the deal, KeyCorp is adding more than 300 First Niagara branches in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania to its existing network of banks.

The deal includes First Niagara’s two locations in downtown Saranac Lake: its primary branch on Main Street and a drive-through, with a walk-in ATM, on Church Street. Like the others, they’re being converted to KeyBank sites over the Columbus Day weekend, according to Steve Fournier, KeyBank’s Central New York market president.

He said First Niagara customers will still be able to access their accounts during the conversion.

“Their account numbers are staying the same,” Fournier said. “Their plastic is staying the same. Their PIN numbers in order to get money through an ATM are staying the same. There will be a longer transition for that type of stuff so they don’t have to worry about that this weekend. They’ll be able to do their banking as they would normally do.”

However, mobile banking through FirstNiagara.com and telephone banking is no longer available as of Friday night. Once all the systems and accounts are converted to KeyBank, online bill pay, and online, mobile and telephone banking will be available again on Tuesday.

Over the last few months, Fournier said KeyBank has been keeping its new customers apprised of the transition through phone calls, letters sent through the mail and digital messaging.

“We wanted to assure them that their money’s still going to be there once we flip the switch,” he said. “We’ve been very deliberate in ensuring our clients’ concerns are addressed, and we’re just thrilled to be able to add these locations to already a really good footprint.”

The acquisition gives KeyBank more than 1,200 branches in 15 states and adds $29 billion in deposits and $40 billion in total assets to KeyCorp. It will give First Niagara customers access to a bigger network of locations in the North Country and across the state. KeyBank also recently re-invested in its online banking infrastructure, which former First Niagara clients will now be able to use, Fournier said.

First Niagara employees whose branches are being converted to KeyBank are being offered positions under the banks’ new owners, Fournier said.

This is just the latest in a string of ownership changes for the Saranac Lake branches. Before they became First Niagara sites in 2011, they were owned by HSBC. Before that, they were Marine Midland Bank until the late 1990s.

The Main Street site was originally Adirondack National Bank, built in late 1906 and early 1907, according to Historic Saranac Lake’s Wiki website.

With its tall, arched front window and entryway, and rooftop parapet and railing, it was considered one of the most beautiful buildings on Main Street.

When Marine Midland acquired the bank in 1962, however, it covered the building’s facade with the flat, featureless brick wall passersby have seen ever since.

Village officials and historic preservation advocates who’d like to see the building’s original facade restored talked about approaching First Niagara last year, but they held off after KeyCorp’s acquisition was announced.

“If it’s complete, then it’s a great time to approach the new company, find the people to talk to and renew the conversation,” village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said in July.

Fournier said he’s heard the talk but said it’s too early to say whether the company would be interested in restoring the building.

“We’re still getting up to speed,” he said. “Our focus has been on getting through this conversion. Any particular location like Saranac (Lake), we’ll address that down the road.”