Key Purchase of First Niagara Will Make it 13th Largest in U.S.

Cleveland-based KeyCorp (KEY) agreed to buy First Niagara Financial Group Inc (FNFG) for $4.1 billion.

What Does It Mean?
Large bank deals appear to be back. Though they had slowed in the aftermath of the financial crisis, acquisition of banks over $1 billion in assets is picking up again. Key reports that the combined company will have over 1,300 branches in 15 states and deposits of almost $100 billion. The deal is the 2nd biggest this year and, when completed, Key’s purchase of First Niagara will make it the 13th largest bank in the U.S at $135 billion in assets.

First Niagara, a well-known brand in Western New York had fallen on hard times over the past several years. After a decade of rapid growth through acquisition, the company was just not able to adapt to the extended low-interest environment. Expenses were too high compared to its revenue. Other factors, including the announcement of a “process issue” and a $1.1 billion writedown of company goodwill spooked market watchers and eroded company credibility. For the past two years, rumors persisted that the bank was being prepared for a sale.

What Can We Expect Now?
In the protracted low-interest-rate environment of the past seven years, banks have had to focus on expense control to protect profitability. Because Key and First Niagara both have a presence in many of the same markets, tough decisions will have to be made about which offices to keep and which ones to shut down. Customers will be impacted by any such changes so bank decision makers will need to exercise care.

Rival banks like Buffalo-based M&T Bank will be doing their best to take advantage of the customer disruption that will come as Key blends First Niagara into its operations. In fact, it is expected that competitor banks will target affected customers with special offers specifically designed to lure them away from the disruption.

While some analysts are saying that Key paid too much for troubled First Niagara, only time will tell. One thing is certain–bank mergers appear to be back.

Maybe What We Need is a Monday Box

My wife and I have a large family. When our children were young, getting to church on time Sunday mornings was a real challenge. At the time we needed to leave, invariably one child would not have socks, another would have no idea were he left his dress shoes. Chaos would ensue as we ran around helping to locate our children’s missing items. Eventually, we would find everything and help the kids get ready for church. The process was not pleasant and it often resulted in us being late.

As we struggled with how to teach our children better preparation skills, we lit on the idea of a “Sunday Box.” We introduced our plan to the kids in a family meeting. They listened as I explained that success in anything requires us to plan, to prepare and then to work (though I think I started to lose them at “work”). Luckily, my wife was able to quickly get them enthused with an activity—they would each select a box and decorate it any way they liked and use it to hold the items they needed for Sunday. They were excited to proceed!

We immediately went down and rummaged through the boxes in our basement until each child had selected one they liked. Then, we all went to the store in search of contact paper, stickers and other decorations. Upon returning home, we spent about a half-hour helping the kids cover their boxes with brightly colored contact paper of their choosing. Finally, they used crayons, markers and stickers to complete their masterpieces.

The plan we had agreed upon with our children was that on Saturdays, as part of our household chores, we would each prepare for Sunday by “loading” our Sunday boxes. Socks, shoes, pants, ties, slips, bows, etc. would all go into the box on Saturday so Sunday would be smooth and stress free.

It worked wonderfully. The difference this little team exercise made in our family life was amazing. Gone were the strife and anxiety of rushing our kids to get ready for church. The awful tension was replaced by peace and harmony which put us in a much better frame of mind for church.

In our careers, we often struggle with being disorganized, rushed and anxious like my kids used to be before the Sunday boxes. What if we as working adults went about making a “Monday Box”? Could we set aside time on Saturday to review the previous week, to go over our appointments for the coming week, to think about what we really need to get done in the coming week, and to schedule time to accomplish the important things that we care about?

Plan, Prepare, Work

Plan The Week
A good plan requires that we know the lay of the land–a review of where we are relative to where we want to be. Think about people first—clients, direct reports, boss, colleagues—then, think about your goals, projects and other responsibilities. The goal of planning is to consciously decide what you want to accomplish in the coming week. Commit these ideas to paper (or bytes) and you have a plan. Now, move on to preparing for the week. Warning: Don’t shortcut the plan! Planning is about becoming aware. If you’re not aware, you can’t prepare.

Prepare for the Week
With plan in hand, prepare for the week. Get out your calendar and start inputting the tasks you need to accomplish to achieve your goals for the week.

Attending a few meetings?

Make time to read the prior meeting minutes and other materials to become informed beforehand. Do some research and come prepared to contribute.

Leading a meeting?

Make time to review minutes, assignments and other takeaways from the last meeting. Prepare an agenda. Connect with people and send friendly reminders about their assignments. Distribute the agenda well in advance.

Meeting with an employee, client, or boss?

Review notes from the last meeting to make sure you are progressing toward achievement of your goals. Make sure to complete any tasks agreed upon at the last meeting.

Working to achieve a goal?

Calendar the tasks you need to complete to move ahead toward accomplishment.

Monday morning will roll around before you know it. There will be plenty of distractions and temptation to avoid doing the things that will move you closer to achieving your goals. But, now is the time to keep your resolve to do better, to increase your effectiveness and reduce your stress. Stephen Covey encouraged us to be strong at these moments of decision and challenged us to exercise “Integrity in the Moment of Choice.” Stay firm and work your plan.

Earnestly “loaded”, the Monday Box will contain everything we need to have a productive, fulfilling week. Stress will decrease, accomplishment will increase and professional competence will be amplified. Taking the time to plan and prepare will actually take much of the “work” out of our work. I’m going down to the basement right now to find my Monday Box.