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First Niagara's Koelmel Forges Forward

We are day four in New England. The initial conversion efforts this past weekend were terrific. It has been our smoothest conversion and initial integration.

What are your thoughts on the Durbin Amendment?

We are hopeful that we will have clarity sooner than not. Procedurally it will be necessary. The original deadline for the Fed to provide better definition has passed. They had previously said they would not meet that.

With the legislation being debated in Congress to delay implementation, we think it is important that a more thoughtful look is given to the impact the Durbin Amendment would have on the industry and its ability to effectively meet the needs of its customers and investors. We got out-lobbied by the retail industry a couple years ago.

Right now we need to work together to move forward in a more productive way and benefit of the consumer since we have no reason to believe that the consumer will ultimately benefit. It is still a few pennies a share to us on an annualized basis and compromises our ability to invest.

When do you expect interest rates to rise and what impact do you see on your business?

It will be a while before rates rise. They only have one way to go and that is up. It is not a question of if, but when. I continue to believe that until the economic recovery, narrowly and broadly defined, is much more stable than it is to date - rising rates on top of rising gas prices and uncertainties in the regulatory arena would compound the problem, not be part of the solution.

S&P downgraded its outlook for U.S. debt to negative. How do you think the deficit and economy will affect the banking business?

This is just one more level of uncertainty. That is a major deterrent to the economic recovery. The private sector makes it clear that there is a hesitancy and a pause to re-engage and re-invest.

When you look at the collective economic uncertainty in the political environment, who is going to do what next? What does it mean to us and the private sector? People want more specificity and need more clarity.

The free market system is used to taking some risk, but at this point it continues to be too much of a moving target and the uncertainties are getting in the way of stimulating a sustainable economic recovery.

Edited for length and clarity.

--Written by Maria Woehr in New York.

To contact the writer of this article, click here: Maria Woehr.

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