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First Niagara Financial's CEO Discusses Securities Portfolio Repositioning Conference Call (Transcript)

Let me start by putting the security sale and debt paydown in some context. We’ve built this business and franchise by focusing on the core banking business keeping it simple and creating real franchise value. Our investor value propositions consistently were predicated on creating an incremental and sustainable earnings stream via combination of organic growth and M&A that will drive long-term shareholder value by increasing the size and strength of our core earnings engine. And in spite of the market dynamics of the last year, we remain confident that consistent, predictable, sustainable operating earnings growth will be rewarded by the market over the longer run with the benefit of all of us as shareholders.

That said roll the clock back three years to the Nat City Bank branch transaction in 2009. It was clear that the nature of that transaction, a branch deposit deal that wasn’t asset-rich by its terms, gave us an opportunity to further support our build-out by investing our excess liquidity in a then outsized investment portfolio, that provided incremental income until we were able to deploy those funds into higher yielding loans that were customer and relationship driven. And that would add sustainable earnings and real franchise value.

And that’s the balance sheet rotation plan you’ve heard us consistently talk about over the last three years.

We’ve been executing and replicating that game plan with the two deals that followed, Harleysville and NewAlliance. Design and intent was simple, to bridge our ongoing excess liquidity challenge, support the cost of carry of our increasing infrastructure until we were able to deepen our in-market penetration and build out our commercial and consumer loan portfolios. And we openly talked about it as just that, a bridging strategy or initiative. In fact when asked sometimes about a run-rate leverage play, we always responded, not for us.

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