BUFFALO, N.Y., Feb. 25 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- First Niagara Financial Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: FNFG) announced the formation of a new Executive Committee of top officers, including the newly created positions of president and chief operating officer, to support the continued execution of a successful growth strategy that in less than a year will have doubled the bank holding company's size to more than $19 billion in assets and 254 branches. First Niagara also continues to recruit industry talent at a variety of levels to support the company's profitable growth, which created a total of more than 300 new jobs in Upstate New York and Pennsylvania last year. First Niagara's Executive Committee will include: Michael W. Harrington, chief financial officer; Gary M. Crosby, who has been promoted to the newly created position of chief operating officer; Elizabeth A. Bauman, who has been promoted to chief administrative officer; Daniel E. Cantara III, executive vice president for commercial business; J. Lanier Little, executive vice president for retail banking; and the newly created position of bank president. A national search is underway for an experienced banker who will be appointed to lead retail and commercial banking at First Niagara, as well as marketing. The Executive Committee will report to Chief Executive Officer John R. Koelmel, who will continue to perform the duties of president until the newly created position is filled later this year. "Over the last two years, we have used our exceptional capital strength to play offense, grow profitably, and increase lending to small businesses and consumers, all while maintaining our traditional underwriting discipline," Koelmel explained. "The result is an even stronger First Niagara that can serve a much larger and more dynamic customer base across an expanded geographic footprint. The evolution of our leadership structure will allow us to continue to scale the business and execute our growth strategy in 2010 and beyond."