Koelmel, a Western New York native and career accountant at KPMG in Buffalo, joined First Niagara in 2004 and took the helm in 2006, following a board coup that fired Paul Kolkmeyer as CEO. He led the former Lockport Savings Bank through steady growth and transition from a traditional savings bank into a full-service commercial bank, including its purchase in 2007 of Greater Buffalo Savings Bank.
Then he steered the bank through the financial crisis unscathed, while directing initiatives to raise significant amounts of capital and invest in the bank to prepare for ambitious growth.
Under his tenure, since 2009, the bank acquired 57 branches in Western Pennsylvania, followed by Harleysville National Corp. with 83 branches in Eastern Pennsylvania, and then NewAlliance Bancshares with 87 offices in Connecticut and Massachusetts. He capped off the growth with HSBC.
As a result, the bank surged from $8 billion in assets to $37 billion today, with 430 branches in four states.
Koelmel also has emerged as a prominent, influential leader in the Buffalo Niagara region in the past several years.
Under his direction, the bank moved its corporate headquarters from a suburban office building in Pendleton to the Larkin at Exchange Building, anchoring Howard Zemsky's project and bolstering the growing Larkinville neighborhood as the bank steadily added jobs and office space.
The bank has also invested in infrastructure improvements for the burgeoning district.
"I'm surprised, like a lot of people are," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who had a meeting scheduled with Koelmel next week. "I know he was under a lot of pressure, after the acquisition of HSBC, to increase shareholder value. He was working very hard. He was a great steward for many organizations, but I was very surprised to hear that he was relieved of his duties."
"I think John was an inspirational leader who enthused everyone around him," said Colleen DiPirro, president of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, who praised his "bottom-line, no-nonsense" approach. "First Niagara Bank is an important organization in our region and their sustained profitability is critical to our region's sustainability. I look forward to working with their new leadership as we continue to rebuild the Buffalo Niagara region." ? He serves on the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and has chaired the Power Authority board since 2012. He was credited with spearheading an effort to revive the Empire State Games, donating $500,000 in 2010 in hopes of drawing more corporate sponsors.
He also has served as chairman of Kaleida Health's board, where he has helped steer the region's largest hospital system since 2009.
The Buffalo News' editorial board praised his wide-ranging impact: "Communities across the country cry out for this kind of leadership from the private sector." The Buffalo News named Koelmel one of its Outstanding Citizens of 2011, and in a recent Buffalo News survey, he was rated as fifth-most effective in a survey of 25 leaders in Buffalo and Erie County.
"Over the past seven years, John has led the transformation and growth of First Niagara," said James R. Kaskie, president and CEO of both Kaleida Health and parent Great Lakes Health System of Western New York. "At the same time, he has generously given his time and talent to numerous community-based organizations like Kaleida Health. Unfortunately, in the business world, executive level changes do occur. But this does not diminish John's role with our organization. We look forward to John continuing his role as chair of the Kaleida Health Board of Directors."
Crosby, who joined First Niagara in 2009 as chief administrative officer before getting a promotion in February 2010, has overseen the build-out of the bank's infrastructure in anticipation of the bank's rapid growth.
Previously, he spent five years as chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the Buffalo Public School District.Before his public sector stint, he spent 30 years in the business world, first as one of the founding shareholders and chief financial officer for ClientLogic Corp., a computer software firm founded by Jordan Levy and Ronald Schreiber, and then as a partner and chief financial officer for Seed Capital Partners, the venture capital firm Levy and Schreiber formed.
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