How Tom Amell Merged 3 Rival Cultures

In 2007, Tom Amell was the Regional President of First Niagara.  At that time, the bank sought to consolidate its formidable presence in the Capital Region.  Over the previous 5-year period, First Niagara had completed the acquisition or merger of 3 former rival institutions: Hudson River Bank, Cohoes Savings Bank and Troy Savings Bank.

You can watch Tom tell the story of how he brought those 3 distinct cultures together in this month’s featured interview in the MPI Forum.  If time is short right now, here are some highlights from this terrific lesson on leadership.  Be sure to make the time to watch the full interview with Shaun Mahoney.

Here are 3 key lessons from Tom Amell on how to overcome inertia:

  1. He got face to face.  There was really only one way to know what was in the minds of the people he was now charged with and that was to talk with them.  Meet with them.  Get the word directly from the horse’s mouth.  He learned two things; (1) the teams from each of the 3 banks disliked each other, and (2) each mistrusted and blamed First Niagara for the unwanted change in their lives.
  2. He told them the truth.  “Banks aren’t bought, they’re sold.”  That’s how Tom began his talk with 400 of his new employees at an early company meeting.  You were sold.  Your previous ownership team made tons of money by selling you.  How many of you got uber-rich in the sale?” And with that, Tom found the common ground.
  3. He found the quiet influencers.  Every organization has people that command the respect of their peers.  Not all of them are highly visible, but people trust them.  Tom found those key individuals and became ambassadors of change.

Having gained a first-hand understanding of the situation, finding the common ground and utilizing selected change agents throughout the company, Tom had generated momentum and laid the groundwork of a new culture – one focused on the success of a company that wanted them.


Thomas Amell

About Thomas Amell

Thomas L. Amell is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Pioneer Bank. Pioneer is an independent mutual community bank, headquartered in Troy, New York with 17 branches in and around the Capital District. Previously, Tom was the President of Commercial Services for SEFCU, where his...