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M&T CEO’s first “letter” pays tribute to Wilmers

René Jones
René Jones

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Known as “The Letter,” the annual “Message to Shareholders” crafted by Robert Wilmers during his time as CEO of M&T Bank, has a new author this year.

M&T Chairman and CEO René F. Jones began the letter, published in the banking company’s just-released 2017 annual report, by paying tribute to Wilmers, who died suddenly in December at the age of 83.

“There is no denying that, over the course of 35 years, Bob became synonymous with M&T.” Jones also noted Wilmers’ honors, including being named “Banker of the Year,” by American Banker as well as winning the publication’s Lifetime Achievement award.


Jones shared that those who invested with the bank in the second quarter of 1983, when Wilmers was named CEO, and stayed with the bank until his passing, would have seen their investment grow at a 15 percent compounded annual rate over the decades. That would have brought a 126-fold increase in their original investment.

Jones wrote that M&T was carrying on Wilmers’ tradition, explaining that there is a process of self-selection at the bank.

“For many years, potential employees had to be willing to join a regional bank headquartered in Buffalo, marked by strong performance, but operating in slower growth, mid-tier cities in an area once described as the “rust belt.”

Jones also said the “Message to Shareholders,” referred to as “The Letter,” would go on. “It is our privilege, in fact our duty, to continue to prepare the annual “Letter” in this tradition of candor, fulfilling the legacy that defines M&T.”

Discussing the bank’s results for 2017, Jones wrote that net income was up 7 percent to $1.41 billion. Additionally, net interest margin — the difference between the average yield on assets and the average cost of funds that support those assets — climbed from 3.11 percent to 3.47 percent.

Jones discussed in depth the 4 percent decline in commercial and industrial loans the bank experienced in 2017, noting it was unprecedented in a time of economic growth. However, Jones explained that businesses were turning to capital markets instead of traditional banks for their borrowing needs.

“This differing model of credit investors may have significant implications for the businesses that have come to rely on them as a source of credit — implications of which may only become fully apparent should conditions deteriorate,” he wrote.

M&T Bank operates branches in New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. It ranks number one in deposit market share in the 16-county Central New York area.

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