August “Augie” Chiasera is a senior vice president at M&T Bank Corp. and president of the bank’s Greater Baltimore/Chesapeake region. In this role, Chiasera is responsible for all commercial lending, noncredit sales and customer service activities for middle market and large corporate banking customers.
In addition, he is responsible for coordinating the efforts of all business lines in the bank’s Greater Baltimore/Chesapeake communities. Prior to being named to his current position, Chiasera was responsible for leading a multi-year strategic review of the bank’s lending/deposit business across the corporation.
Chiasera, a Buffalo, N.Y., native, joined M&T Bank as an executive associate in 1993 and has performed a number of senior line and staff positions throughout the organization. Since relocating to Baltimore in 2002 with M&T’s acquisition of Allfirst, he has lead M&T’s Small Business Lending efforts throughout Maryland/D.C./Northern Virginia and also managed the middle market/large corporate banking divisions for the Baltimore region.
He actively participates in a number of Baltimore community organization boards, including those of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chesapeake.
Chiasera earned his MBA from the University of Chicago in 1993, for years after he earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Boston University.
What is M&T’s financial standing after its most recent quarterly report?
The first quarter result was $274 million in profit, but most importantly for us, it was 33% higher than it was during the first quarter in 2012. I think that was due to three elements — getting more deposits, making more loans and keeping expenses in check.
That’s a pretty vanilla banking model, but it works for us. We pride ourselves on being a “Main Street” type of bank; though we’re based in Buffalo, we operate with a very local focus. We operate 22 branches in Anne Arundel County and eight in Howard, with the main offices for each county next to Westfield Annapolis and The Mall in Columbia. All told, we employ close to 300 people between those two counties.
What is M&T’s record for granting loans to small businesses in the past year? And businesses in general?
In 2012, we loaned out $2 billion more than we did last year; we ended 2012 with $17.9 billion in commercial loans, up from $15.9 billion at the end of 2011.
In 2011 we, along with 12 other banks, pledged to expand our loans to small businesses by $50 million and we actually increased by $196 million. The fact is that small businesses are important businesses to M&T.
On that note, currently the Small Business Administration (SBA) ranks us as the country’s sixth largest provider of SBA loans, and we are the No. 1 SBA lender in the Baltimore market, as we are in many of the markets in which we operate, including Washington, D.C.; Buffalo; Philadelphia; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Wilmington, Del.
A new interest rate study from GoBankingRates.com, which compared savings account rates from the nation’s largest banks, found rates offered by community banks and credit unions to be much more favorable to consumers. According to the study, the average savings account rate among the 10 largest banks in the U.S. is .04% APY, while local financial institutions provide an average .20% APY. What’s your take on that report?
Savings are a cornerstone of anyone’s financial plan. The Federal Reserve Board has set up historically low interest rates, which are reflected in low deposit rates; but that also means that our cost of funding to provide loans can also be lower, which helps to stimulate the economy.
How many banks have an executive that is dedicated solely to cover the Corridor?
I’m not sure, but Brian Walter [market president for M&T’s Chesapeake Region] has been with us for 20 years and has lived in Howard County for 10 years. We’ve always viewed Howard/Anne Arundel as a separate and distinct market from D.C. and Baltimore, because it has its own particular characteristics and nuances.
That gets us back to the community banking concept. Of course, both of the counties represent important markets for us. I can tell you that our mid-Atlantic region — meaning the corridor that extends from York, Pa., southward to Richmond, Va. — is one of the leading markets for our entire company.
What are the most striking characteristics about Howard County?
From a business perspective, it’s resiliency. Its location adjacent to Fort Meade, as well as its public school system, have helped us attract the type of [educated] employee we want.
What stands out most about Anne Arundel County?
Its emerging technology and cyber community, again around Fort Meade, is a big deal for us. So is having a strong presence in Annapolis, since it’s the state capital and the home of the United States Naval Academy. The strength of the county’s marine industry is important as well.
How much of M&T’s Maryland-based business emanates from Anne Arundel and Howard counties? And from the entire Corridor (also counting the Suburban Maryland jurisdictions of Prince George’s and Montgomery)?
In addition to our Anne Arundel and Howard presence, we have a staff of approximately 350 employees that serve Montgomery and Prince George’s counties from a headquarters office on Shady Grove Road in Gaithersburg and another office in Upper Marlboro. We also operate 31 branches in Montgomery and 12 branches in Prince George’s [counties].
Locally-based corporations are crucial to the support of the local philanthropic community, but M&T is based in Buffalo. How has M&T supported philanthropic endeavors in our area?
I think anyone who is involved in that community sees that we are extremely active. Let’s take the example of Brian Walter. He’s chairing the American Heart Association’s Howard County Heart Ball, is vice chair of the Columbia Foundation board and is the immediate past chair of Leadership Howard County.
Across the county line, we have bankers who are active with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, the YWCA and the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County. They also lend support to Anne Arundel Medical Center, as well as the Boys and Girls clubs. We’re also involved with the tech community around the BWI Business District, and we are a big supporter of the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council.
All told, we support more than 50 nonprofit and charitable causes between both counties. We also have charitable contributions committees that are headquartered in those two markets. Our total contributions to the nonprofit world exceed $17 million, including more than $3 million in the Greater Baltimore region.
We ask our employees to get involved in the community, so we feel we should make a contribution to support their efforts. If one of our employees is passionate about supporting a local charity, we back them up.
What do you see as M&T’s biggest challenge?
It has to be the various economic and regulatory factors that we’re facing. The economy is improving, but the environment that all companies have to operate in makes it tougher to do business today. We’re just not seeing business owners making a great deal of investment, since they have not regained the confidence in the economy that they had before the recession.
What are the bank’s plans for growth in the next five years?
We don’t have particular growth targets. At the end of the day, we want to be the best company our employees ever work for, the best bank our customers ever do business with and the best investment our shareholders ever make.