Buffalo's Top-Paid Banker is Out

March 20, 2013 Updated Mar 20, 2013 at 11:27 AM EDT

By Elizabeth Carey

March 20, 2013 Updated Mar 20, 2013 at 11:27 AM EDT

News that CEO John Koelmel is no longer leading First Niagara Financial Group has people taking a closer look at the financial services company. As CEO, Koelmel led First Niagara from assets of $8 billion in 2006 to $38 billion today. Last year, FNFG bought nearly 200 former HSBC branches for $900 million, raising eyebrows among banking analysts and shareholders who think it was too much.

First Niagara operates approximately 430 branches and employs about 6,000 people. Earlier this month, bank officials said they plan to trim $40 million in expenses through branch closures and layoffs in the retail sector this year.

The bank's board of directors has appointed Gary Crosby to serve as interim President and CEO. Crosby was hired by the bank in 2009.

Both Crosby and Koelmel top the list for compensation at First Niagara. At $3.8 million, John Koelmel is the highest-paid banking executive in Western New York for 2012, up more than 16% from 2011. Compensation includes $42,000 in "other" pay that includes club dues, automobile expenses, and more.

Interim leader Gary Crosby is next at $1.8 million.

Oliver Sommer, a consultant who guided acquisitions is next at $1.6 million. He's departing in June.

Gregory Norwood and Daniel Cantara III are at $1.4 million.

You can get more details on FNFG at www.bizjournals.com/buffalo.