Provident job cuts put at 521

The Baltimore Sun

M&T; Bank Corp. said yesterday that it will lay off about 29 percent of employees at Provident Bankshares Corp. when the two banks merge in May.

M&T; will eliminate 521 Provident jobs and keep 1,305 positions, Atwood "Woody" Collins III, president of M&T; Bank's Mid-Atlantic Division, said in a phone interview.

Most of the job losses will be duplicate staff positions at Provident's Baltimore headquarters, including jobs in marketing and operations. Jobs at bank branches will be kept.

"All of those individuals at Provident who deal with customers are going to deal with those same customers at M&T;," Collins said.

Collins said the workers who lose their jobs will be given priority placement for about 216 vacant jobs at M&T.;

Provident shareholders are to meet April 8 to vote on the merger, which needs the approval of two-thirds of eligible votes cast. Buffalo, N.Y.-based M&T;, the region's second-largest bank in terms of deposits, announced in December that it was acquiring Provident, Maryland's largest independent bank, in a stock swap. If approved, the merger is expected to close May 23, and job reductions would start then, Collins said.

The bank expects to spend $6.4 million in severance payments to the workers.

Provident's board recommends that shareholders vote for the merger because of the difficult economic environment for financial institutions, among other things.

Collins said M&T; will keep the Provident headquarters building in downtown Baltimore, which has a lease until 2012. But it is still deciding which branches it will close.

"There are undoubtedly duplicate branches," Collins said. "But it's like surgery, you have to do it very carefully."

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