Remarks to Annual Meeting of Shareholders: April 21, 2020

Over the past couple of months the economy has shifted precipitously—yet, M&T Bank remains well positioned to help provide strength and stability to you, our shareholders, to our customers and to the communities we serve.

We entered this year coming off a very strong 2019, in which M&T ranked first among our peer group of large super-regional banks in return on average tangible common equity at 19.1 percent and among the highest in terms of return on average tangible assets at 1.69 percent, providing a healthy cushion with which to absorb unexpected changes in the economy.

At the end of last year, M&T’s allowance for future loan losses exceeded annual charge-offs by seven times.

And last year, operating earnings per share grew by 8 percent, but more importantly, tangible book value per share grew by 9 percent, giving us more than two times the level of capital now than we had entering the 2008 financial crisis—a crisis in which M&T was one of the only large banks to remain profitable, not cut its dividend and not have to raise supplemental capital.

Yesterday, Darren King, our Chief Financial Officer, reported earnings per share—after setting aside additional reserves for future loan losses—of $1.93 for the first quarter of the year.

While 42 percent lower than last year’s first quarter—these results demonstrate our ability to remain solidly profitable in the face of an uncertain economy.

It’s in this context that our earnings report and our annual meeting come at a pivotal time.

In times like these—times of crisis—one can often look to history for lessons and guidance.

On January 8, 1790, President George Washington delivered the first State of the Union Address to Congress. 

John Adams, our second president, continued the practice—but after his speech in the year 1800, Presidents simply submitted written reports to Congress. 

It was President Woodrow Wilson who resumed the tradition of giving a State of the Union speech before a Joint Session of Congress in 1913. 

Notably, in his address, he called on Congress to pass legislation that would create a central bank for the United States in order to promote stability and reduce panic in times of economic uncertainty.  Three weeks later, the Federal Reserve was established.

The State of the Union tradition then continued for several years, but paused again in 1919 because the country, indeed the world, was suffering from the effects of a great influenza pandemic.

Today, we face another pandemic of global proportions. It has reached our shores, invaded our communities and for many of us, taken friends and family members.

We often hear it said that these are extraordinary times—and they are. 

But as we know from history, they are not altogether unprecedented. 

Under both historical precedent and current circumstances, the fact that we are unable to hold our annual meeting in person today and unable to continue our traditional annual meeting speech seems insignificant compared to the suffering going on around us, by those who are ill, those who are bereaved, those who have lost their jobs and those who are shuttering their businesses. 

Clearly, this is not a time for big meetings or big speeches. It’s a time for action—because as community bankers, we have much work to do. 

At M&T, our mission is well known by our colleagues; the role we play, the work we do, it’s all part of our community banking culture, and we have no need for speeches to remind us. 

Indeed, it is times like these for which M&T is built.

We are a bank that is powered by a team of skilled, experienced and caring professionals—bankers who live and work in the communities we serve, and who are dedicated to our customers

We are a bank that is intimately connected to our customers and communities, and we understand their individual circumstances and unique needs.

We are a bank that acts as an effective intermediary—not just of deposits and loans when times are good, but in an emergency, as an intermediary between government and local businesses, a role we are playing today with: the SBA Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, and Loan Deferral Program, as we will with other programs that are likely to be initiated.

And, we are a bank that is strong and stable and able to provide consistent, uninterrupted service—including credit—to our customers when they need it most.

We can be a source of strength because we come from a position of strength.

And it is from this position—led by our team of experienced and dedicated bankers, with their ability to understand local needs, to understand both the capabilities and the limitations of our customers and our communities—that we are responding to the current crisis: whether shifting almost 90 percent of our colleagues to a work-from-home posture, or successfully processing 27,711 emergency SBA loan applications.

I could not be more proud of the commitment and compassion that my colleagues have demonstrated under difficult and demanding circumstances—for each other, and for our customers. 

But what’s equally inspiring—and equally important—is the way our communities have rallied together to care for the sick, to solve problems, to help neighbors, to flatten the curve. 

Together with all my colleagues, we’re simply proud to be one small part of those communities and those solutions—to be a source of strength and of service both for and with our neighbors.

It is for them, then—for our families and friends and neighbors, our children and parents and grandparents; for all those on the front lines, the essential workers, the first responders, the doctors and nurses; and for the most vulnerable among us, the elderly, the unemployed, the hungry, the sick and the suffering—for them, we will carry on, not with the tradition of an annual meeting speech, but more importantly, much more importantly, we will carry on as community bankers—and as community members—serving others in their time of greatest need. 

History is filled with examples like these. Time and time again, the world has faced great disasters and great challenges—yet time and time again, ordinary people in ordinary communities rise up and come together to accomplish extraordinary things.  

The same was true after the influenza pandemic of a century ago. The economy recovered. Society recovered. Communities recovered. And the State of the Union address resumed again in 1921.

So let us look to the past for strength and resolve, and to the future with determination, together as colleagues, as families, as neighbors and as communities, as we work to keep each other healthy and safe, to help alleviate suffering and to fulfill our vital mission as community bankers.  

René F. Jones
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer