Lender merger alters financing field

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A bank merger between two retail marine lenders could eliminate, or at least change, another source of boat finance.

The merger between Provident Bank and M&T, announced Friday, is slated to take place this spring.

The merger will help Baltimore-based Provident in this "challenging economic environment," said Gary N. Geisel, Provident chairman and CEO.

"While Provident has performed well in this difficult environment, in the quarters ahead, we would face significant challenges, particularly in our investment portfolio," Geisel said.

Some industry insiders are concerned that Provident and M&T, headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., sought different types of boat buyers as loan customers. Both banks have been significant players in a dwindling supply of marine loan financiers.

A spokesman for M&T did not know how or if marine lending operations might change in the future.

"As of today, both banks will continue to do what they've always done," said Phil Hosmer, an M&T spokesman. "It will be business as usual, and as the process continues, hopefully in the second quarter of next year, we're going to look at our business lines and figure out the best way to integrate them."

— Reagan Haynes

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