Don McCree is spearheading Citizens Bank’s push into New York. He has just overseen the acquisition of HSBC’s branches in the city, and was in town this week for Citizens’ official launch into the Big Apple.

Don McCree, Citizens
Don McCree, vice chairman, Citizens Bank

  • Insider's Banker of the Week series appears in our weekday newsletter, 10 Things on Wall Street.
  • This week we're highlighting Don McCree, vice chairman and head of commercial banking at Citizens Financial Group.
  • McCree was in New York this week for Citizens official launch in the city. The bank snapped up HSBC’s bank branches, and McCree is confident this boost in retail banking will lead to more business in commercial banking.

Don McCree is extremely bullish on New York.

He calls it the "hole in the donut" for Citizens' deeper push into retail banking. That donut comprises markets like New England and Rhode Island — where Citizens thrives — but that gaping hole is the Big Apple.

So when HSBC decided to exit retail banking in New York, McCree and his fellow Citizens executives pounced. Citizens also acquired Investors Bancorp, a deal that complements the purchase of HSBC's East Coast branches.

The deal for 80 HSBC branches in New York, the Washington D.C area, and Florida wrapped up in February this year, and McCree said those branches have been fully rebranded as Citizens. The acquisition of Investors will lift Citizens' total branch count to more than 200, including locations in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and greater New York.

"The visibility, the brand, this can propel the commercial-banking business," McCree told Insider.

It's exactly this rebranding that has McCree, and an army of Citizens bankers, in New York all week. The bank  — in celebration of its official launch in the city — held events throughout Manhattan, including an immersive experience near the Flatiron building. Citizens has also nabbed Eli Manning as an ambassador as it just became the official bank of the New York Giants.

"Have you ever seen a Citizens sign in New York? It's our official entry into the city," he said.

For McCree, who also spearheads commercial banking, the entry into New York's business community is crucial. He admits that additional branding and moves into retail banking are not necessarily going to move the needle with private-equity clients or large corporates, but there's a window of opportunity to tap the city's small-sized firms, whether they are thriving businesses or companies needling their way out of the pandemic.

"There's so many companies, for example, in lower Manhattan looking for a new bank," McCree said. "And I think New York is really starting to come alive again."

Indeed, New York's economy was severely hamstrung by the pandemic, and for many businesses, they are still feeling the pinch from empty office buildings. But as business leaders push their workforces to come back to the office, McCree is confident that the city will recover.

"This is the city that reinvents itself on a constant basis," he said. "This is a time of change and more opportunities."

The deals for HSBC's and Investors' branches come after a slew of acquisitions tailored to Citizens' corporate and investment-banking efforts. The bank bought boutique firms JMP Group and DH Capital to bolster its advisory capabilities, and in total, Citizens has made six purchases in the last five years, Insider previously reported.

"For me, this expands what I already do. No one had ever heard of us. And now, it's about taking a bank that was centered in New England and moving into higher-growth markets like New York, Texas, and California," McCree said.

The Banker of the Week series is featured in Insider's 10 Things on Wall Street — sign up here to get the newsletter each weekday morning.

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