Niagara Bancorp Inc. of Lockport, N.Y., is renaming its Lockport Savings Bank subsidiary.

The $1.7 billion-asset company said last week that the unit's new name, First Niagara Bank, will convey more of the regional and diversified image sought by Niagara, which is using acquisitions to raise its profile in upstate New York.

"Lockport Savings Bank is a little bit confining," Niagara chief executive William E. Swan said. "The First Niagara moniker . . . gives a strong indication we are much more than just a consumer savings bank in western New York."

Changing the Lockport name, in use since 1967, is subject to regulatory approval.

Niagara announced in September that it would buy $78 million-asset Albion Banc Corp. of Rochester for $12.4 million.

Three months later it said it would purchase CNY Financial Corp. in Cortland for $87.9 million.

The Albion and CNY deals, which are scheduled to close in the first and second quarters respectively, would expand Niagara's presence in the area but would open a wide gap between its western and eastern New York operations. The company plans to fill the hole with acquisitions and, possibly, start-up branches, Mr. Swan said.

Other areas are also in Niagara's sights.

"Would we go as far as New York City? I would say not," Mr. Swan said. "But if there are opportunities in other parts of the state," Niagara would consider them. Expansion into Pennsylvania is another possibility, he said.

One motive behind Niagara's expansion, Mr. Swan said, is a desire to increase fee income; by acquiring more banks, more fee-based business could be referred to its insurance and leasing subsidiaries.

Other banking companies in the state have adopted similar strategies. NBT Bancorp of Norwich recently created a subsidiary focused on buying nonbanking service companies that could help NBT to boost fee income.

Heather Dilbeck, an analyst with Ryan, Beck & Co. in Livingston, N.J., said the strategy makes sense because loan growth in upstate New York is slowing. She added that Niagara's moves have proved effective.

"I think they've done a very strategically sound expansion plan," she said.

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