First Niagara Financial Group (FNFG) is expanding its mortgage operations.

The Buffalo, N.Y., company is scheduled to open a processing center next month in Syracuse and hire more than two dozen employees to staff it.

It will be First Niagara's third mortgage-processing center and will support origination activities, the $36 billion-asset company said Thursday. Originations have grown by more than 66% over the past year, the Buffalo, N.Y., company said.

The new employees who will staff the center, along with mortgage lenders who joined First Niagara from its acquisition of 100 branches from HSBC, will serve customers in central and eastern New York. First Niagara employs about 500 people and has 49 branches in the region.

First Niagara said in October that it would cut about 180 jobs throughout its four-state market, and also fill more than 250 open positions, to match staffing with its business needs. During its third-quarter earnings call, executives vowed to improve the company's efficiency ratio and look to fee-income to boost revenue.

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