Financial Institutions Inc. Announces Changes to Executive Leadership Team

Financial Institutions Inc., the parent company of Five Star Bank, SDN Insurance Agency and Courier Capital, made changes to the bank’s executive leadership team, naming Reid A. Whiting chief banking officer and appointing Blake G. Jones to the executive leadership team.

Whiting formerly served as senior vice president and director of indirect and fintech lending solutions. Whiting has a track record of executing on operational efficiency and process improvement during his tenures at both Five Star and Morgan Stanley, where he had global responsibility for a range of large-scale efficiency and regulatory change initiatives. As chief banking officer, a newly created role for Five Star Bank Whiting will oversee all consumer banking channels, including digital banking, the retail branch network and call center, along with consumer lending, residential mortgage and the company’s growing banking-as-a-service line of business. Whiting will also join the executive leadership team as a direct report of Martin K. Birmingham, president and CEO of Financial Institutions Inc.

Whiting joined Five Star Bank in September 2022 from Morgan Stanley, where he gained experience in treasury liquidity planning, regulatory affairs and compliance, most recently serving as treasurer for Morgan Stanley’s U.S. institutional broker dealer and global head of the recovery and resolution planning program.

Jones, a 20-year marketing and communications veteran who serves as senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Five Star Bank, will report directly to Birmingham, with her span of control has been expanded to include enterprise sales.

Ms. Jones joined Five Star Bank in July, bringing 20 years of marketing and communications experience to the bank and its affiliates. Prior to joining Five Star Bank, she served as senior vice president and marketing director for Arrow Financial. Earlier in her career, Jones was a journalist and editor with publications in New York, Hawaii and California.

Additionally, several executives will assume expanded leadership responsibilities. The company’s operations, product and technology areas will move under CFO and Treasurer W. Jack Plants II. Chief risk officer Gary A. Pacos, who has more than 30 years of risk management experience, will assume executive oversight of all credit administration, while Chief Human Resources Officer Laurie R. Collins will now take on ownership of enterprise-wide training and incentive planning.

The company also announced that Chief Administrative Officer Sean M. Willett is pursuing a new opportunity as CEO of an out-of-market bank and will remain with the company through the end of the year to support a smooth transition of the functions he previously oversaw. In addition, Chief Community Banking Officer Justin K. Bigham has resigned.

“The exciting changes announced this week position our company to accelerate our ability to grow our digital engagement with customers while ensuring our exceptional customer-facing teams are in a strong position to provide value-added services to those we serve,” Birmingham said. “As we respond to an evolving and challenging operating environment that we expect to continue in 2024, we now can do so as a simpler, more streamlined and functional organization, where leaders across the enterprise are empowered to drive near-term success in pursuit of strong execution of long-term initiatives.

“These leadership changes leverage the strengths of our team of executives, which now includes Blake Jones and Reid Whiting. Both Blake and Reid have considerable experience in their respective areas, bring new and diverse perspectives to our leadership team, and, importantly, allow us to bring key functions closer together in a way that will better support our enterprise into the future. I would like to also thank both Sean and Justin for their leadership and contributions to our company. We wish them well in their future endeavors.”

In conjunction with these leadership changes, the company announced a broader restructuring. The realignment impacted approximately 3.4% of the company’s workforce and removed approximately $6 million in annual noninterest expenses primarily made up of salaries and benefits.

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