updated 2/15/2011 10:16:28 AM ET 2011-02-15T15:16:28

BUFFALO, N.Y., Feb. 15, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- First Niagara Financial Group Inc. (Nasdaq:FNFG) has been honored as a distinguished service provider in Small Business and Middle Market Banking by global financial services research and consulting firm, Greenwich Associates. The company was recognized for its performance in the leading industry publication, American Banker.

"This is a tremendous honor for First Niagara," First Niagara Executive Vice President, Commercial Business Dan Cantara said. "We place a high premium on our customers' experience and are committed to providing the highest level of service, attention and expertise across our expanding footprint. This award validates much of what we are always seeking to do, which is a ringing endorsement for our talented team."

First Niagara was a national award winner in Greenwich Associates' Small Business Banking Overall Satisfaction and Branch Satisfaction categories. The growing multi-state financial institution also received northeast regional awards in the Treasury Management category for both Small Business and Middle Market Banking.

Greenwich Associates' annual U.S. Small Business Banking Research Study is based on more than 14,000 interviews with businesses with $1 million to $10 million in annual sales. Its U.S. Middle Market Banking Research Study is based on more than 10,000 interviews with businesses with $10 million to $500 million in annual sales. 

Award recipients were determined by their performance in Greenwich Associates' studies, in which decision-makers name the banks they use and rate them in a number of banking and treasury management categories. Recognition is based on statistical differentiation at a 95% confidence level. 

First Niagara joins the ranks of leading national and regional financial service institutions upon receiving this honor.

About Greenwich Associates

Greenwich Associates is the leading global research-based consulting firm in institutional financial services. Greenwich's studies provide benefits to the buyers and sellers of financial services in the form of benchmark information on best practices and market intelligence on overall trends. Based in Stamford, Connecticut, with additional offices in London, Singapore, Toronto and Tokyo, the firm offers over 100 research-based consulting programs to more than 250 global financial-services companies.

About First Niagara Financial Group

First Niagara Financial Group, Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiary, First Niagara Bank, N.A., has $21 billion in assets, 256 branches and $13 billion in deposits. First Niagara Bank, N.A. is a multi-state community-oriented bank providing financial services to individuals, families and businesses. Upon completion of its pending merger with NewAlliance Bancorp, Inc. subject to customary closing conditions including approvals from regulators First Niagara will have more than $29 billion in assets, $18 billion in deposits and 340 branches across Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.fnfg.com .

CONTACT: First Niagara
         Leslie G. Garrity
         Public Relations and Corporate Communications Manager
         (716) 819-5921

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