First Niagara Financial Group and LRA Worldwide Partner on Customer Experience Initiative

Horsham, PA, March 20, 2007 --( First Niagara Financial Group (NASDAQ: FNFG), a leading financial services company in New York State, has partnered with LRA Worldwide, Inc. on a “customer experience” initiative designed to maintain and enhance First Niagara’s stellar reputation for service within its target markets. The program is focused on helping First Niagara further define its internal branding message around service and create the infrastructure to “operationalize and internalize” that message across 119 branches, 1,800 employees and 24 counties.

In its 135-year existence, the First Niagara brand has traditionally represented a high-level of personalized customer service. As with many financial services companies that have spread geographically and grown via acquisition, the challenge for First Niagara leadership has been to ensure that the service culture inherent in the brand’s legacy has remained relevant and meaningful across the various touch points and channels at which First Niagara services its customers today. First Niagara’s work with LRA is designed to refocus the internal branding messaging and ensure that it is actionable and meaningful to associates and customers at the front lines of service.

“We realize that one of the primary reasons our customers do business with us is because of the quality of their relationship with the bank,” explained Doris Milewski, First Niagara’s Vice President, Customer Relations. “We never want to lose sight of this as we continue to grow, so we are working with LRA to ensure that our service culture remains tangible and meaningful to our associates and results in an optimal service experience for our customers throughout New York State.”

LRA, a leader in the rapidly-growing consulting discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM), has worked with a variety of companies and brands on culture-building projects of this nature. By employing an integrated mix of strategy consulting, workshop facilitation, standards writing, organizational development and alignment activities, training and internal communications planning, LRA has assisted clients in industries as diverse as Hospitality (W Hotels), Food Service (Delaware North Companies), Gaming (Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos), Sports (National Basketball Association), Entertainment (Live Nation), Healthcare (Quest Diagnostics) and Homebuilding (WCI Communities) design and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

“We’re finding tremendous interest in CEM in industries where product and price are easily duplicated, but ‘customer experience’ and ‘service’ can be a significant differentiator in the eyes of the customer,” said Rob Rush, CEO of LRA Worldwide. “The financial services industry certainly fits that profile. To First Niagara’s credit, they recognized their history of ‘customer experience’ is a competitive advantage and are taking the necessary measures to ensure that this foundational service culture and internal brand evolves with the company and remains a vital asset.”

About First Niagara Financial Group:
First Niagara Financial Group, Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiary First Niagara Bank, has assets of $7.9 billion and deposits of $5.7 billion. First Niagara Bank is a full-service, community-oriented bank that provides financial services to individuals, families and businesses through 119 branches and several financial services subsidiaries across New York State.

About LRA Worldwide, Inc.:
LRA Worldwide, Inc. is a leading consulting, organizational development and research company that specializes in Customer Experience Management (CEM). LRA helps companies and brands design and deliver the optimal customer experience across all key touch points using an integrated suite of services that measure and improve service quality, customer satisfaction, employee performance, loyalty, customer advocacy and profitability. LRA specializes in “operationalizing the brand” – turning brand promise and customer strategy into operational reality. LRA’s CEM practice areas include Customer Experience Strategy Design, Standards Development & Content Management, Organizational Development & Training, Research and Quality Assurance & Mystery Shopping; these are either deployed together in a strategic manner to continually monitor and improve the customer experience or deployed individually to address a specific tactical client need.

LRA’s clients include some of the world’s leading companies and brands, including Starwood Hotels & Resorts, IBM, the PGA TOUR, Albertsons Supermarkets, the NBA and Toll Brothers. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at

LRA Worldwide, Inc.
Zach Conen