John Koelmel is one of the few bankers who can be ambivalent about the financial crisis.

First Niagara Financial Group Inc. in Buffalo grew bigger and stronger during the recession. It ended 2007 as a profitable, low-profile thrift with 120 branches in upstate New York. Today, it is a still-profitable commercial bank that will soon have 340 branches in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

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