On Dec. 16, 2017, Robert Wilmers, the chairman and CEO of M&T Bank (NYSE: MTB), died suddenly at his home in New York City.
He was 83 years old. Over the previous 35 years, he had climbed to the summit of finance, transforming a listless depository institution in Buffalo, New York, into one of the top-performing regional banks in America. Along the way, he created more value for the shareholders of M&T than any other CEO at any other publicly traded bank.
The job of continuing this legacy fell to Rene Jones. The 25-year veteran of M&T, then serving as its chief financial officer, was part of a triumvirate of officers who, following a series of tragedies, had skipped a rung on the corporate ladder. Three years earlier, Jones’ mentor and the bank’s vice chairman of the board, Michael Pinto, died at age 58 after an extended battle with bile duct cancer. And just 10 months before Wilmers passed away, M&T’s president and chief operating officer, Mark Czarnecki, succumbed at age 61 to pancreatic cancer. They had been known around M&T as the heir and the spare.