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First Financial changes local leadership as it expands

February 21, 2014

The bank known for its oddball, pale-yellow signage is reshuffling management locally as it continues a statewide expansion.

Cincinnati-based First Financial Bancorp, which has only been in the metropolitan Indianapolis market since 2008, has tapped former Old National Bank executive Steve Spicer as Indianapolis market president.

steve spicer first financial mug Steve Spicer

Most recently, Spicer was a senior vice president of corporate banking at  Evansville-based Old National. His 30-year career also includes roles at Huntington Bank, Fifth Third Bank and JPMorgan Chase.

Spicer succeeds Mary Jo Kennelly, who moved to a senior vice president role at First Financial.

Meanwhile, Kevin Langford, who is president of Indiana operations and of the bank’s consumer division in three states, has moved to Carmel from Cincinnati.

Langford said he wants to have tighter connections with the bank’s growing footprint in the state. Last month, First Financial announced it is entering the Fort Wayne market, with an eye on commercial lending and residential mortgages.

The bank also has offices in northwestern Indiana, including Lake County. Its 2009 purchase of branches from the failed Irwin Union Bank gave it a presence in the Columbus area as well as in Franklin, Carmel and Avon.

First Financial’s most substantial retail move into the metro area came in 2011, when it bought 22 branches of Michigan-based Flagstar Bank.

Given how crowded the Indianapolis banking market has become, “the smart move is to get somebody who will sell you their locations,” said Steve Schenck, who formerly ran Regions Bank’s local operations and is now a principal at The Schenck Group at Merrill Lynch..

First Financial has more than 110 employees in the metro area and has regional offices at 433 N. Capitol Ave.

Langford declined to elaborate on additional growth plans this year.  “We’d like to see significant growth and become one of the largest players in Indianapolis," he said.

The bank ranked 14th-biggest locally in IBJ’s most recent Book of Lists.

First Financial Bancorp has about $6.5 billion in assets, or roughly the size of Indiana National Bank when it was acquired in the early 1990s by NBD.

By comparison, First Financial’s fellow Cincinnati-based competitor, Fifth Third, has assets of $103 billion.

The ever-more-crowded metro bank market hasn’t deterred outsiders from trying to get a piece of the pie—even smaller players.

For example, Warsaw-based Lake City Bank recently built a retail branch in Fishers, after having set up an office in Carmel a few years earlier.  It’s closing in on $80 million in deposits locally.

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