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First Financial nabbing new hub, closing 3 branches

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Cincinnati-based First Financial Bank is shuffling its operations in the Indianapolis area, including moving its regional hub to a new downtown location, opening a high-profile branch in the same building, and closing three branches on the city’s outskirts.

First has agreed to a 10-year lease on about 18,000 square feet of space on the 14th floor of the 300 N. Meridian office tower, to be occupied by executive, administrative and sales operations, said Indiana Banking President Kevin Langford.  First also will open a 1,500-square-foot branch in the building with prominent street-level and blade signage.

First’s presence in 300 N. Meridian will take the place of its current hub and branch at 433 N. Capitol Ave., where it leased about 9,000 square feet of office space and operated a smaller branch.

“This allows us to expand and also take advantage of some branding on the building,” Langford said Monday. Employees will make the move in late summer, about the same time the new branch opens.

On Sept. 29, First plans to close its branches at 5640 E. 71st St., 5004 W. 71st St. and 6925 S. Emerson Ave. Clients for those branches received notice in June that the centers would close and that services would be transferred to nearby locations.

“These were our least busy branches or those that had lesser deposits,” Langford said.

The three closures would leave First with 12 branches in the Indianapolis area. About 15 employees work at the three branches, Langford said. Although some could be laid off, the bank hopes to place most of them at other locations in the area, he said.

Early this spring, First Financial ranked as the 14th-largest bank in the Indianapolis area, in terms of local workers. It reported 116 full-time employees in response to an IBJ questionnaire.

First entered the Indianapolis market in 2008. In 2011, it acquired Flagstar Bank’s 22 Indiana locations, 18 of which were in the Indianapolis area.

Branch closures now are common for most banks, as many customers switch to mobile and online banking.

First Financial plans to experiment with automated banking by redesigning its current branch at 1 N. Pennsylvania St. as an “electronic services center.” With fewer, if any, live associates at the branch, the bank would be able to stay open longer hours.

“We’re essentially exploring changing consumer behavior,” Langford said. “We’re looking to make the experience very quick.”

First also plans to move its current branch in Avon to a nearby location at 9554 E. U.S. 36, allowing it to put into use a prototype that focuses on a full complement of services, as well as an energy-efficient design.

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  1. PJ - Mall operators like Simon, and most developers/ land owners, establish individual legal entities for each property to avoid having a problem location sink the ship, or simply structure the note to exclude anything but the property acting as collateral. Usually both. The big banks that lend are big boys that know the risks and aren't mad at Simon for forking over the deed and walking away.

  2. Do any of the East side residence think that Macy, JC Penny's and the other national tenants would have letft the mall if they were making money?? I have read several post about how Simon neglected the property but it sounds like the Eastsiders stopped shopping at the mall even when it was full with all of the national retailers that you want to come back to the mall. I used to work at the Dick's at Washington Square and I know for a fact it's the worst performing Dick's in the Indianapolis market. You better start shopping there before it closes also.

  3. How can any company that has the cash and other assets be allowed to simply foreclose and not pay the debt? Simon, pay the debt and sell the property yourself. Don't just stiff the bank with the loan and require them to find a buyer.

  4. If you only knew....

  5. The proposal is structured in such a way that a private company (who has competitors in the marketplace) has struck a deal to get "financing" through utility ratepayers via IPL. Competitors to BlueIndy are at disadvantage now. The story isn't "how green can we be" but how creative "financing" through captive ratepayers benefits a company whose proposal should sink or float in the competitive marketplace without customer funding. If it was a great idea there would be financing available. IBJ needs to be doing a story on the utility ratemaking piece of this (which is pretty complicated) but instead it suggests that folks are whining about paying for being green.

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