CINCINNATI, June 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- First Financial Bank (Nasdaq: FFBC) has earned the highest overall rating of Outstanding from the Federal Reserve Board for its performance under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to meet the credit needs of the people and businesses in its communities. The top rating comes after a broad evaluation of First Financial's lending, investment and service levels from 2017-2020, specifically benefitting customers that meet income guidelines or reside in low- and moderate-income (LMI) census tracts.
"We are extremely proud to have earned this Outstanding rating for our CRA performance," said Archie Brown, president and CEO of First Financial Bank. "And we are just as proud of the work and volunteer efforts of our associates who make a positive difference every day in the communities we serve. It's very rewarding for those efforts to be recognized with such a high level of commendation."
The Outstanding rating is achieved by only a small number of banks. The Federal Reserve's evaluation cited multiple factors supporting the top rating for First Financial, including:
- The bank's excellent record of serving the credit needs of low-income individuals and areas and very small businesses;
- Acting often in a leadership position in providing an excellent level of qualified community development investments and donations;
- Retail delivery systems that are accessible to geographies and individuals of different income levels and businesses of different revenue sizes.
"Receiving an Outstanding rating from the Federal Reserve Board is deeply gratifying and is made possible by the hard work and dedication of our team members who serve low- and moderate-income communities throughout our footprint," said Roddell McCullough, director of Community Development for First Financial Bank. "This recognition validates the positive impact of our ALIVE strategy, which was established to provide Access, Lending, Investment, Volunteerism, and Education opportunities for all clients, but particularly those that need our services the most. I'm fortunate to be a part of First Financial Bank's commitment to being woven into the communities we serve and leveraging our resources for the good of our clients, communities, and associates."
First Financial is well ahead of schedule in reaching and surpassing the $1.7 billion goal in its Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for 2018-2022, having already achieved a loan, investment and marketing total of $1.85 billion, including $11.9 million in donations. The CBA focuses on increasing access to banking services in the region, driving product innovation and inclusion efforts, increasing lending with low- and moderate-income borrowers and communities, and increasing community engagement and investment. For example, First Financial funded over $1 billion to more than 8,000 businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program. During the difficult period of 2020, First Financial contributed over $3.5 million to support its clients and communities. This year, First Financial established a Minority Small Business Fund to distribute $250,000 to minority small businesses so they could continue to employ staff and pay bills.
First Financial has taken a multifaceted approach toward its service delivery to LMI communities. Close to 30 percent of its banking centers were located in LMI communities during the period of this review, and three more centers opened in the fall of 2020, following the examination period. First Financial has also placed more than half of its interactive teller machines (ITMs) in LMI neighborhoods, providing increased accessibility for clients and communities.
The evaluation further noted community development services that have been provided. First Financial has emphasized the delivery of financial education programs to help individuals achieve financial stability and reach personal financial goals, including a new financial literacy collaboration with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. First Financial associates also spent more than 8,900 hours last year volunteering in their communities.
About First Financial Bancorp.
First Financial Bancorp. is a Cincinnati, Ohio based bank holding company. As of March 31, 2021, the Company had $16.2 billion in assets, $9.9 billion in loans, $12.6 billion in deposits and $2.3 billion in shareholders' equity. The Company's subsidiary, First Financial Bank, founded in 1863, provides banking and financial services products through its six lines of business: Commercial, Retail Banking, Investment Commercial Real Estate, Mortgage Banking, Commercial Finance and Wealth Management. These business units provide traditional banking services to business and retail clients. Wealth Management provides wealth planning, portfolio management, trust and estate, brokerage and retirement plan services and had approximately $3.1 billion in assets under management as of March 31, 2021. The Company operated 143 full service banking centers as of March 31, 2021, primarily in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, while the Commercial Finance business lends into targeted industry verticals on a nationwide basis. Additional information about the Company, including its products, services and banking locations, is available at www.bankatfirst.com.
SOURCE First Financial Bancorp.