MainSource buys First Financial

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The face of Switzerland County banking has changed in the past 120 days, with the opening of Friendship State Bank on Main Street and the closing of People’s Community Bank in the lobby of the Vevay SuperValu.

In the next 120 days, county banking will undergo what could be its biggest shift, as it has been announced that MainSource Bank of Indiana has reached an agreement to purchase five bank offices from First Financial Bancorp.

Three of those five offices involved in the sale are here in Switzerland County: the main office, which is located in the heart of Vevay at the corner of Main and Ferry streets; the Motor Bank, which is located on Main Street on the west end of town; and the East Enterprise branch.

Also involved in the sale are First Financial’s banks in Madison and Liberty, Indiana, which is in Union County.

Both banking companies released statements through their websites on Tuesday.

Daryl Tressler, chairman and chief executive officer of MainSource Bank of Indiana, which is headquartered in Greensburg, said that MainSource is excited by the prospect of acquiring the additional properties.

“It will have to go through the regulatory approval process,” Daryl Tressler said by phone. “We anticipate the actual closing of the deal to be by the end of the third quarter — by September 30th.”

Daryl Tressler said that everything is now in the hands of federal regulators, and if that process goes more quickly than anticipated, the sale may be completed earlier.

So what will MainSource Bank in Switzerland County look like once the sale is complete?

“We’ll take the next 30 days or so to sort out what it will look like,” Daryl Tressler said. “We haven’t given any thought yet to configuration. It’s too early to put a face on that.”

Speculation raced around the county once the announcement was made about which — or if — one of the two main bank buildings will be closed after the sale is complete. It seems unlikely that both the building where MainSource is now at the corner of Ferry and Pike streets; and the First Financial building in the middle of town, will both remain open.

One thing that Daryl Tressler and Vevay MainSource manager Bobbi King-Marksberry are very sure of is that the East Enterprise office will remain open once the sale is complete.

“We are committed to keeping East Enterprise open,” Daryl Tressler said.

Daryl Tressler also said that personnel matters will be worked out though the normal process as the regulatory procedures move along.

Daryl Tressler said that First Financial Bancorp had hired an outside firm to represent them and market the branches that were targeted for sale. That firm contacted MainSource, and the deal became a reality.

MainSource Bank of Indiana is part of the MainSource Financial Group, and MainSource Bank has now expanded into 23 counties in Indiana. The office in Liberty will be the first in Union County for MainSource.

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Frank Hall, the chief financial officer for First Financial Bancorp, confirmed Tuesday that First Financial and MainSource had entered into an agreement to purchase. Although it came as a shock to the local community. Frank Hall said that everything has come as a result of a strategic plan that the bank began more than a year ago.

“It’s something that we announced as part of our strategic plan in March of 2005,” Frank Hall said by phone this week. “It is part of what we termed our ‘Branch Rationalization Plan’. Through that, we looked at all 105 offices of First Financial.”

Frank Hall said that all 105 offices within the bank were evaluated using two criteria: each bank’s strategic fit from a geographic standpoint; and each bank’s financial performance.

“At the time we implemented the Bank Rationalization Plan, specific branches weren’t identified,” Frank Hall said. “We were thorough in the process. We just announced the process that we would go through in order to review our offices.”

First Financial Bancorp is headquartered in Hamilton, Ohio, and currently serves customers in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan.

One thing that Frank Hall reiterated is that as the sales process moves forward, both First Financial and MainSource are committed to the customers that each serves.

“Both of us are committed to make sure that the customer receives the highest level of service,” Frank Hall said. “We are ever mindful of the customer throughout this process.”