By Greg Paeth
You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to find a bank in the Northern Kentucky-Cincinnati metropolitan market, where 62 financial institutions have some 700 offices with nearly $139 billion on deposit in a region that includes seven counties in Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati and its Ohio suburbs, and a slender slice of southeast Indiana.
The abundance of financial services in the state’s largest metropolitan area dovetails perfectly with a region that has an economy that’s among the fastest-growing in the Midwest, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The bureau said metropolitan Cincinnati’s 2.4 percent growth rate was fourth-best in a five-state region based on data that was scrutinized for 2017.
As might be expected in a region where financial services competition is fierce, some players in the region are huge.
JPMorgan Chase has 34 of its nearly 5,000 offices in the metro area and reports worldwide assets of $2.8 trillion, a figure that includes roughly $2.5 billion in Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, where Chase ranks sixth in deposits and has slightly less than a two percent share of the market, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
As a whole, two banks with long histories in Cincinnati – U.S. Bank (52.5 percent) and Fifth Third (26.5 percent) – rank first and second for market share in a region that is home to nearly 2.2 million people and ranks 29th in the country by population.
But the major multi-state players that rank one through nine in the FDIC data may be paying far more attention to 10th-place Heritage Bank in 2020.
Heritage, which is headquartered in Erlanger and emphasizes its locally owned and carefully nurtured “community bank” image, made two major announcements late last year that signal it isn’t satisfied with 10th place.
In October, Heritage announced that Rob Braun, the well-known former news anchor for the CBS-TV affiliate in Cincinnati, had signed on as the bank’s corporate spokesman. Less than a month later, Heritage said it had purchased the naming rights for what had been U.S. Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati, a 17,000-seat sports and concert venue that overlooks the Ohio River.
The arena was rechristened the Heritage Bank Center.
“With Rob and the arena, there’s a pretty good tie in and we’re not that well known on the Cincinnati side of the (Ohio) river,” said interim president Lee Scheben. “We think this will put us in a position to grow our market as one of the last independent banks in the region.”
Scheben said Heritage recorded substantial growth in 2015 after the locally owned Bank of Kentucky was acquired by BB&T, which has its headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C. (Just four years later, BB&T and Sun Trust Banks of Atlanta have merged and operate as Truist Financial, the sixth-largest bank in the U.S.)
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Heritage, with two offices north of the river and 17 offices in Northern Kentucky, emphasizes its “community bank” status.
“We’re not going after the $20 million, $30 million and $40 million deals. We’ve got a nice niche in the market,” Scheben said. “We’re not changing what we do just because we put up a banner on a big building.”
“It’s just the start of our push to increase our profile throughout our home region,” added Allison Dubbs, senior vice president for marketing.
WesBanco, which ranks 15th by market share, also has made it clear that it is a serious competitor in the region and elsewhere in the state.
WesBanco, which waded into Cincinnati in 2005 with the acquisition of Cincinnati’s Winton Savings and Loan, has more than a dozen offices in the region after the purchase and rebranding early in 2019 of Frankfort-based United Bank and Capital Trust, which had acquired Citizens Bank of Northern Kentucky just two years earlier.
The West Virginia-based bank’s expansion in the metropolitan area mirrors its growth elsewhere in Kentucky, where it first began to do business in September of 2016, according to Louis A. Fender, senior vice president and market manager for southwest Ohio.
“We closed the Farmers Capital/United Bank agreement and during the span of two years we went from having no presence in the state to being top ten in deposit market share,” Fender said.
Fender and Mark Tranbarger, city president for Northern Kentucky, both said an expanding economy, a wealth of new jobs and what is expected to be population growth to fill those jobs create more demand for consumer and commercial financial services.
Market-leading U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest bank in the country, also pays plenty of attention to technology as more and more of its customers make it clear that avoiding bank teller lines is a high priority.
“We have to stay a step ahead on the digital side because we want our customers to bank when, where and how they want to bank,” said John Fickle, consumer and business banking market leader for Cincinnati.
That technology includes a small business loan portal that can greenlight a loan inside of a few hours and other online tools that greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to get decisions on home equity or mortgage loans, Fickle said.
In February, U.S. Bank, based in Minneapolis but founded in Cincinnati in 1863, will open what Fickle describes as “the bank of the future” at 406 Buttermilk Pike in Fort Mitchell, an upscale suburb just south of Covington. There will be no teller line in the new office, and what he calls “universal bank employees” will be “more consultative” and work at desks and “stations” where there’s no barrier between employees and customers.
Civista Bank, headquartered in Sandusky, Ohio, operates 38 locations throughout Northern, Central and Southwestern Ohio, along with locations in two Indiana counties. The $2.1 billion organization moved into Kentucky in 2018, when Civista acquired United Community Bancorp, which had a loan production office in Fort Mitchell.
Civista celebrated its 135th anniversary in early 2019. When it opened its doors in 1884, the financial institution had four employees. It now has more than 400.
“Over the past 135 years, Civista has continued to grow and transform itself into a premier financial services company while maintaining its commitment to relationship-banking and making a difference in all the communities we serve,” said Dennis G. Shaffer, CEO and president.
Digital transformation is a critical and ongoing initiative in the banking industry, said Mark Sams, Civista’s market executive for the Greater Cincinnati region.
“Civista Bank is continually evolving to meet the needs of our communities and improving the financial lives of our customers,” he said.
Central Bank market president Jim Uebel said the last five years in Northern Kentucky have been “phenomenal and we’ve grown the balance sheet many times over.” The Lexington-based bank entered the market in 2005 and opened its fourth office in the region in explosively growing Union in Boone County early in 2019.
He said the bank is searching for the right location in Campbell County now that it has a firm toehold in Kenton and Boone counties.
There’s no big mystery about financial services growth in the region, Uebel said.
“With the growth of Amazon and DHL and other companies … there are opportunities because there’s a need for multi-family and single-family homes, commercial office space and more industrial space. I think things are just starting as we try to find enough homes (for people filling newly created jobs),” he said.
Tom Saelinger sounded equally optimistic about how job growth will fuel the expansion of Republic Bank, the Louisville-based institution that debuted in Northern Kentucky in 2006.
Republic has three offices south of the river and a fourth in Cincinnati that opened in 2016. It opened a second Ohio location in the Cincinnati suburb of West Chester in early 2020.
“Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky are a key market for the bank and we’re continuing to invest in the region with brick and mortar as well as talented bankers. There are a lot of good-paying jobs and people are moving into the area for new opportunities with companies like Amazon and DHL. There are also additional jobs with supporting companies,” Saelinger said. “There’s just a natural growth and economic expansion with a lot of momentum right now on both sides of the river.”
The financial services sector in Northern Kentucky is flush with banks, credit unions, advisors and investment specialists to ensure the earning, flow and investment of dollars is done wisely.
1818 Florence Pike
Burlington, KY 41005
Heritage Bank was founded to ensure the people of this region have access to a bank fully committed to the communities where they are building their lives and livelihoods. In an age of rampant consolidation, acquisition and automation, Heritage Bank wanted a better bank for their family and friends, so they built it.
300 Buttermilk Pike
Fort Mitchell, KY 41017
Civista Bank offers a uniquely local commitment to relationship banking combined with over 135 years of experience and strength. A commitment built on knowing you personally, making local decisions, and delivering the services to meet your daily and future financial needs with ease. The Civista team of personal, business, mortgage, wealth management and private banking professionals provides trusted financial solutions tailored to each client. With over $2.2 billion in assets and 38 offices across Ohio, Southeastern Indiana and Northern Kentucky, Civista is distinctively sized to serve a broad range of small business commercial clients and their employees and families.
Central Bank & Trust Co.
7310 Turfway Road, Suite 200
Florence, KY 41042
With more than 73 years of service to Kentuckians, Central Bank is one of Kentucky’s leading community banks. It provides banking, investment, insurance, mortgage and wealth management services for both personal and business needs. Central Bank is honored to be one of Kentucky’s Best Places to Work and the Official Bank of UK Athletics. Visit one of its convenient locations in Florence, Fort Mitchell, Crestview Hills or Union.
Here are some of the financial advisors and banking institutions in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati region:
Allied Financial Solutions
Altus Wealth Management, LLC
Baird Private Wealth Management
Fort Mitchell, Cincinnati
Bannockburn Global Forex, LLC
Bartlett Wealth Management
Bottom Line Services
The Catalytic Development Funding Corp.
Citizens Deposit Bank
Citizens Federal Savings & Loan Association
Commonwealth Bank & Trust Co.
Cove Federal Credit Union
Eagle Financial Services Inc.
Envoy Mortgage Ltd.
FFR Wealth Team
Fifth Third Bank
First Financial Bank
Focus On Success
Fourth Street Performance Partners, Inc.
FTJ Fund Choice LLC
Guardian Savings Bank
Huntington National Bank
Kemba Financial Credit Union
Kentucky Federal, A Division of Cincinnati Federal
Kentucky Land Title Agency Inc.
L & N Federal Credit Union
Erlanger, Fort Mitchell, Fort Wright
Legacy Financial Advisors
MCM CPA & Advisors
Morris & Bressler PSC
Northern Kentucky Educators’ Federal Credit Union
Odyssey Financial Advisors – Ameriprise Financial Services Inc.
OMEGA Processing Solutions LLC
Option Financial LLC
Polaris Home Funding Corp.
Principled Wealth Advisors LLC
Prosperity Financial Group
Renaissance Investment Management
Rippe Financial Group
Stock Yards Bank & Trust Company
Stockton Mortgage Corp.
Union Home Mortgage Corp.
Victory Community Bank
Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC
Wurz Financial Services
Information provided by Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Not a comprehensive list.