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First Financial Accelerates Branch Optimization Plans to Meet Customer Preferences

Plus: SmartBank sells Richmond assets to First Bank

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  • Written by  Banking Exchange staff
First Financial Accelerates Branch Optimization Plans to Meet Customer Preferences

First Financial have announced plans to optimize its banking center network as part of plans to improve operating efficiencies and meet customer demand.

Over the next two quarters, the firm plans to close and consolidate nine of its 81 branches. This follows the consolidation of its Terre Haute Maple Avenue and Plaza North Branches into a new facility at Lafayette Avenue and Forst Horrison Road earlier this year.

Norman L. Lowery, First Financial chairman, said: “Our customers are rapidly adopting our online banking platforms which provides us with an opportunity to consolidate these branches into other nearby locations while maintaining the high level of service our customers expect.”

The branch optimization is projected to save First Financial approximately $2.3 million per year in operating expenses, commencing in the first quarter of 2022.

Meanwhile, SmartBank has entered a purchase and assumption agreement with Virginia-based First Bank to sell its Richmond portfolio of loans and assets.

Under the terms of the agreement First Bank will acquire $83m in loans and all fixed assets related to the Bank’s Richmond branch. First Bank will also take over facility lease and SmartBank employees will transition too.

Billy Caroll, SmartBank president and CEO said: “While we recognize the opportunity in the Richmond market area, we felt it necessary to focus on our South-eastern footprint and particularly the new markets we’ve added with our recent lift-outs.

"We have tremendous momentum with our recently announced team hires in Auburn, Dothan, Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama, and want to concentrate our expansion efforts there.”

The sale of the loans and certain assets to First Bank has been completed, while First Bank’s lease and acquisition of the remaining assets is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter.

The branch will continue operating as a SmartBank branch until the branch is closed on December 31, 2021.

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