February 29, 2024

First Financial Bank enters $2.4 billion community benefits agreement

First Financial Bank (Nasdaq: FFBC) has entered into a new $2.4 billion, five-year Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and related partner organizations, establishing goals for lending and investments to low- and moderate-income (LMI) clients and census tracts.

The new agreement follows the successful conclusion of First Financial’s previous CBA, during which it achieved 192 percent of its $1.75 billion goal in lending and investments for 2018-2023.

“Our new Community Benefits Agreement is a bold statement about how First Financial intends to continue its mission to improve lives and help communities thrive,” said Archie Brown, president and CEO of First Financial. “These are neighborhoods where we live and work, and we are taking a leading role in helping our neighbors achieve goals and improve their financial wellbeing.”

“First Financial exceeded the goals we set together in our previous CBA and agreed to continue this strategic collaboration by negotiating new commitments to low- and moderate-income communities,” said NCRC President and CEO Jesse Van Tol. “These new commitments will directly improve the material conditions of under-resourced neighborhoods within the bank’s footprint. Every bank should take notice and embrace the same collaborative approach that First Financial continues to take on these issues.”

First Financial’s goals under the new CBA include:

  • $700 million in mortgage lending through the use of products providing greater access to LMI communities and borrowers, an intentional effort in rural communities, a commitment to community development mortgage loan officers and providing small-dollar mortgages and home improvement loans,
  • $600 million in small business lending through support of small business development corporations and business incubators, and through the issuance of microloans,
  • $1.075 billion in community development lending and investments in affordable housing, community services, revitalization and stabilization, and projects that create permanent jobs, which benefit LMI areas,
  • $18 million in philanthropy, targeting donations to organizations that create and preserve affordable housing and workforce development, plus those that provide housing counseling and promote financial and economic inclusion,
  • $9 million in branch distribution and access, with three new financial centers located in LMI communities,
  • Commitment to a minimum source-able vendor spend of 25 percent with minority-owned business enterprises (MBE), women-owned business enterprises (WBE), disability-owned business enterprises (DBE) and veteran owned businesses by 2028,
  • $1.2 million in marketing and communications to benefit clients and communities in LMI and majority-minority census tracts (MMCT).

“We have much to accomplish under this new agreement and already have a head start working in many of these areas,” said Roddell McCullough, chief corporate responsibility officer for First Financial. “Our previous CBA was an incredible success, touching thousands of lives for the better. I am excited at the prospect of helping many more individuals, families and businesses in the next five years.”

First Financial’s commitment to its communities over recent years was further validated when it achieved a rating of Outstanding from the Federal Reserve Board in 2021 for its performance under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). This rating, the highest available, came after a broad evaluation of First Financial’s lending, investment and service levels from 2017-2020. The review specifically looked at First Financial’s work that benefitted customers who met income guidelines or resided in LMI census tracts.

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