First Financial Bancorp.

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First Financial Bancorp to Enter the Fort Wayne, IN Market with the Hiring of Commercial and Residential Mortgage Lending Teams

CINCINNATI, Jan. 6, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- First Financial Bancorp (Nasdaq: FFBC) (the "Company"), the parent company of First Financial Bank (collectively with the Company, "First Financial") announced today that it has entered the Fort Wayne, Indiana market with the addition of experienced and well-established commercial and residential mortgage teams serving the greater Fort Wayne area.

A six-person team led by Robert Slusser, Fort Wayne Market President for First Financial, will be launching the Company's commercial lending platform in the market providing C&I, commercial real estate and specialty finance credit products as well as treasury management and deposit products to middle-market and small business clients.  Mr. Slusser has 25 years of banking industry experience, all of which has been in the Fort Wayne market.  The commercial team also includes four relationship managers, all of whom have spent their entire banking careers in Fort Wayne.

The residential mortgage team, consisting of four loan originators and Mortgage Sales Manager, Brock Rauch, will deliver First Financial's full range of mortgage products to homeowners in the Fort Wayne market.  The mortgage team averages over 18 years of experience, primarily in the greater Fort Wayne area.  Additionally, Mr. Rauch will lead First Financial's E-Channel mortgage origination platform.

During 2014, First Financial expects to add its full line of consumer banking products and services for retail customers in the Fort Wayne market.

"We are thrilled to have these two high-performing teams join First Financial," commented Claude Davis, President and Chief Executive Officer.  "As one of the larger markets in Indiana, entering Fort Wayne has been a strategic priority for us and the addition of both commercial and residential mortgage teams with excellent client relationships will provide another catalyst for further loan and revenue growth.  We have long served the borrowing needs of Indiana-based businesses and consumers, and the clients served by both teams line up well with our community bank business model.  Rob's team will benefit from our comprehensive set of commercial credit products and higher lending capacity.  Likewise, Brock's team will be able to provide a greater range of mortgage products to consumers looking to purchase a home, refinance their existing mortgage or construct a new home.  We look forward to establishing the First Financial brand in the Fort Wayne market and building on the strong platform provided by these two teams."

Mr. Slusser commented on the commercial team's move to First Financial, "We are excited to be joining First Financial, one of the largest community banks serving Indiana and an organization with a strong commitment to client service.  We will be able to deliver a wider range of financing alternatives to Fort Wayne area businesses combined with local decision making capabilities and a high level of personalized service."

Mr. Rauch added, "Partnering with First Financial is a great opportunity and strong cultural fit for our mortgage team.  First Financial's expanded set of residential mortgage products and enhanced resources will allow us to provide a greater number of mortgage solutions to existing and prospective homeowners in the greater Fort Wayne area."

Both the commercial and residential mortgage teams will be located at 130 West Main Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802, near downtown Fort Wayne.

About First Financial Bancorp
First Financial Bancorp is a Cincinnati, Ohio based bank holding company.  As of September 30, 2013, the Company had $6.3 billion in assets, $3.9 billion in loans, $4.7 billion in deposits and $692 million in shareholders' equity.  The Company's subsidiary, First Financial Bank, N.A., founded in 1863, provides banking and financial services products through its four lines of business: commercial, consumer, wealth management and mortgage.  The commercial, consumer and mortgage units provide traditional banking services to business and retail clients.  First Financial Wealth Management provides wealth planning, portfolio management, trust and estate, brokerage and retirement plan services and had approximately $2.6 billion in assets under management as of September 30, 2013.  The Company's strategic operating markets are located in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky where it operates 110 banking centers.  Additional information about the Company, including its products, services and banking locations is available at www.bankatfirst.com.

Forward-Looking Statement
Certain statements contained in this release which are not statements of historical fact constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act.  Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, projections of revenues, income or loss, earnings or loss per share, the payment or non-payment of dividends, capital structure and other financial items, statements of plans and objectives of First Financial or its management or board of directors and statements of future economic performances and statements of assumptions underlying such statements.  Words such as ''believes,'' ''anticipates,'' "likely," "expected," ''intends,'' and other similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements but are not the exclusive means of identifying such statements.  Management's analysis contains forward-looking statements that are provided to assist in the understanding of anticipated future financial performance.  However, such performance involves risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially.  These factors include, but are not limited to: economic, market, liquidity, credit, interest rate, operational and technological risks associated with the Company's business; the effect of and changes in policies and laws or regulatory agencies (notably the recently enacted Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act); management's ability to effectively execute its business plan; mergers and acquisitions, including costs or difficulties related to the integration of acquired companies, including the recently announced proposed acquisitions of The First Bexley Bank and Insight Bank; the Company's ability to comply with the terms of loss sharing agreements with the FDIC; the effect of changes in accounting policies and practices; and the costs and effects of litigation and of unexpected or adverse outcomes in such litigation.  Please refer to the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012, as well as its other filings with the SEC, for a more detailed discussion of these risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ from those discussed in the forward-looking statements.  Such forward-looking statements are meaningful only on the date when such statements are made, and the Company undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which such a statement is made to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.


SOURCE First Financial Bancorp

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