The Bank Slate


First Financial in Ohio sells securities, cuts jobs in noisy first quarter

First Financial Bancorp in Cincinnati had a noisy quarter that included an acquisition, layoffs, a restructured securities portfolio, and an increase in classified assets.

The $17.6 billion-asset company said in a press release that first-quarter profit fell by 28% from a year earlier, to $50.7 million.

First Financial bought Agile Premium Finance, which lends primarily to commercial customers to finance insurance premiums. The company had $93.4 million of loans when the deal closed on Feb. 29 which increased to $119 million at March 31. The price wasn’t disclosed.

“Agile operates an impressive business model, which originates high-quality, short-duration loans at attractive yields,” Archie Brown, the company’s president and CEO, said in the release. “We believe Agile will further diversify the loan portfolio.”

The company also sold $228.8 million of securities at a $5.2 million loss. It should take about a year to earn back the loss. First Financial also plans to restructure about $150 million of bank owned life insurance, which should lead to a 200-basis-point increase in yield over the second half of this year.

First Financial also eliminated 43 positions; the full savings should be realized by the end of this year.

“We will continue to evaluate additional expense reductions throughout 2024,” Brown said.

The loan-loss provision rose by 55% from a year earlier, to $13.4 million.

First Financial said its classified assets increased by 15% from the end of last year, to $162.3 million, because of two loans downgraded during the quarter.

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