Banking & Finance

UCFC CEO Outlines Growth Strategy at Annual Meeting

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The president and CEO of United Community Financial Corp., Gary M. Small, outlined a growth strategy for 2017 at its annual meeting Thursday in the DeYor Center.

UCFC is the holding company of Home Savings Bank and James & Sons Insurance.

In reviewing 2016, Small highlighted strong loan growth and a move into wealth management after completing the acquisition and integration of Premier Bank and Trust, which he called “the most important thing we’ve done in the first quarter.”

Lending will continue to Home Savings’ main priority for 2017, Small said, along with increasing deposits, which he said is becoming even more important than in previous years.

Expectations are also high for fee income expansion with the new wealth management capabilities, Small added.

Noting that Home Savings is “returning to its roots” by building a wealth management division, Small said, “By the end of the next quarter, you will all be more aware of our success on that front.”

In response to a shareholder’s question about increasing the dividend, Small explained he is limited about what he can say but noted the UCFC board has aimed to return 30% of the company’s profits in the form of cash dividends.

In regards to the political climate in Washington, he noted that macro-economic expectations in the wake of the election have “cooled a bit” but that the industry is “still benefiting from the post-election bump,” Small said.

“There’s a possibility of some relief from Washington that may benefit us down the road,” he said, holding out the possibility that regulatory reform might aid growth in the banking sector.

Board Chairman Richard J. Schiraldi, Small and Ellen J. Tressel were re-elected to three-year terms directors. All received 96% of the votes cast.

Shareholders also cast advisory votes for UCFC’s executive compensation program and to ratify the selection of Crowe Horwath LLP as independent auditor for 2017.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.