Talmer Bank and Trust Turns Inward for Growth

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After acquiring the troubled assets of 11 failing or bankrupt banks, Talmer Bank and Trust is more focused today on organic or internal growth than growing by acquiring other banks, its senior management says.

Talmer’s goal is to reach the $9.9 billion in assets from the $6.5 billion “in short order,” the chairman of Talmer Bancorp Inc., Gary Torgow, told The Business Journal Tuesday. The goal is in accordance with the business plan it has arrived at with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The chairman and CEO of the bank, David T. Provost, its president and chief operating officer, Thomas C. Shafer, and Torgow, and were at the DeYor Center Tuesday night to meet with customers and friends of the bank along with officeholders and business leaders.

The lobby of Powers Auditorium was filled.

“We have become a strong community bank,” Torgow said, noting it has grown from $70 million in assets when Wilbur Ross became the lead investor to $6.5 billion today. Its footprint is in four states, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

“We want to be a big bank but act like a small bank,” Torgow said, in meeting the needs of middle-market companies, small businesses, consumers and those seeking mortgages. Talmer is looking “at mortgage opportunities,” that is, to become a bigger player in residential mortgage banking, both originating mortgages and extending home-equity loans.

Talmer acquired the assets in February 2014 of the former First Place Bank, which had expanded from the Mahoning Valley across northern Ohio and into southeastern Michigan before it imploded during the Great Recession. Mark Wenick is president of the Mahoning Valley region of Talmer Bank, overseeing 16 offices, eight in Mahoning County, another eight in Trumbull County.

A strength that should allow Talmer to increase market share in its footprint, Provost said, is its ability to meet challenges and solve problems. “We love fixing problems,” he said, “especially other people’s problems.”

Whether it’s a small-business owner or a consumer, Talmer sets itself apart, Provost explained, because Talmer staff strives to come up with solutions. “You don’t just answer their questions,” he said. “You solve their problem. A lot of times they’re asking the wrong question.”

Small-business owners are frustrated by “the complexity of applying for a loan,” he said. Often this entails setting up a budget so the owners can repay the loan without feeling undue stress.

“Consumers want simplicity,” Provost said. “But with all the regulations, we have to give you a hundred pages of disclosure. Nobody wants to read a hundred pages of disclosure. They want one page.”

Consumers have noticed that banks are explicitly devoting more time and energy to wealth management and private banking. Wealth management, Provost pointed out, is not just Talmer bankers catering to the very wealthy but working with customers to increase their estates.

“We go from the high end to the person wants to invest $5,000,” he said.

Small-business owners remain concerned about the availability of credit as well, Wenick said. And consumers “want to know their money is safe, that and their identities and communication [online banking, smartphones] are secure.”

A challenge to Talmer and the banking industry, all agreed, is the ability to manage one’s finances without visiting an office.

“We want to bring customers to us,” Torgow said. Talmer will, of course, use and offer technology. “We are very customer-focused,” he stated. “Our job is to help everybody with their banking needs,” whether that’s in an office or elsewhere.

Having experienced employees who are involved in their communities in one aspect, he continued.

Wenick noted that 14 of the 16 managers of the offices in the Mahoning Valley have hold those positions five or more years. And, Talmer Bank employees remain very much involved in their communities in the Mahoning Valley.

“Thirty-four of us will be in Warren [the first week in November] for JA in a Day, Junior Achievement in a day,” he said. They will teach “financial literacy in the middle schools,” Wenick said. “I’m pretty excited about it.”

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Pictured: Gary Torgow, chairman of Talmer Bank’s board of directors, Mark Wenick, president of Talmer’s Mahoning Valley region, and David T. Provost, Talmer CEO. The executives greeted clients Tuesday during an event downtown.

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