Two women laughing together
Two women laughing together

why you should be BFFs with your banker

From personalized solutions to consistent reliability, Regional Market Presidents Erica Peace and Tom Barnett explain why relationship-banking is so important

Choosing a bank is never easy. And switching banks is certainly no easier. In fact, 24% of consumers would rather do their taxes and 13% would rather have a colonoscopy than change their banking relationship.1 It’s safe to say when it’s time to choose a bank, you there are a lot of options out there – and the bank you choose really does matter. At First Financial Bank, it’s not just about opening an account – it’s about building a lasting relationship. We know the financial world is confusing, and that’s why we want to help turn explanations into simple terms you can relate to. We give you real knowledge provided by real, friendly humans. In fact, 4 out of 5 clients would recommend us to their friends and family based on the personal one-to-one service they have received. Finding the right match is an important step in securing your financial future, so we sat down with Erica Peace, Retail Regional President of Greater Cincinnati and Tom Barnett, Retail Regional President of Central Indiana to learn more.


Right off the bat, tell us about First Financial Bank as a whole. How would you describe us to others?

Erica: We put clients first, always. We have conversations around our clients and their needs – we’re here to support them, not sell products or services. Our job is to listen and offer solutions based on their individual financial situation. We’re here for the long haul.

Banking is a people game – people pick a bank because of the people, not because of the bank name. Banks are a dime a dozen, so you want to find one that is going to know you as a person. Our clients want to know that we have their back, that when finances get emotional or stressful, we can say “we got you.” And that’s something we do with confidence here.

Tom: We strive to be creative and nimble. We genuinely want to help accomplish our clients’ goals and we do things differently here. Banking is not a one-size-fits-all. We base everything around our clients and provide overall wholistic solutions.

It’s all about leading with relationships. With every transaction, we thank our clients for their business and loyalty – we don’t jump in and push a loan or product. We always lead with “how can we help you?” and always ask “how can we do better?” When we get those answers, we understand what our clients need and make the best recommendation for their situation. At First Financial, it’s always a conversation.

What sets First Financial apart from other banks or credit unions?

Erica: Whatever is the right thing to do, we do it for the clients. Whether that’s working together to get the best rate on a loan to make sure the monthly payment fits into their budget or finding the best rate on a CD to help grow their savings. We empower our employees to offer personalized solutions based on each person's needs. That's the real reason we’re here.

When we hire bankers, we’re hiring top-notch knowledgeable professionals who are engaged and confident. That’s our culture: to have well-informed, helpful bankers who are people-focused and ready to put relationships with our clients at the forefront. We strive to hire the right people who meet our expectations as a bank to be “proudly local.” We promote within our Financial Centers, instead of constantly moving our bankers around to different locations. We know that having a familiar face and consistency in our locations is what our customers want and value. That sets us apart when it comes to building and retaining long-term relationships in our communities.

Tom: When we look at feedback from our clients, we see a high rate of client satisfaction – from clients that have been here for years and years. I think it’s because people understand our bankers are people too – we all understand finances can be stressful. We all experience the highs and lows with our money. This relatability makes us real because we’re here to offer the help we’d like to receive ourselves. Then we top it off with exceptional professionalism, consistent reliability, positive attitudes, and our ability to quickly solve issues.

We empower our teams. We’re committed to investing in our employees so they can be their best selves each day. We have in-depth, ongoing training and development programs to help associates build skills and enhance their knowledge on the benefits we offer for all our banking solutions. And, most importantly, we celebrate and recognize our accomplishments.

Choosing a bank is a big deal. What are your top tips for someone to consider when choosing a bank?

Erica: You should choose a bank based on your connection. Do the employees seem empathetic and knowledgeable? Or are they treating you like a point of sale – just another everyday transaction? You want a bank where the employees know your name, recognize you, and will be there to support you financially if there are ever any hardships. When you’re in a pinch, what bank do you want by your side?

Tom: First Financial is different because we’re a regional bank. We are involved in our communities. We know the names of our clients, we are with them for years, and we know all about their lives and the best way to provide financial support for them.

4 out of 5 clients would recommend First Financial Bank to family and friends

Finally, what are some banking red flags or things to look out for when choosing a bank?

Erica: The right banker will ask you many questions. They want to understand your lifestyle and financial history. When they know how you use and spend your money, then they can provide solutions – which is not always product focused. If they don’t offer any of that, it’s not a great sign.

Tom: You’ll know a bank is probably not a good one if, while waiting in line, you hear the banker say the same thing to each client, trying to push a product. That’s a sign they don’t value their clients as individuals with individual needs. They’re not asking any questions specific to you and they’re definitely not recommending a personalized solution. If you feel rushed, you’re not going to ask all the questions you have.


Choosing a bank is no easy task, and there is a lot to consider. No matter where you end up, look for flexibility, convenience, security, and most importantly, service. Find a bank that values what you value. And if you’re looking for that personal touch you might not have at a larger national bank, we want you to know First Financial has big-bank capabilities, but we’re small enough to maintain the one-to-one personal touch and customization. And if our personal touch isn’t enough to sway you, you also get extra relationship perks, extra benefits, and extra ease. With all of our accounts, we offer accessibility and convenience to your money with 55,000+ free Allpoint ATMs, have online banking tools that make it easy to manage your money, and prioritize safety and security for all of our clients' accounts.

If you’re looking for a personalized approach, get in touch with your local banking center to meet with a financial specialist and build a unique financial strategy. Or if you prefer to connect with a banker online, you can submit a question or get more information by filling out this short form.

About Erica Peace

Erica joined First Financial Bank in 2021 and has more than 20 years of experience in financial services. As a Regional Market President for the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky markets, she is responsible for 39 financial centers and leads a team of 21 to deliver results and client successes across personal and small business banking, lending solutions, WORKlife employee services, and financial wellness. When Erica is not banking, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and playing golf with her two sons, Austin and Nathan.

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About Tom Barnett

Tom has been in the banking industry for 20+ years, spending a majority of his time leading and guiding teams of banking professionals that help solve customers’ financial needs. As the Retail Regional President of Central Indiana, Tom is responsible for 35 Financial Centers spanning from Indianapolis to Columbus to Louisville. He is passionate about helping his team develop into excellent advisors for their customers and assisting in professional development that allows for career progression.

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