2 Questions Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2010

Claude Davis has been the president and CEO of First Financial Bancorp since 2004. During his seven years at the helm of the company, Davis has unified all First Financial banks under one name and one brand, allowing the company to move forward through challenging times.

Q. Communication is important, but how else can a business develop a strong relationship with its bank?

Bank selection is critical. I would suggest that a business owner selects a bank that not only says it’s committed to relationships but that is also willing to commit its resources and time to developing a relationship with the business owner and understanding the business. Second, I think it’s important in this environment for a business owner to gain an understanding of what’s important to a bank, so that they structure their credit requests and their needs from the bank and so that they are consistent and aligned with the bank as with any supplier. Third, always err on the side of overcommunicating — and more important than communication, being transparent about both the opportunities and the challenges, so that the bank understands that you’re realistic in how you run your business.

Q. What have the challenges of the last couple of years taught those on both sides of banking relationships?

I think this crisis has taught us that we all need to be much better risk managers, evaluating everything in our business and what could go wrong and how to manage through that, so that one small event doesn’t threaten your business.

Just going through the process with your management team and with your bank, if you have a good relationship, will help — of looking at every aspect of your business and where there might be the possibility of an issue or a problem. Whatever the area may be to cause you harm, how are you evaluating it? How are you managing it? You just have to have good and thoughtful evaluation of every aspect of your company and the risks associated with it. We’ve all learned that whatever we thought couldn’t happen, can happen, and we need to prepare for it.