The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and First Financial Bank have entered into a new $2.4 billion, five-year Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), establishing goals for lending and investments to low- and moderate-income (LMI) clients and census tracts. The new agreement follows the successful conclusion of First Financial’s previous CBA, during which it achieved 192% of its $1.75 billion goal in lending and investments for 2018-2023.
“First Financial exceeded the goals we set together in our previous CBA and agreed to continue this strategic collaboration by negotiating new commitments to low- and moderate-income communities,” said NCRC President and CEO Jesse Van Tol. “These new commitments will directly improve the material conditions of under-resourced neighborhoods within the bank’s footprint. Every bank should take notice and embrace the same collaborative approach that First Financial continues to take on these issues.”
Since 2016, NCRC has facilitated 30 community benefits agreements with bank groups that committed more than $580 billion for mortgage, small business and community development lending, investments and philanthropy in LMI and under-resourced communities.
“Our new Community Benefits Agreement is a bold statement about how First Financial intends to continue its mission to improve lives and help communities thrive,” said Archie Brown, president and CEO of First Financial. “These are neighborhoods where we live and work, and we are taking a leading role in helping our neighbors achieve goals and improve their financial wellbeing.”
First Financial’s goals under the CBA for 2024-2028 include:
- $700 million in mortgage lending, through the use of products providing greater access to LMI communities and borrowers, an intentional effort in rural communities, a commitment to community development mortgage loan officers and providing small-dollar mortgages and home improvement loans,
- $600 million in small business lending through support of small business development corporations and business incubators, and microloans,
- $1.075 billion in community development lending and investments in affordable housing, community services, revitalization and stabilization, and projects that create permanent jobs, which benefit LMI areas,
- $18 million in philanthropy, targeting donations to organizations that create and preserve affordable housing and workforce development, plus those that provide housing counseling and promote financial and economic inclusion,
- $9 million in branch distribution and access, with three new financial centers located in LMI communities,
- Commitment to a minimum source-able vendor spend of 25% with minority-owned business enterprises (MBE), women-owned business enterprises (WBE), disability-owned business enterprises (DBE) and veteran-owned businesses by 2028,
- $1.2 million in marketing and communications to benefit clients and communities in LMI and majority minority census tracts (MMCT).
“We have much to accomplish under this new agreement and already have a head start working in many of these areas,” said Roddell McCullough, chief corporate responsibility officer for First Financial. “Our previous CBA was an incredible success, touching thousands of lives for the better. I am excited at the prospect of helping many more individuals, families and businesses in the next five years.”
The following NCRC member organizations also signed on to the new agreement:
- REBOUND, Inc.
- Northwest Indiana Community Action
- Prosperity Indiana
- Legal Aid of Southeastern and Central Ohio
- The Housing Partnership, Inc.
- Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Greater Cincinnati
- Community Shelter Board
- Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana
- River City Housing, Inc.
- Working In Neighborhoods
- County Corp.
First Financial’s commitment to the community over recent years was also validated when it achieved a rating of Outstanding from the Federal Reserve Board in 2021 for its performance under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). This rating, the highest available, came after a broad evaluation of First Financial’s lending, investment and service levels from 2017-2020. The review specifically looked at First Financial’s work that benefited customers who met income guidelines or resided in LMI census tracts.
Summary of the Community Benefits Plan Renewal Between the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and First Financial Bank
Building on the success of its 2018 Community Benefits Plan (the “2018 Plan”), First Financial Bank will renew its commitments and under a new Community Benefits Plan and will lend or invest $2.4 billion to low- and moderate-income borrowers and communities over a five-year period from January 1, 2024 to December 31, 2028.
Mortgage Lending to Low- and Moderate-Income Borrowers and Communities
Plan Commitment: $700 million over 5 years
First Financial Bank will lend $700 million to LMI borrowers and borrowers in majority minority census tracts, representing a 37% increase over First Financial Bank’s 2018 Plan commitment. First Financial Bank also commits to the following mortgage lending sub-goals:
- $76 million in loans under $100,000 for LMI and majority minority census tracts, minority borrowers or borrowers with LMI;
- $208 million will target rural lending to support non-MSA census tracts; and
- $296 million in lending to BIPOC or LMI borrowers and communities.
First Financial Bank will provide reports detailing mortgage lending in both dollar volume and loan units to Black, Latinx, Asian and LMI borrowers to its Community Advisory Board. First Financial Bank also commits to developing and implementing affordable products that assist with interest rates, continued homeownership, and home repairs/maintenance to keep families in their homes.
Small Business Lending
Plan Commitment: $600 million over 5 years
First Financial Bank will lend $600 million to LMI borrowers and borrowers in majority minority census tracts, representing a 6.76% increase over First Financial Bank’s actual small business lending volume for the prior five-year period (excluding PPP loans). In addition, First Financial Bank will modify its microlending program to provide access to flexible small business credit to all counties within its footprint.
Community Development Lending and Investments
Plan Commitment: $1.075 billion over 5 years
First Financial Bank commits to $1.075 billion for qualified community development loan and investment opportunities within the bank’s assessment areas, more than doubling its 2018 Plan commitment.
Plan Commitment: $18 million over 5 years
First Financial Bank will make $18 million in donations over the five-year plan period and will specifically target donations to organizations that create and preserve affordable housing and workforce development.
Branch Distribution and Financial Services Access
First Financial Bank’s committed to eight new branches in LMI neighborhoods in the 2018 Plan. Going forward, First Financial Bank commits to maintaining a minimum of 25% of its branches in LMI communities. In addition, First Financial Bank commits to developing and maintaining a small dollar loan product with flexible lending standards, with access to LMI individuals and to combat pay-day lenders.
Marketing and Communications
Plan Commitment: $1.2 million over 5 years
Reflecting a key component of First Financial Bank’s 2018 Plan success, First Financial Bank commits to targeting $1.2 million over the five-year plan period for marketing and promotions that aim to reach minority and LMI communities across the bank’s footprint, a 20% increase over the prior plan commitment.
In addition to the commitments above, First Financial Bank will maintain our Supplier Diversity commitment with a minimum source-able spend of 25% with diverse businesses (minority-owned, women-owned, veteran- owned and disability-owned) compared to the prior commitment of 10%.
First Financial Bank will continue to work with the Community Advisory Board created under the 2018 Plan. NCRC will appoint 50% of the CAB members with meetings held twice annually, rotating locations throughout the bank’s footprint. First Financial Bank will continue to provide quantitative and qualitative reporting in line with the reporting provided under the 2018 Plan.