Fifth Third Bank has been a powerhouse regional bank for over 160 years, with a very strong presence throughout the Midwest and Southeastern United States. About four years ago, Cincinnati, Ohio-based Fifth Third set its sights on expanding to two of the largest U.S. markets: California and Texas. Shortly before the pandemic hit, Fifth Third expanded into the San Francisco/Northern California market.
Peter Gruebele, Northern California Market Executive, provides insight on Fifth Third’s expansion into northern California over the past three years:
How have the first three years of business in northern California been for Fifth Third Bank? We’ve had a great three-plus years of growth, and have had tremendous success throughout the California footprint. We do feel that there’s ongoing opportunity to continue growing outside of San Francisco and further into northern California.
What has your approach been as you’ve entered the Northern California market? Our biggest goal as we grow our office is knowing that clients may not be moving to Fifth Third right away. But, two years from now when they may be considering a move, we want to be top-of-mind for their new banking partner. We are working hard on establishing relationships and building confidence.
Another key way that we’ve approached our entrance to this market is by hiring local talent. My relationship team has, on average, 25 years of experience in the Bay area. Fifth Third leadership was very thoughtful on bringing in local talent, which demonstrates their commitment and focus on community. Fifth Third has hired people who know the region and its people and then we grow them within the Bank—instead of bringing in outside people.
How is Fifth Third uniquely positioned to provide superior banking products and services? The Bank has grown to be a really strong regional player; we’re a top 10 bank from a balance sheet standpoint. We have all the products and capabilities of the large money center banks, with the personal touch of a regional bank. Ultimately, it’s our goal to “out-local” those money center banks and, at the same time, “out-regionalize” and show our strength against smaller institutions in the marketplace.
What was Fifth Third’s approach to pandemic-related challenges in Northern California? We focused on helping everyone in the community during those tough times—not just our current clients. For example, we feel really good about the fact that we even helped out businesses that were not our clients but were having trouble securing PPP funding through their current banking institution. Some of these businesses even became Fifth Third clients down the road.
Now in late 2022, we are in an endemic phase. We aren’t as worried about the pandemic on a daily basis, but everyone is facing lingering challenges. These include inflation and supply chain concerns. These discussions have hit the dinner table, and our clients and prospects are facing the same challenges that we see.
What corporate initiatives is Fifth Third focused on right now? Fifth Third continually rates top-tier for best places to work. We strive to “walk the talk” when it comes to improving our global footprint. We’re a top-rated company with our regard to leaving the world a little bit better every single day. When we are considering client relationships and funding opportunities, we have a growth mindset and focus on green energy initiatives.
How would you describe Fifth Third’s approach to commercial banking? Our core focus always begins with the client and making sure we’re doing right by them every day. Everything we do and how we approach our business model is to improve our clients’ businesses, make their jobs easier, improve their overall cash flow and support their finance needs and day-to-day operational support. We work with our clients to ensure we’re providing best-in-class service and all the capabilities we offer that could enhance their business, including automating receivables and improving cash flow. We support our clients from a financial standpoint, providing them needed liquidity and credit when needed to grow and sustain their business.
What’s your approach to supporting your clients into 2023 and beyond? Our goal is to provide clients with financial and industry information from a broader scale. Whether it be from our Chief Investment Officer/economist or others from the Bank, we are committed to providing our clients with industry information from partners that are very in tune with what’s going on across a myriad of industries. We are opening up these discussion channels so we can help our clients see what’s coming down the road—and to help them be proactive and find workable solutions for challenges that come their way.
As an institution, Fifth Third Bank is in a position to support our Northern California clients if we do head toward a recessionary trend. Fifth Third Bank is here, strong, and able to work with clients during that time and help them continue to achieve their goals.