SOURCE: Oak Street Funding LLC

Oak Street Funding LLC

July 24, 2015 14:00 ET

Oak Street Funding Acquired by First Financial

Indianapolis-based Lender Plans to Grow Under New Partnership

INDIANAPOLIS, IN--(Marketwired - July 24, 2015) - Oak Street Funding, a nationally-recognized lender through its parent Oak Street Holdings Corporation, is taking another step to realize its full potential through a new deal with First Financial Bank.

Oak Street, based in Indianapolis, provides funding, lending, and servicing to insurance agents and brokers throughout the United States. Upon completion of the deal, Oak Street, which had $242 million in assets as of June 30, 2015, will become a subsidiary of First Financial Bank, with Oak Street's current President and CEO, Rick Dennen, continuing in his current position.

"We are thrilled to become part of First Financial Bank, one of the most respected community banks in the country," Dennen said. "Like Oak Street, First Financial has an entrepreneurial culture and a nimble organization that will provide a very supportive environment. We look forward to leveraging our combined strengths for continued growth in the future."

Oak Street has been an innovator in commission-based lending for insurance agents and agencies since 2003. Like First Financial, Oak Street provides custom-designed loans to ensure the success of each of their clients. The use of their internally developed technology and web-based reporting tools empowers their clients to maximize visibility, control and security over their asset portfolio.

"The national lender will continue to operate under the Oak Street name upon completion of the deal due to the company's thought leadership and proven performance," said Claude Davis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of First Financial Bank. "Furthermore, the talented and experienced staff -- currently in place -- will continue to work for the lender, which has been named by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce as one of Indiana's best places to work for three consecutive years."

"Oak Street's client-centered approach aligns with the mission of First Financial; their clients can have the peace of mind that their relationship with Oak Street will not change," Davis said. "With the partnership between First Financial and Oak Street, innovation focused on the success of each client will continue to strengthen and grow."

The growth continues a trend for First Financial, the second-largest bank based in Cincinnati, as it officially entered the Central Ohio market in 2014 after acquiring Columbus-area banks Guernsey Bancorp, Insight Bank and First Bexley Bank. Overall, the company converted five banking centers in connection to those acquisitions in the third and fourth quarters of 2014.

In addition, First Financial continued to show its commitment to improving its presence in Indiana by opening new retail banking centers in Avon, Bloomington and Fort Wayne in the first quarter of 2015. First Financial also completed an investment on its regional hub in the heart of Downtown Fort Wayne earlier this year.

"We view our partnership with Oak Street as a tremendous opportunity to expand and diversify our service offerings and also provide Oak Street's team with the balance sheet and funding capacity necessary to continue to grow the business," Davis said. "We have experience and are very comfortable with nationwide specialty lending. Our franchise finance business has more than $500 million in loans and contributes significantly to our success. We look forward to welcoming Oak Street's associates and clients to First Financial."

About First Financial Bancorp
First Financial Bancorp is a Cincinnati, Ohio based bank holding company. As of March 31, 2015, the Company had $7.2 billion in assets, $4.8 billion in loans, $5.7 billion in deposits and $796 million in shareholders' equity. The Company's subsidiary, First Financial Bank, N.A., founded in 1863, provides banking and financial services products through its four lines of business: commercial, consumer, wealth management and mortgage. The commercial, consumer and mortgage units provide traditional banking services to business and retail clients. First Financial Wealth Management provides wealth planning, portfolio management, trust and estate, brokerage and retirement plan services and had approximately $2.4 billion in assets under management as of March 31, 2015. The Company's strategic operating markets are located in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky where it operates 107 banking centers. Additional information about the Company, including its products, services and banking locations is available at www.bankatfirst.com.

About Oak Street Funding
Indianapolis-based Oak Street Funding (www.oakstreetfunding.com) is a family of diversified financial services companies that offers commission-based commercial financing exclusively for the insurance industry and third-party loan servicing for financial institutions. Oak Street utilizes industry knowledge, proprietary technology and passion to deliver top-quality service and capital products to insurance and finance professionals nationwide. Since innovating commission-based and commercial lending for the insurance industry in 2003, Oak Street Funding has exceeded $500 million in loan originations to insurance professionals against all types of insurance policies and has entered into relationships with agencies, brokerage firms and insurance business partners across the country. Well positioned by virtue of strong relationships with major carriers, Oak Street is the leader in lending to agents, agencies, MGAs, and Program Administrators.

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