MainSource's Niche in Cincinnati Banking

Photography provided by MainSource Bank


Though it has $3.1 billion in assets and branches in four states, MainSource Bank prides itself in offering clients the kind of tailored customer service typically associated with small-town banking. Since opening a Cincinnati loan production office in 2013 as well as three local branches the following year, MainSource has filled an important niche in the local market.

The Cincinnati team is a tight-knit group of highly experienced commercial bankers who know the city, each other, and their specialties inside and out, allowing them to offer high-quality services efficiently and consistently with a personal touch.


Local Expertise

Since opening its first office in Greensburg, Indiana, more than 100 years ago, MainSource Financial Group has expanded to Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio. As the company grows, its mission is to offer continued service to those established markets, while also adding new services in nearby metropolitan areas. The relatively new loan production office in Cincinnati, together with the three local branches, are steps towards that vision.

MainSource’s loan production office offers personalized commercial banking services, including equipment finance, commercial real estate lending, and treasury management services, with a focus on Middle Market clients. MainSource is able to offer loans in the $1 to $10 million range and higher, while still keeping all of the loan decisions in-house, ensuring that clients will receive the personalized care and attention they deserve.

Its offices may be somewhat new to Cincinnati, but the team’s managers have deep roots in the city. Dave Cardell, Market Director, Rob Allanson, Equipment Finance Manager, and Richard Sterling, Commercial Real Estate Manager, share a high level of familiarity with the local market, built from decades of experience with Cincinnati banks and firms. Several of MainSource’s corporate officers, including Archie Brown, Jr., CEO, and Bill Goodwin, Chief Credit Officer, also have ties to the Cincinnati area.

“The decision makers for our loans are all familiar with Cincinnati,” Richard Sterling said. “Many grew up here or spent a number of years working in the banking community here, so the [loan] decisions don’t go to people in other large metro areas who don’t necessarily know one neighborhood from another. This is local decision making done efficiently and smartly: we do what we say, and do it quickly.”

Rob Allanson explained, “This is a bank that has a lot of veteran, talented people who have worked at much larger organizations, and they came [to the Cincinnati office] because they wanted to add more value to their customers, to have more control over their environment, and make more of an impact than they could at a larger bank.” By supporting a team of managers who value their work, MainSource can create lasting, consistent relationships with its clients.

The Cincinnati team’s collective experience in the industry “enables us to do a better job, be more efficient, deliver answers, and deliver loans and other products more quickly and efficiently than you could if you didn’t have quite so much experience,” Sterling added. Unlike a larger bank whose officers have little familiarity with the local market, MainSource can make credit approval decisions in a few days, without the prolonged waiting period or impersonal approach that clients may come to expect from other banks.

By providing high quality, personalized services to Middle Market clients, Cardell says the company is reaching out to a sector of the market that is underserved by other area banks. “What I envision is that with our experience, our commitment to taking the extra steps to know the clients, the opportunity to provide [value added] solutions, and the willingness of MainSource to be that trusted advisor, we will differentiate ourselves from the other providers in the market,” Cardell said.


Finding a Niche

“Since the 2007-2008 crisis, a lot of the larger banks found that they couldn’t afford to serve small or medium- sized businesses any more,” Allanson said. “When a large bank like US Bank or Fifth Third goes to market in the small business community, they usually give [the client] two or three options, and those options are fixed. Because we’re smaller, we can go to market with an approach that’s more individualized to the business.”

MainSource Bank branch manager Bill Ludwick agrees. When he surveys Cincinnati’s banking landscape, he doesn’t see anyone able to do what MainSource does.

“I see people who want to tout the same level of service as us, but they don’t have the same horsepower,” Ludwick said. “And I see people that have the horsepower, but they don’t have anything close to the personal touch that we do. That puts us in a really good spot.”

When Ludwick refers to horsepower, he’s talking about MainSource Banks’ $3.1 billion in assets, its mobile banking apps and its high-tech ATMs that can function as bank tellers. These resources and infrastructure put MainSource on a level playing field with the “big boys” in Cincinnati’s banking industry. But none of those banks can offer MainSource’s level of personalized service.

“MainSource is a community bank,” said Ludwick. “You can come in and talk to us, email us, call us. We go to people’s houses and into people’s businesses. As I look across Cincinnati, I don’t see anyone like us.”

One year after MainSource Bank began operating in Cincinnati, it acquired Merchants Bank and Trust. The acquisition enabled MainSource to open its three local branches in Hamilton County.

The Hyde Park MainSource branch that Ludwick manages sits just off the square inside a red-brick office front. The interior is warm and inviting, and Ludwick himself is friendly and genial. It certainly feels like a community bank.

“Our main purpose is to produce and offer products that benefit our consumers’ lives. We feel strongly that if we are benefitting their lives it will work for us as well, and that strategy has been very successful,” said Ludwick.

“We have conversations with them and we listen. We play the role of their trusted advisor and financial expert. We hear their story, we understand where they want to go and then help guide them in that direction.”

MainSource Bank’s specialty, according to Ludwick, is its ability to apply general guidelines to all its branches to ensure a high level of quality, while at the same time tailoring its offerings to the individual community in which each branch resides, whether that’s financial advice, mortgage loan origination and refinancing, commercial and industrial lending or large commercial real estate deals.

“We are adaptable to our communities,” said Ludwick. By doing its job effectively, MainSource Bank is also helping those communities succeed. Ludwick’s branch, for example, is heavily involved in the Hyde Park Square Business Association, the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce and Allied Construction Industries. He and his team offer educational opportunities to local firms so they too can become more successful. “We firmly believe that if we educate people, it strengthens the community and that, in turn, strengthens us.”


Community Appeal 

In their working relationships, the Cincinnati team members take an interactive approach. Ask Dave Cardell what he sees as the most important aspect of a working banking relationship, and he’ll tell you: communication. By being informed about and involved in its clients’ operations—whether it means taking factory tours, meeting with the Board of Directors or finding other ways to get involved—MainSource ensures that it can create unique, creative and sustainable solutions for long-term success.

MainSource has been well-received in Cincinnati since its 2013 entrance into the city. “These clients know what they’re doing, and they’re looking for a no-nonsense loan provider that does also,” Sterling said. By emphasizing close, informed relationships with their clients and a high level of involvement in local development projects, the team aims to build lasting relationships in the community.

This approach is well-matched by MainSource’s corporate values, which require every employee to give back through local service. From listening to the finest details of a client’s needs to upholding the company’s overarching mission to be a “force for good,” MainSource strives to be a positive corporate citizen.

“MainSource walks the talk,” said Ludwick. “We absolutely do what we say we do. We firmly believe in helping the community. It’s something we talk about every day.”