Q. How does someone without a college degree become bank president?
A. I guess just being in the industry as long as I have. I was at Cardinal Federal Savings Bank for almost 25 years. Then I moved to Metropolitan Bank and Trust in Mayfield Heights. They were a very small company. I grew them to a nice size, and now I'm here. It's just experience.
Q. So why did you come to Home Savings a year ago?
A. I like the growth part of the business.
Q. And the other bank was about as big ...
A. As it could get with its capital position. It's in a market that in some cases is overbanked. So to continue to grow in any appreciable amount is difficult.
Q. What gave you the idea that Home Savings could grow?
A. People in the industry had mentioned to me the capital that Home Savings had and their desire to grow and perhaps to grow geographically. I thought it might be a nice fit. We can grow business in the Valley, but at the same time, with my contacts, we can grow in northern Ohio.
Q. There already has been growth.
A. Yes, there has. We have four loan production offices in the Cleveland market, and they are doing very well. We're going to look to do some retail up in that market. We acquired another savings and loan in northwest Ohio. Now we need to infill between. We're looking at where else we need to be in the Valley. We need to be in Trumbull County a little more. We opened three offices last year, but only one in Trumbull.
Q. So there's room for more branches in the Valley?
A. Yes, I think there is. We're in very good shape in Mahoning County, but I think Columbiana and Trumbull counties have opportunities.
Q. But there also will be Home Savings branches in the Cleveland area?
A. Eventually, yes. We'd like to do some acquisitions up there if we can, and we're looking for some locations to hopefully build some retail branches.
Q. How big will Home Savings get geographically?
A. One of the things I'm remiss in is that I never look east to Pennsylvania. I think there's some opportunities over there for us. That northern tier of Ohio and into Pennsylvania is what we're looking at. Whether it's loan production offices or retail, there's still a lot of opportunity out there. There's still a lot of growth markets.
Q. In the banking industry now, is it constantly a matter of looking for acquisitions or other banks calling you?
A. Once you establish the reputation of wanting to acquire, yes, then people start to contact you. Once we did the one acquisition [Industrial Bancorp] out in Bellevue, people now know we're serious. We've look at other possible acquisitions and either we did not bid or we were outbid.
Q. How big can you get?
A. We can use the capital we have now and probably double in size.
Q. So the days of being a sleepy local bank are over?
A. That's true. The environment has changed. You have to be aggressive, especially when you are working for your stockholders. You've got to keep growing and keep adding profits.
Q. How has becoming a publicly owned company changed things?
A. Being publicly owned is entirely different. Profits are key. Instead of working for your depositors, you're now working for your shareholders. It makes a big difference in how you think and how you operate.
Q. You mentioned Cleveland as being overbanked. You don't think this area is overbanked?
A. I don't think so. I think being one of the locally owned and locally managed companies has advantages over others. I think we can offer products and services that maybe larger regional banks cannot offer. From that point of view, we're not overbanked. We grew last year in the 10 [percent] to 15 percent range, and I think we can continue to do that.
Q. How are you doing that?
A. We became more aggressive in our marketing. We became more aggressive in our products and services. We're converting to a sales culture in our branch network that's helped tremendously.
Q. So you saw a need to be more aggressive in sales?
A. Yes. We brought in people who had that background to help us, people from other regional banks that had been in that sales culture. They're slowly installing that in the branches and with great success. We had no consumer loan manager. We had people with dual roles. So we split them apart. Consumer lending is now very successful. Also, we now have a retail sales manager just for the branches.
Q. Have you had the time to get involved in what is happening downtown?
A. Yes. I'm a trustee of the Youngstown Business Incubator. I've been involved with task forces for the downtown as well as for the whole Valley.
Q. Does Home Savings have a big role in downtown development because of its location?
A. Yes. Our foundation has been very supportive, not only with hours and people, but with dollars. We want to be a leader down here. We see some possibilities of some very positive things.
Q. What's the biggest challenge downtown?
A. Convincing other people that there is hope and opportunity in downtown Youngstown. That's very difficult. It's true in any city, but there's a small core group that's interested. It's that same core group that's probably trying to do too much. We need some help.
Q. Looking ahead, the future of Home Savings and its parent company, United Community Financial Corp., is here downtown?
A. Absolutely. We're going to be here, headquartered here. Yes, we're going to expand.
Q. At one point, there were plans to expand in the building next door.
A. I heard about that. I don't think anything's in the works now. As you might expect with our growth, we're quickly outgrowing this building. We have aggressive plans to redo this building and stay right here. We moved one small department to space in our South Side office that had space on the second floor. We're starting here one floor at a time.
Q. What are you doing to the building?
A. As an example, the second floor is going to be gutted. We're going to empty it out. We're going to open it up and go to a more cubicle-type environment so we can get more people in more effectively.
Q. You aren't moving your home here?
A. No, because we are going to expand in that Cleveland market. My contacts are up there. As we expand, being centrally located and keeping those contacts is critical.
Q. So you've never left the Cleveland area?
A. Never left. I still have family there. I still have young children in school and one in college.
Q. You still play softball?
A. I do. I play in an over-40 league, but I think some of them are younger. Or I'm getting older. I play at least twice a week.
Q. What position do you play?
A. I pitch and I play second base. It's a time when you forget everything else for that hour and a half. It's a good day.
THE WRITER/ Don Shilling, Vindicator business editor, conducted the interview.