First Financial Bank is celebrating a milestone that was 25 years in the making: The third quarter of 2015 marked the 100th consecutive quarter of profitability.

Not bad, given the market fluctuations in that time, and particularly the turbulence experienced by many larger banks during recent years.

Doug Lefferson, First Financial’s community banking president, credits good employees and conservative business practices.

“The most important factors are consistently having caring associates and a strong client base,” Lefferson says. “I believe the message it sends to our clients is that we have been a stable source of financial strength through some unstable times.”

Secrets to the 152-year-old bank’s success?

“Sticking with conservative sound business practices in line with our Midwest markets has helped, yet also being willing to evolve as our industry and economy have evolved over time,” Lefferson says. “A disciplined approach to our business and acquisitions has kept us from pursuing areas that we felt just did not make good business sense for us or our clients.”

He adds: “We actually profited and grew during some of the down cycles through two strategic failed bank acquisitions.” He notes the bank is aided by national niche businesses, such as franchise lending to quick service restaurants and financing to insurance agencies. 

Fran Hamilton has worked for the bank 46 years and is now assistant manager of the Breiel Boulevard banking center in Middletown.

Hamilton says the announcement of 100 straight quarters of profitability further confirmed the quality of her workplace.

“You know when you’re working for a good company, and we’ve always had a lot of success here, but to actually see those numbers, and to hear that, is something that we should all be very proud of,” Hamilton says.

Tom Bake of West Chester is a longtime client partly because First Financial took a chance on him when he and a partner bought the fabrication machine shop MTR Martco in 1997.

“Without First Financial sticking their neck out, we’d have never made it,” says Bake, who recalls his loan officer jokingly saying he would kill him if the business went under.

“I said, ‘You won’t have to, because my wife will be in front of you, and I’ll already be dead—you won’t have to worry,’” Bake recalls with a laugh. Rather than failing, the business has grown about five times bigger.

“Even my personal banking,” Bake adds, “You make friends at certain branches, and you walk in there, and you’re not a number like you are everywhere else. They know you. They still do a lot of personalized service.”