Kevin Kabat has a lot on his plate these days.

The vice chairman and CEO of Fifth Third Bancorp, Cincinnati’s largest locally owned bank and one of the nation’s largest, has taken on leadership of two high-profile community philanthropic efforts.

This year he’ll serve as a chairman of United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s 100th annual fundraising campaign while also continuing as co-chair with Tom Cody, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center board chairman, of the hospital’s Change the Outcome campaign.

The largest ever fundraising effort by Cincinnati Children’s, ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, the Change the Outcome campaign is attempting to raise $250 million by 2018 to both improve health care for local children while expanding the institution’s extensive research capabilities.

Kabat, 57, Fifth Third’s CEO since 2007, sees both projects as an extension of the bank’s mission.

“In our business at Fifth Third, we are a reflection of the well-being of the communities we serve,” he says. “Helping our communities helps us. Wanting them to be strong and committed helps everybody.”

Those who know him say Kabat is a compassionate executive ideally suited for both fundraising efforts.

“Kevin is someone who believes in the potential of people and that people deserve opportunities,” says Michael Fisher, Cincinnati Children’s CEO.

Fifth Third, Cincinnati Children’s and the United Way share not only a century of history in Cincinnati, but also many of the same goals, he says.

“Think about United Way’s Bold Goals around income, education and health. Those ingredients are key for children to get a great start in life, too. Kevin, as a caring person and as a business and civic leader, sees the nexus of those things,” says Fisher.

Rob Reifsnyder, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cincinnati, says Kabat “brings a combination of strong business and leadership strength with a compassion for people.”

Kabat’s 32-year career in banking started with Old Kent Bank in Grand Rapids, Mich., acquired by Fifth Third in 2001, but he didn’t initially plan on a banking career.

“I originally thought I’d be a psychologist and hang a shingle and help people. I still am,” he says.

After earning a degree in behavioral organization from Johns Hopkins University, Kabat was studying for his master’s at Purdue University when a professor told him a small bank needed help with organizational development.

“Money was tight and it was a great opportunity,” Kabat says. “I thought, ‘Sure, I’ll go and see if I can help them.’ In the first 30 days, I was hooked. I loved the business.”

A bank’s key asset is its people, he says. “It’s not our product, not money. It’s really about the quality of our people and quality of our execution and the quality of our service and customer care that ultimately makes the difference, in my opinion.”

And banking, he says, offers critical insight into businesses and communities.

“As the recession demonstrated, we’re the blood in the veins,” he says. “If we’re not working, the [economic] system’s not working. It gives you great perspective. You really see how a community, and a marketplace and an industry works.”

For example, in the wake of the recession, Fifth Third took on a novel program called NextJob, started on the West Coast, that helps mortgage loan customers behind in the payments find new jobs and stay in their homes by providing trained coaches who work with job seekers.

Fifth Third and other banks were facing a growing backlog of mortgage foreclosures, but Kabat points out, “without a job [to make payments], there’s no reset of the mortgage amount that would be helpful to you.”

Within 90 days, the bank had a pilot program, called Howeowner Reemployment, running offering mortgage customers who enrolled help in putting together resumes and finding new jobs. It costs the bank about $1,200 to enroll a mortgage customer in the program, but balanced against the average loss of $50,000 or more on a typical foreclosure, he says, “it wasn’t even a high hurdle in my mind.”

Over the last two years, nearly 300 Fifth Third mortgage customers have taken advantage of the program and about 40 percent of those find new jobs, allowing them to stay in their homes.

In the wake of Fifth Third’s success, several other large East Coast institutions are taking a look at the program.

Fifth Third, which traces it roots to 1858, has a history of community giving. In 1948, it created the Fifth Third Foundation, the first corporate foundation established by a financial institution in the United States. The bank is also trustee for a number of charitable foundations such as the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trust and the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund, benefactors to both Cincinnati Children’s and the United Way.

“If you look over the history of Cincinnati Children’s, Fifth Third bank and its related entities and trust. [They] have really been our biggest corporate donor,” says Fisher.

United Way of Cincinnati, which serves 1.8 million people in 10 Tristate counties, is the nation’s sixth largest United Way program, raising $61 million in last year’s fall campaign.

“We’re generally considered to be the 28th largest metro market in the country,” Reifsnyder says. “It’s a tremendous tribute to our community that we are that strong.”

When United Way leaders began thinking about who would lead its centennial fundraising effort, Reifsnyder says Kabat was an obvious choice. “We wanted a leader from an iconic Cincinnati company that has been giving back to the community for decades, if not tens of decades,” he says.

An added plus was that Kabat had previously led a United Way campaign while working in Grand Rapids.

United Way’s campaign goal won’t be set until later in the year, but the Change the Outcome Campaign has already reached about 60 percent of its goal.

Kabat admits there’s a certain amount of pressure to make sure both campaigns are a success.

And both are getting his full attention. “I’ve told folks many times in my career: ‘If I can’t give you 100 percent, I won’t do it,’” he says.

United Way and Cincinnati Children’s, he says, “are part of the things that are important to me: my children, and now my grandchildren, and my community.”