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First Financial Bancorp's CEO Hosts Investor Day Conference (Transcript)

I also mentioned on the second quarter earnings call that we are initiating a full review of our cost structure in order to ensure that we achieve our operating efficiency ratio target of 55% to 60%. As we execute our strategic plan, we are always also on a lookout for opportunities to deploy capital in a shareholder friendly and risk appropriate way, including organic growth, acquisitions and capital management tools.

Before I turn over to business unit leaders, I want to take a few minutes to cover a few aspects of our overall strategy and the impact of our company. First of all, I want to highlight significant change in the geographic focus of First Financial over the past several years. That would be interesting to show you how our banking locations have changed since 2004 as compared to our current franchise.

As you can see while we did have some scale in the Northern part of Greater Cincinnati 2004, a significant portion of locations were spread-out across rural markets in Ohio and Indiana where loan and deposit growth was going to be a future challenge. In 2006, we implemented our plan to begin focusing an increasing amount of resources in metropolitan markets that offered substantially greater growth opportunities. The first step in this process was to begin divesting certain small market locations where we thought branch profitability was limited and is well within 10 locations in 2006. Another component of the plan is we moved our Corporate Headquarters to Cincinnati in 2007 and expanded our operations to serve a greater part of the metropolitan area.

As most of you know, our metropolitan strategy had a significant boost with our acquisitions in 2009. First in July of 2009 we acquired Peoples Community which added 19 banking centers to our Cincinnati market and then in September of 2009 when we acquired Irwin we added 12 central Indiana locations and positioned us as the market share leader in the Columbus, Indiana MSA and added to our limited presence in Indianapolis market.

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