GRAND RAPIDS — When he retired from Fifth Third Bank at the end of 2015, David Dams told his colleagues that he “was looking for that next new venture or adventure.”
Five months later, he heard from Todd Clark, the CEO in Michigan for Old National Bank, which was looking for a new president for the Grand Rapids region. A number of coworkers at Old National had worked with Dams in the past and suggested that Clark contact him. The two got together, started talking and Dams found the job too good to pass up.
A veteran banking executive in the market who spent 38 years with Fifth Third Bank and the former Old Kent Bank, Dams joined Old National last week as regional president in Grand Rapids. He succeeds Laurie Beard, who retired in June after leading the market for Old National and coming to the company in January 2015 with its acquisition of Founders Financial Corp.
Dams had served as executive vice president in Grand Rapids for Fifth Third. He said he liked both Old National’s culture and ambitious growth plans for the market, which includes Kent, Ottawa and surrounding counties.
“If I was going to join an organization after spending 38 years with one organization and come out of retirement, I was very interested in joining an organization that was focused in on growth, coupled with the people focus,” Dams said. “Old National is definitely focused on growth here in the local market.”
The Evansville, Ind.-based Old National (Nasdaq: ONB) has 34 branch offices and about $1.3 billion in assets in Michigan. The company entered Michigan in mid-2013 with the acquisition of 24 former Bank of America offices, 20 of which are in Southwest Michigan. Growth in the Kalamazoo area has been in the low double digits since entering the market, Clark said.
It followed the acquisition of the Bank of America branches with a $173.1 million deal for United Bank & Trust in Ann Arbor.
In January 2015, the bank then moved into the Grand Rapids-area market with the $91.7 million acquisition of Founders Financial Corp., the parent company of Founders Bank & Trust.
In the Grand Rapids area, the bank looks to grow organically and expand its office network in the years ahead, said Michigan CEO Todd Clark. He envisions Old National doubling its presence in the Grand Rapids area within three years.
The four offices in the market that came with the Founders Financial acquisition are “not enough,” even as retail and commercial customers today increasingly do their banking electronically.
Clark notes the bank has seven offices in the Kalamazoo area that came from the Bank of America transaction three years ago, and five in Ann Arbor. Both of those markets are much smaller than the Grand Rapids area.
“Obviously we want to grow. Obviously we’re going to continue to make investments here,” Clark said. “We made a big investment in Founders and this market, and the only way to realize the full potential of the investment that we’ve already made is to continue to invest because that’s what the market will bear.”
Any new branches Old National develops “will be quite a bit different,” Clark said. As with all banks and credit unions today, Old National continues to adapt to the digital age and new offices need to change accordingly, he said.
Old National is developing a three-year strategic plan for the region based on organic growth. The bank already has its eyes on the Holland area, where it has identified a location on the north side for a mortgage lending office that eventually will lead to the opening of a full-service branch. The location would become Old National’s first in Ottawa County.
Old National wants to open the Holland lending office “as soon as we can,” Clark said.
The bank also will look to grow through further acquisitions, whether by buying another bank or picking up individual office locations like it did in 2013 with the deal for the Bank of America branches.
“We will look to be opportunistic on the M&A front,” Clark said. “If the right opportunity comes up, we would definitely be open to buying somebody’s banking center. That’s how we got into Michigan originally.”
Overall, Old National has $14.4 billion in assets with offices in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky.