Magazine article American Banker

5th Third Converting Old Kent

Magazine article American Banker

5th Third Converting Old Kent

Article excerpt

One conversion down, four to go. Since the beginning of May, executives of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp have been busy converting the Fort Wayne, Ind., operations of Old Kent Financial Corp., which was acquired in April.

Fort Wayne was the first of five major metropolitan market areas that were slated for integration, and Fifth Third executives say that so far they are pleased with their progress.

The biggest challenge will the conversion, scheduled to begin June 8, of 110 Chicago-area branches.

Old Kent, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is Fifth Third's biggest acquisition to date, but executives said 56 smaller deals over the last decade have helped them develop a battle plan.

For three weeks a crew of 30 Fifth Third managers worked alongside Old Kent employees at the 10 Fort Wayne branches that were being converted. Fifth Third has changed computers, signs, and marketing material for the Fort Wayne branches and mailed a welcome video to each of the 12,000 customers, along with pamphlets outlining the company's products and services.

A customer call center was also established, and operators telephoned customers to introduce the company.

"This went flawlessly," said George Schaefer Jr., Fifth Third's chairman and chief executive officer, in a recent interview. "This feels pretty good.

"As this one goes, so go the rest," he predicted.

Chicago is next, followed by Detroit, Northern Michigan, and Grand Rapids. The whole job should be over by October, Mr. …

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