Bob Jones, the chief executive of Old National Bancorp (ONB) in Evansville, Ind., is still stinging from a tough business lesson he learned this year.

The $9.5 billion-asset company got bad news in January when First Financial Bancorp (FFBC) in Cincinnati announced it had hired a commercial lending team in Fort Wayne, Ind. The team was poached from Tower Financial, a company that Old National was in the process of buying. 

The Tower deal was completed in April, and Jones says that Old National's loan pipeline in Fort Wayne has risen 50% since March 31.

"The good thing about Fort Wayne [customers] is they still like to deal with Indiana banks and local banks," Jones said last week during a conference call to discuss its latest M&A deal — an agreement to buy the $366 million-asset LSB Financial (LSBI) in Lafayette, Ind.

Jones described the loss of the lending team as "a little bump in the road" but said Old National is now fully staffed in Fort Wayne. 

Though Hoosier loyalty may have dulled the pain, Jones made it clear that Old National is taking steps to prevent this kind of problem from reoccurring.

Kendra Vanzo, Old National's chief human resources officer, has been put in charge of acquisition integration, Jones says.

"There is a reason for doing that, which is: the single most important asset is the people," Jones says about Vanzo's new responsibilities. 

Furthering the point, Jones says Randy Williams, the president of LNB, has already agreed to stay on as market president. Vanzo is working with Williams to identify the employees that should be put under retention agreements, Jones says. 

"We learned a lesson in Fort Wayne," Jones says. "I, knock on wood, don't want to go through that again. We came out the other side fine, but we should have those [retention agreements] done here fairly quickly."


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